You drive to an airport that has valet parking. The attendant gives you a receipt and drives off to park your car. You head inside to your flight. When you return, he'll have it waiting for you at curbside.
This is what you bargained for, but did you also know that, while you are away, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would order your car searched for explosives? Surprise!
According to a report aired last month by WHEC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., this is happening at the Greater Rochester Airport.
At first, arriving passengers had no clue that their cars would be subject to an inspection, but signs apparently went up at the valet station after the station's initial broadcast. In our view, that hardly makes it all better.
You'd think the inspections would be done by bomb-sniffing dogs or trained security personnel, but no -- the TSA farmed out the job to the valet, who leaves a placard on the dashboard notifying returning passengers that the car has been inspected "under TSA regulations."
It's not clear what regulations are being referred to. The station quoted Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as saying that "There is no TSA protocol for doing this. ... It certainly raises a lot of questions."
This latest episode of security theater hasn't made much of a splash in the national media, but Toronto's Oye Times happened upon it, and rightly branded it as yet another example of "foolish" U.S. security.
The weirdness in Rochester only affects travelers who use valet parking. But there is some logic at work here. The short-term and long-term parking garages are deemed to be too far from the terminal to pose a threat from car-bombs, whereas cars from the valet lot are brought right up to the terminal building and often idle there for extended periods.
Still -- the valet?