Monday, December 28, 2009

Safety ... and the appearance of safety

I'd love to be perfectly safe traveling. I'd enjoy knowing that, when I get on a plane, there's no chance it will explode. I'd treasure the knowledge that my family and friends are in no danger when flying the (formerly) friendly skies. However, we all know that there's no such thing as perfect safety, short of locking ourselves in a fireproof/bombproof/entryproof home with sufficient provisions to live out our lives; and life would be more than a little dull if we did.

While I'd of course prefer that every terrorist on the planet would suddenly spontaneously combust (but live long enough to suffer tremendously), I'm going to continue to feel relatively safe traveling, hoping that our goofy government finally (and soon!) sorts out all its apparently unrelated and uncorrelated watch lists, no fly lists and other "important" lists to keep the fanatic crazies off my plane. I appreciate TSA doing their jobs and scanning luggage, patting down passengers (ok, actually, I hate the patdowns, but I like the idea of my fellow passengers not hiding bombs under sweaters) to find the bombers before they can sit over the fuel tank. I love the bomb-sniffing dogs circling through the lines at the airport to sniff out explosives (besides helping with safety, they're adorable!). All of these precautions make sense, if carried out appropriately.

What I can't stand is the imposition of the mere illusion of safety. Los Angeles International Airport is a mess right now. They have security stopping cars on the approach, looking in trunks, and peering under the chassis with mirrors. I've been through this after 9/11. It's a farce. I once went through the checkpoint with a rolled up blanket in my trunk, along with a tent and other camping gear I'd been too lazy to take out the week before. All the security guard did was glance at it. Maybe he had secret x-ray vision and could truly tell that my stuff was benign, but I can tell you that I didn't feel any safer going in. All it did was snarl up traffic for 2 miles on all sides of the airport!

I often travel for business, and one out of every 7 or 8 times I go through security I get chosen for an extra search. I wouldn't mind this if a huge gaggle of suspicious-looking men with shifty eyes didn't waltz right through the line without so much as an extra wanding. I certainly understand the arguments against racial profiling, but given that no middle-aged white woman has yet bombed a plane, and all of the recent people who have attacked the US have been men of a certain age and "racial profile," doesn't it make sense to pick the people most likely to cause trouble? That's like a bar bouncer letting in the guys in gang colors and keeping out the 75 year old mom of the bartender just so the gangbangers and their ilk don't feel picked on. It just doesn't make any sense. Any troubleshooter knows that you use past experience as a base for future action. Otherwise, what's the point of an investigation after an event?

I don't mind inconvenience for the purpose of ensuring my safety and the safety of all who travel. But don't waste my time, or my patience, on silly rules and impositions that are nothing more than window dressing. You're bugging me with that crap!

1 comment:

Alissa said...

My father gave a nearly identical speech last night the gist of which was while we are going out of our way to be politically correct the crazies can waltz right onto airplanes without a second glance.

Actually it was more like, "How did this guy get on a plane with a syringe and I can't even get on a plane with shampoo?"