Tag Archives: airport security

Airport Security: A Make-Believe Tale

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but you’re going to have to get rid of the water bottle.”

“What? Why? I just bought it at the airport kiosk. They said it would be okay.”

“Nevertheless…” The guard checks her watch. “Regulations changed, again, ten minutes ago. No water.”

“But it’s a long flight.”

“You can buy some water on the plane. Next.”

The guard looks at the man’s passport and runs it through a computer. She pulls out plastic tie downs. “Put your hands behind your back.”

The man does. “But why?”

The guard ties his hands together. “It says you have a black belt in Judo. We can’t be too careful. You’ll have to ride the flight like this.”

“But–”

“Take it or leave it. We could just cut your hands off.” The man swallows and walks through, trying to grab his shoes and briefcase best he can. “Next.”

The guard holds up her hand. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but your baby must go through alone.”

“But he’s three months old. He can’t walk or even crawl.”

“Sorry, regulations.”

“How do you suggest he’s going to move forward?”

“Just put him in one of these bins and send him along the conveyor belt. The process is painless.”

The baby screams as it disappears into the dark bowels fo the X-ray machine. The mother looks distressed and tries to go through the detector. It whoops.

“You’ll have to go through again and remove your shoes.” The woman does.

“Oh and no liquids. You’ll have to get rid of that.” The guard points to the woman’s chest.

“What?”

“No liquids are allowed on board.”

“Are you talking about my breasts?”

“You’re breastfeeding. No liquids.”

“You want me to get rid of my breast milk?” People are beginning to murmur.

“We can’t be too careful. You can go behind that screen and collect your baby once you’re through.” The baby is screaming, lying in a bin by the guards scanning laptops. One runs his explosives detector over the distressed baby as the woman runs behind the screen. The guard’s earphone beeps. She listens and tells the rest of the guards something. They bring out a box of latex gloves.

The next man has already removed his shoes, watch and ring and steps through. The guard motions him back. “Please remove your tie, belt and socks.”

“My tie and socks? Why?”

“New, updated regulations. Oh and roll your pants up above the knees.”

The man does so and steps through. The guards gets out a magnifying glass and inspects his feet, running the explosives detector up and down his legs. “You should trim your nails. I just have to take a sample from…under…here.”

“Ow!” The man yells and hops up and down holding his toe as the guard takes the gouged out bit of flesh from under his toe nail and drops it in an analyser.

“Okay, open your mouth.”

“Open my wha–”

The guards sticks a tongue depressor in the man’s mouth, shines a light around and swabs the teeth.

“What the fu–”

“Regulations.”

“Look, how long is this going to take? I’m going to miss my flight.”

“About another twenty minutes to analyse these swabs.”

“But I’ll miss my flight!”

“It’s for everyone’s safety, sir. Why are you getting so upset? Do you have something to hide? You should have come four hours before your flight.”

“Four hours!”

“Now please go behind this screen and drop your pants.” Another guard snaps on fresh gloves and grabs the lube.

“What! I’m not carrying anything! You’re metal detector hasn’t beeped once.”

“Nevertheless, we must check everyone now. No liquids, shoes off, pants rolled up, teeth examine and all cavities checked.”

“But why?”

“Someone tried to smuggle in a bomb in their anus. We can’t be too careful.”

“Forget it. I’m not flying.”

“You’ll still have to go through the search.”

Six months later someone swallows a bomb and tries to smuggle it on board.

The guard stops the first person and hands her a hospital gown. “You’ll need to change into this prior to surgery.”

“Surgery? Are you crazy? I’m trying to get on a flight.”

“Regulations. We must inspect everyone before they get on. You should be ready to fly in a day or two…”

Six months later fifteen airlines go out of business and airport kiosks close down. US congress listens to concerns but thinks security still isn’t tight enough. Welcome to the brave new world of enhanced airport security. Of course, we’ll all feel far more protected now.

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Taser Inquiry–Dziekanski’s Death

The inquiry continues into the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski, or the conducted energy weapon, as the police call it. One of the RCMP officers testified yesterday to conflicting admissions. Now, if you’ve seen the video the crucial moments are fuzzy, where Dziekanski is actually tasered. But even though he tossed a chair or two he was not in a high fury. You can see he is agitated or scared, by his fast breathing. Then you see there are security guards who don’t seem to be talking to him but keeping him penned in and it looks as if he’s barricading the doors.

