Monthly Archives: February 2011

National Security

In this day and age, one would think that flying in airplanes would be safer than it was twenty years ago. Why then are we so jumpy about getting on a plane? Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty too. I’ll be sitting in an airport, minding my own business, and all of a sudden my gaze will settle on someone who looks like a terrorist. What does a terrorist look like? You know the stereotype (thank you Jack Bauer): dark skin, dark hair, lots of facial hair, and a sort of aloof look (sorry all you laid back Indians, Arabs and Africans – and anyone else who fits that profile). Either that or really light skin, long face, sallow eyes and a goatee (sorry to all you computer-geek-techy-people who fit that description). Anyway, you see someone suspicious through no fault of their own, and all of a sudden your mind starts jumping to all sorts of nasty conclusions. Add into the picture all the heightened security protocols implemented at airports around the world and it’s no wonder people get neurotic! Take off your belt, your watch, your shoes, take out your phone and your wallet. Go ahead take out your pacemaker while you’re at it. Once upon a time a shoe was just a shoe… Now I have to ask myself if all those women still wearing gigantic platformed shoes are hiding firearms in them (imagine Uma Thurman as Baby Spice). And don’t forget the loose change in your pocket! You may be in possession of a rare but deadly quarter with hidden blades that’ll flip out the minute you throw the coin at someone! All you have to do is mention the word “bomb” or “terrorist” and you’ll be dragged away by airport security for ten hours of interrogation.

(On a side note, does anyone else find the airport warning signs against bringing bombs into the airport humorous? Has a bomb ever looked like that outside of cartoons? I once heard a comedian wonder what would happen if someone walked in to an airport carrying a black bowling ball with a string hanging out of it… heh.)

Now, what on earth is with the film selections for long flights? My first time flying to Israel alone I had the privilege of watching Cast Away… That’s like showing Titanic on a boat cruise! Moreover, there was a FedEx plane in front of us on the runway… I had really bad feeling about that flight.

But I survived long enough to get back on more flights, including four more in the past week and a half. That’s right, I went on vacation! So here are some recent stories about flyer neuroses and airport security.

When waiting to board the plane for the first leg of our vacation, an announcement was made over the airport loudspeaker saying, “Now boarding from gate C4.” All I can say is that I’m grateful that wasn’t my flight’s gate. Bad omen much?

Leg two of the journey went seamlessly, but leg three got really interesting. So by now everybody has heard of the recently instituted TSA full body scans using backscatter x-ray units. Well, leg three was backscatteriffic. You’d think that between my husband and myself, my husband (complete with his scruffy beard) would be the one chosen for the heightened security body scan, not sweet, little, goody goody me. But no! He got the regular metal detector. I got the backscatter. From what I’ve read, unhappy citizens have been known to protest the backscatter in their own ways. (My favorite is a series of clothing with the 4th amendment printed on it with metallic ink so that it shows up in the x-ray too.) Me? I got all sarcastic. The person ahead of me in line was an elderly man who they made go through twice after he forgot to take his watch off the first time. When I stepped up for my turn I asked somewhat caustically if the TSA person wanted my watch too, or maybe my wedding ring as it’s prettier. I got no reaction, so I went ahead and had my x-ray taken, being sure to say “Cheese!” loudly with a huge, dorky smile. Afterward, when the TSA person went to check the x-ray results, I asked if I could get a printed copy as a souvenir. “No.” Then I apologized for being all sarcastic, sure that the TSA people have to put up with it all day. After all, it’s not their fault we have to go through this.

The final leg of the journey – coming home – was not nearly as exciting as the backscatter, but it was also rather funny. My carry-on backpack needed to be hand searched after it went through the x-ray machine. I think security weren’t big fans of my mother-in-law’s mint chocolate brownies that I was traveling with, although they assured me afterward that aluminum foil wrappings are allowed on planes. When I asked them what the problem was, they said nothing. I wonder if they were going to accuse my mother-in-law of making “special” brownies or something. That would have been amusing.