Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Airport Security in Cloud Cuckoo Land

Here is an excerpt from my opinion essay on Worldmag.com, "Airport Security in the Clouds."

On Christmas Day there was a potential airline terrorist incident here in the United States. My in-laws, a retired couple living in Wyoming, were flying from Billings, Mont., to New York. After stripping them of their coats, belts, and shoes, an alert Federal TSA security officer spotted a 6-ounce tub of yogurt with live active enzymes. Loath to throw out a perfectly good container of Greek God, fig-flavored, acidophilus-infused yogurt with a fig at the bottom, my mother-in-law dug the plastic spoon out of her backpack (I’m surprised they were going to let her on the plane with a potentially deadly plastic spoon) and defiantly indulged herself before getting back in line.

We can all feel safer knowing that every reasonable precaution is being taken to ensure our flight safety in a terror-free America.

In a separate, unrelated incident, a 23-year old Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam using a pouch of chemicals sewn inside his underwear. Thankfully, despite his engineering degree from University College London, he only set himself aflame.

TSA immediately announced security measures even more personally invasive and humiliating than we currently suffer. “Every passenger flying into an American airport will now be subjected to an extra ‘pat-down’ body search and will have their hand luggage examined at terminal gates by airline staff just before they board,” The Sunday Times of London reported.

But brace yourself, travelers. That’s just the initial, reflexive response. Since Richard Reid attempted to blow up a plane over the Atlantic Ocean by lighting an explosive in his shoe, we’ve had to remove our shoes and belts before boarding a plane or entering a federal building. In the future, you should expect to have to remove your pants, too. So please be mindful of this, and make everyone’s progress through security as quick and efficient as possible by remembering to wear flight-appropriate clothing: a T-shirt and sweatpants, or perhaps even a surgical gown, if you’re comfortable with that.

And there's more! I go on to include more serious reflections of why airport security is so absurd, and I end with a darkly humorous conclusion that gives you the rest of the story on my mother-in-law and her exceptional yogurt. But you have to go to Worldmag.com, because they have advertisers who want a crack at your attention, and it is not my place to save you from that.

1 comment:

David C. Innes said...

My own gray haired, Scottish parents contributed this by email:

"Let me add some items. Not airport but land security. Your innocuous good-living elderly parents were stopped at the border when driving down to Florida. All cars were treated similarly.

"Stay in the car..he looked through the back seat...what is this on the floor behind the seat (I don't know because I cannot see it)..he got snarly but realized it was a computer printer...he opened up the tailgate and rummaged through everything back there.

"He spent about 10 minutes searching us, as he did to most cars. He was a very large man and was extremely aggressive to an elderly snowbird couple heading for a winter get-away in Florida as they do every winter.

"What an incredibly rude and unpleasant waste of their time. We were patently of no interest to national security."