A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Recently an airline passenger didn’t feel it was necessary to be groped by airport security and he told them so — in no uncertain terms. I think what he said was “If you touch my junk I’ll charge you with sexual assault,” or something like that. Suddenly, the whole security/rights debate was on again. Let me make a couple of things perfectly clear concerning air travel. I do not want to get blown up at 30 thousand feet, and I want my government to protect me up there. Therefore, I am willing to help them do it. For example, I think it is reasonable to identify yourself before you get on an airplane. I also think it is reasonable that sharp objects and things that go boom are prohibited from airplanes. I think it is reasonable to go through a metal detector and/or be searched before boarding an airplane. I think these are just prudent precautions that everyone should take before getting into an oversized, airtight aluminum tube with a bunch of strangers. I have nothing against my fellow passengers, but when I’m speeding through the sky, I think trust is an overrated concept. Having said that, I would also like to know what sorry sack of stupid is in charge of airport security.
I love the art of travel. Everything about it breathes adventure. If I ever won the lottery, I would walk into British Airways with a stack of 20s and say, “Just tell me when it’s gone.”
However, at the risk of stating the obvious, air travel is really not as pleasant as it used to be. There’s nothing wrong with the friendly skies or the airlines that fly in them. They’re pretty much the same as they always were — average movies, mystery food and a complimentary crying baby – all part of the experience. It’s the train wreck (oops!) they’re calling security that’s ruining it for me.
First of all, I don’t feel safe. The last time I went through security at YVR (Vancouver) I thought I was watching an amateur theatrical troupe performing The Bourne Identity. The person at the baggage scanner looked like she was checking groceries at Safeway. The woman snooping through my backpack didn’t have her glasses on, and the roly-poly guy with the gun couldn’t have caught Betty White in a footrace (no offence, Betty.) If it wasn’t so serious, it would have been funny.
Unfortunately, it is serious. There are people out there trying to kill me. I can theorize and chatter all day about why, but does it really matter? I have paid huge dinero in taxes, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask that my government return the favour and at least give me the illusion of safety when I decide to fling myself through the stratosphere. Or better still: why not actually make it safe?
The problem is the people in charge of security are acting like a bunch of nomadic tribesmen chasing the rain. Every time they see a cloud, they run to it. Every new avenue of attack produces yet another set of procedures, restrictions and devices. We can’t go on like this indefinitely. Eventually, we’re all going to be getting on the plane naked. Personally, I don’t care. If somebody wants to feel my junk, let him go ahead. I would even submit to a cavity search if there was an ironclad guarantee that my cavity and I would arrive at our destination intact. But there is no guarantee, so keep your hands to yourself. By the way, you might want to change those little blue gloves every once in a while: I don’t know where they’ve been. I wouldn’t mind getting pinched, poked and prodded by teams of semi-trained farmers, so much, if it did any good. It doesn’t.
Airport security and their minions are hunting the wrong thing. They’re searching for weapons when they should be looking for terrorists — who are a hell of a lot easier to find. I’ll grant you that keeping guns, knives and explosive devices off airplanes is a #1 priority. However, until terrorists perfect a Star Trek style transporter, somebody’s got to be carrying that crap around with them. That person — whoever he or she is — is going to be stuck in the airport for the same length of time as I am. They are going to have to go through ever-narrowing gates to get to my plane, just like I do. And each of those gates is going to have a variety of personnel gawking at them. There are always going to be new and better devices that can kill me, but people haven’t changed that much since Eve discovered the recipe for applesauce. Technology is a wonderful friend, but security is a people business. We need to concentrate on finding the people who wish to do me harm, not the things they bring with them.
Let me make a couple of suggestions on how to do that. We need to get some people who are willing to conduct themselves in a professional manner. We need to train them to be more than just junk feelers. We need to motivate them: after all, they’re on the frontline of the War on Terror. We need to give them tons of professional help. Finally we need to pay them as professionals – minimum wage plus tips doesn’t cut it. In the end, they won’t be running around looking for a needle in a haystack; they’ll be preventing the guy from putting the needle there in the first place.