What the guards and RCMP probably didn’t know was that he was there for hours and hours. He would have been dehydrated and confused, tired, maybe angry. What the guards did know is that he spoke a foreign language, pretty common for people coming in to an airport. It doesn’t look like anyone tried to communicate with him in his language.

The video shows four RCMP coming in and talking to him. He throws up his hands and walks away. What I thought, was that a taser needs to touch a person’s skin, but it fires dart-like electrodes. At the point that they fire the Taser Dziekanski smashes his fist into his hands and does look a bit combative but he’s just been zapped. Then they hit him again, and he rolls out to the floor, obviously in great pain. You see an officer fire a third time and I don’t know when the other two shots were fired.

Now the officer, Constable Gerry Rundel, testified yesterday saying that Dziekanski resisted and took a combative stance. If I throw my hands into the air, does that mean I’ll now get shot by the police, by Taser or gun? How does this gesture then differ between that of saying “I give up” or “I’m frustrated and can’t communicate” with uh, “Rarrr, I’m coming at you like a man-eating tiger”?

Rundel also said that he feared for his life at one point. Fear? For his life? Let’s see, there were three security guards just standing around before the police came. The four, count em, fourRCMP officers carrying weapons and wearing bullet proof vests somehow couldn’t talk to or restrain one man just standing there at the time. It used to be, before Tasers, that cops were trained on how to restrain a person without causing more damage. But they seem to just fire at him, and five times?

There’s much ado made about the stapler. Not a staple gun, not an industrial, electric staple gun. Just a stapler used for stapling a few papers together. I’ve put one through my finger before and somehow not only lived to talk about it but have borne no scars. But the RCMP who are supposedly trained in methods of restraint and oh, powers of observation, mistake the nasty office stapler as a weapon for which they fear for their lives? All you secretaries and aides of the world unite! Forget the pitchforks and scythes. Grab up those staplers and we will put fear in the hearts of those who oppose us.

If this is the state of our police force, then no wonder gangs are taking over. Sorry, but they’ve becoming pussies if a stapler scares them and if it takes four men armed with Tasers to take down an agitated man. If an officer fears for his life over such an action, then he should not be a police or RCMP officer. And if this is how they’re trained, I too fear for my life should I ever have to encounter the RCMP.

The police chiefs are now out in force today, defending the Taser and saying it saves lives (and it does seem to take a few too). Well,  if we go with the adage, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, then it stands that indeed Tasers don’t kill people, police kill people. I am critical here because there has been far too much abuse by those who are supposed to uphold the law. If their training makes them more fallible than the perpetrator, then they need new training, including how to minimize damage and physically restrain someone. How about some martial arts?

It used to be that a Taser was to be used if there was risk of injury to the individual or others. Serious risk of injury. Use as a last resort before pulling out the gun. But now, everyone better be on their best behavior because the next time you give someone the finger, swear, or turn your back on the RCMP they will Taser you as being combative and resistant. They won’t talk to you, they won’t find other ways to take you down. In fact, if you’re going to jump off a bridge and you turn your back, make sure you really mean to commit suicide because they’ll Taser you on the way down.

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Airport Security=Paranoia Keeps Them in Line

In the past year, I’ve flown to Ireland and to Kansas. Flying to the US took far more rigmarole, extra gates and scrutiny of bags and clothing than going through Scotland and on to Ireland.

For US flights, you have to cart your luggage along, to then eventually toss it on a conveyor belt. Why? God only knows. To humiliate I guess. And Canada and the US share a border, but you never know what we might infest the US with either: politeness?

As everyone who has flown since 9/11 knows, you must take off your shoes when you’re going through, because some idiot decided to try and bomb with his shoe. Even if you’re wearing flip flops, some airports are supper anally retentive on all shoes. And of course, you can’t take a sharp metal object: no knives and no metal utensils on the plane.

Then there were the guys trying to splash about some liquids to make bombs. Now you have to put everything in a separate bag, and have no more than a few ounces of any particular liquid. And even if you use the airport approved bag, you may still not be able to carry it on the plane as my sister found out, because the rules change from airport to airport.

So, what’s next? Someone who puts some form of bomb material into a tube of lipstick, a suppository or a fake tooth? We have to take off all metal bits going through a metal detector but as I found, a bra can now set off the super sensitized detectors. Watch out, everyone who has piercings. Soon you may have to take every piece out. There has already been one case of overzealous customs guards making a woman take out her nipple piercings.

