Dan Kois’ Week on the Road

Day 4: How the TSA made my life noticeably better.

Illustration by Slate. Portrait by Charlie Powell, photo by moodboard/Thinkstock.

Once upon a time, in a long-running feature called “Diary,” Slate invited notable persons to share something honest about the tedium, ruminations, and doings of their daily lives—a diary, in other words. David O. Russell and Muriel Spark recorded the first Slate diaries in 1996; we published a book in 2000; and the final diarist, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, signed off in 2008.

On Slate Plus, we’re relaunching the feature—but with Slate staff. Take a look inside a week in the life of our magazine’s editors, writers, designers, developers, and more in the new Slate Plus Diary. To start us off, here’s culture editor Dan Kois. Use the comments to let us know whose Diary you’d like to read. —Slate Plus editors

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Read the previous entry in Dan Kois’ weeklong diary.

Let me just for a moment sing a song of praise for TSA PreCheck.

I know that paying the government for the privilege of being deemed not a threat is gross. I am aware that utilizing my relative wealth to whisk ahead of those who can’t afford such an extravagance is yet another step toward a tiered society that merely services the megarich. I worry that I am only propping up a security apparatus that is at best intrusive and at worst actively harmful to flight safety. I know that this expenditure is a manifestation of privilege so blatant that I might as well purchase a stamp with the word ASSHOLE printed on it to imprint upon my boarding pass as well as my forehead.

But when I can wake up at 6:45 rather than 5:45 because I know I will not get stuck in an endless security line, I feel as though I have basically solved the world. TSA PreCheck is one of only three items I’ve purchased in the past few years that have actually made my life noticeably better. (The other two are LastPass and this $23 showerhead.) So thanks, TSA. You may not be able to find 67 out of 70 weapons, and you may have confiscated my daughter’s souvenir out of sheer pigheadedness, but PreCheck is the greatest.

On the plane, I finish the final pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, the 1,006-page novel I’ve been hauling from Washington to Charleston to New York to Durham to Nashville over the last few weeks as I try to knock it out in time to watch and review the BBC America adaptation, which premieres June 14. The book is both a tribute to the pleasures of the old ways (ancient magic, old-fashioned storytelling, chivalry and honor) and an argument for embracing the new. Which I guess makes me feel both proud to be hauling around this enormous paperback doorstop and dumb to continue resisting Kindles, a technology which Norrell and Strange—were they to discover some magical version of it back in 1810—would have embraced joyfully, given their constant difficulties with transporting their books of magic all over the countryside.

I have no logical or moral explanation for my abjuring of e-readers. It’s not that I’m making a principled stand against Amazon, that rapacious war machine with the entire book industry in its sights. I’m a Prime member and order from them all the damn time. (Also, Slate makes real money from our affiliate fees, which make up a tiny percentage of every sale made after we refer a visitor to Amazon.com. Related: Man, this personal swimming pool looks awesome.)

No, it’s just that I really like the way books feel. I like being able to write in my books. I like that everyone on the plane can see what I’m reading. That shit is important to me! I am the past.

The children, of course, are the future, and mine are really happy to see me when I get home in the afternoon. I inform them that I told stories about each of them at the Mom and Dad Are Fighting live show, and they cheer, blessedly unaware of how some future Google-for-podcasts product will ruin their lives once prospective dates or employers start looking them up on the Internet.

For now, the fact that I use them for material seems just a perk of having a dad who’s an editor. Another such perk: advance movie screenings. Tonight we see the new Pixar film, Inside Out, which is really and truly great and makes me think in brand new ways about the way I handle my own emotions and the way I encourage my kids to handle theirs. When we get home, the lightning bugs are out in force in the front yard, and my kids chase them, shouting, until I make them head inside. My wife and I both have to work as soon as they’re in bed, but we work on the porch, and it’s a lovely warm night, and the lightning bugs keep blinking away.

This would be a nice place to live, I think.

Previously, in Dan’s diary: