Flying home to DC, I encountered the CLEAR podium once again at SFO. I was once a member, but canceled almost immediately, overcome by the awkwardness of the process.

If you haven’t heard of CLEAR, it’s a service that prescreens you and allows you to “skip the line” at airport security. The point of the prescreening is unclear, as the membership only affects your placement in the security line. You still pass through all the same security checks as the unscreened masses, but you skip the line.

What they don’t mention is that you don’t really skip the line, you cut it. There is a difference between skipping and cutting. Skipping means bypassing. Cutting involves being placed in front of already wary and annoyed travelers – most of whom have no idea what CLEAR is, let alone any respect for its rules.

The process is annoying for everyone. CLEAR participants have a new and highly awkward security process to overcome, one that I would argue is far worse than just waiting in line. Non-members have to deal with the frustration and confusion of having this uncomfortable individual placed in front of them. Funnily, the CLEAR member who was deposited in front of me today ended up being “randomly” selected for a manual pat-down after the X-ray. $179 well spent, clearly.

Interesting idea, but the execution is hardly ideal. Not surprisingly the company in its previous incarnation went out of business. I like the idea of not having to wait, but paying to have a TSA agent push through the line is hardly the ideal way to “bypass security”.

And if you still have to take off your shoes after it all, it doesn’t count.