L. Neil Smith's
by Jeff Schwartz
Exclusive to TLE
My job has me flying 18 times over April, May and June. Today was the first time I was one of those lucky folks to be subject to a gate-side random search.
A bit of background: I'm one of those people who tend to run into mishaps others avoid. My solution to this has been to wear a nice photojournalist's vest, and stuff the 29 pockets with useful items. It comes in handy when the plane has mechanical problems and you spend 14 hours sitting at the gate before taking off for a 2 hour flight. The contents are handy when you land in Cleveland, get two miles from the airport, and run into one of the worst snowstorms in a decade and spend 5 hours shivering in the car, or when a tropical storm hits Houston and there's no power and four feet of water in the streets.
My vest was searched twice this morning - it was ignored on the last 5 trips, but today I was popular.
And, for the first time, I had something confiscated.
Was it the yo-yo, a great boredom reliever and aboriginal hunting weapon?
Perhaps it was the Fisher space pen, 2.5 inches of machined steel that makes a wonderful dan-bon?
Maybe the pile of loose change, which together with the handkerchief and a bit of dental floss makes a nifty blackjack?
Any of the other dozen items I'd thought might be at issue, but refused to leave behind out of a perverse determination not to let a bunch of terrorists change my life?
According to the nice lady that searched me, the most dangerous thing I had was:
A roll of electrical tape.
Her explanation: I "might tie up somebody's hands with it."
Presumably that would be right after clubbing the crap out of them with the improvised blackjack.
Or whacking them with the yo-yo and then using the string to garrote them.
Or smashing the steel pen through delicate bodily organs.
You could make the case that most people would never consider those items as weapons. My response would be: "Don't you think a highly trained 'professional' terrorist would?"
Airport security is not only broken, but it is a thing which is inherently unfixable. 99.999+% of the passengers have no intention of hijacking the aircraft. Letting them on with battle axes, dirks or Uzi's would make no functional difference.
In the case of the few nutcases who are planning criminal acts, enough can still be smuggled in to do the job.
Unless you make people fly nude and chained to their seats, dangerous items will be aboard planes. Even nude but unchained, many people can kill empty-handed - ask any Army or Marine vet about what they learned in Basic.
Lest you think I'm too glib about being chained to one's seat, as I peck this out on my PDA, I'm en route from Cleveland to Reagan National. On boarding, we were told that for security reasons, we were required to remain seated, seat belts fastened, for the 53 minute duration of the flight.
There was a strong implication in the flight attendant's voice that anyone who didn't would be very sorry. Considering my destination, I think it's safe to presume that one of my fellow passengers is a Sky Marshal. I'd even suspect that given the short distances and times involved, said Marshal is probably a bit quicker on the draw than the average Air Cop.
Airline Security - such as it is - penalizes people for the ability - exemplified by possession of an object - to commit a crime, not for the action or intent.
That is a very dangerous thing for people to get used to thinking of as 'normal.'
Would it be reasonable to fine everyone with a set of car keys in their pocket one speeding ticket a month? Does it make sense for people to be fined for potential crimes?
Then why do I need to go spend a buck on a new roll of tape? What crime have I committed? Where is the list of objectionable items? None of the posters at the airport show tape as 'bad.'
I'm tired and fed up with going out of my way to accommodate an agency which changes the rules mid-game and still manages to strike out when it comes to doing its job.
The problem is, of course, that complaining draws the normal response bullies give when the kid being picked on protests: "What are ya gonna do about it?"
The FAA won't even comply with Federal law to arm pilots; even if my Congressman managed to get a law through the system demanding reform and sanity, it's a safe bet it would never be implemented.
I'd like to open the floor for suggestions: "What are ya gonna do about it?"