How ridiculous and useful is this? Well sure they scan for certain chemicals on laptops, but what about PDAs and phones? If someone wanted to kill or hold someone hostage on a plane, there are a million ways. What about someone who holds a black belt? They can kill someone with their hands. “Excuse me, sir. We’re going to need you to check your hands.”

“I can’t check my hands. They’re part of me.” “Well then we’ll have to tie them behind your back.” “But what if I have to go?” “The attendant will assist you.” “What! One person can’t fit in those bathrooms, let alone two!” “We’ll give you a cup, no charge.”

Oh and hmmm, let’s see. Many of us wear shoes with laces, or belts. They all can be used to tie or strangle someone. “I”m sorry, ma’am, you’re going to have to check those laces. Oh and the strap to your shoulder bag. You’re not wearing thongs, are you?” Remember, just after 9/11 when they were taking people’s tweezers and knitting needles? They must have been afraid of bad eyebrow pluckings.

Be prepared to arrive a day earlier than your flight, where you will strip down and be given orange scrubs and cloth booties to go through on the flight. Your checked clothing will be returned to you on the other side. Oh and bring lube, but in less than 2 ounces, for your cavity search. You don’t mind a probe do you?

All this supposed airport security is really one giant smoke and mirrors game. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain because he’s not doing anything. The attitude of the US, which Canada and other nations have followed is to fake us out with this “great” measure being taken to “keep us safe.” Really. Yes, safe. Don’t you feel it? I don’t. I keep thinking that mass stupidity and paranoia is all that I’m seeing. I think this sentiment was best echoed by other Americans when we were in the line-up to get to our planes. All I heard them say was, “This is ridiculous. What a farce.”

Yep but if those governments think we think we’re being protected, well then, spending money on half-assed measures always works better.

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Kansas: Vignettes

It’s late and the workshop begins in the morning so this will be things I noted along the way, perhaps in order.

I found out that your bra can set off the airport security system. Seriously. I took off all my jewelry (except my rings which never set off the alarms) and I still buzzed the thing twice. They said, something up high is setting it off and when they ran the little wand over me it was the wires and clips on my bra. I bought it on sale but it’s well made.

I sat beside a horse rancher who had fingers the size of breakfast sausages and then some. Several fingers were bent to the side and I didn’t know if that was just from arthritis or from breaking horses all his life. He was a nice guy and we chatted about geography, him showing me the copper mine by the great salt lake (which I certainly wouldn’t have noticed) and talking about how the land had changed and cities come up. We talked about floods in Iowa and about the land flying over. He told me if I talked about sports in Lawrence I couldn’t go wrong as they called it the “sport city.” I guess the college basketball team has won championships.

I’ve flown often enough and never fail to love looking down on the land and seeing its great scape and what tales it tells of time passing. The was the first time I saw a truly awesome alluvial plain. I could see where there had once been a great river, wide and high and lake like in its middle, how it pushed might torrents of water along and through the land, carving out veins that branched and branched, growing ever smaller. The dark lines of those veins and the rivulets, even now long dried out, were still there to tell the tale. It was amazing. Then as the land flattened past the Rockies, there was evidence of a great lake, where the banks were still built up and the water had overflowed, pouring down one side, then eventually shrinking in on itself, smaller and smaller over thousands of years until only a few streams and possibly rivers remain.

We then hit the flat farm fields of Kansas, beautiful in the chequered pattern of greens, golds and browns, quartered and sectioned. Even through the farmlands the evidence of rivers still reveal themselves. Those branches and veins still flow with life-giving water, and trees delineate and embroider the shapes of the rivers. This was one of the best histories of geography that I’ve flown over and I’ve flown into the British Isles, India, the Himalayan foothills, Mexico and Cuba.

Oro, one of the short fiction workshop folk who lives in Kansas City picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride. We got lost at first, going north instead of west. Oro apologized and for the fact his car didn’t have air conditioning but I just said, hey, it’s an adventure. I’ve amazingly looked at all the travel delays with pretty good humor, which is a good thing. In some cases I would get downright bitchy so maybe all that work I’ve been doing on my brain is paying off. I just took everything as part of the whole grand adventure.

The dorms in Lawrence are…well, dorms, but way more spacious than I thought. Rhea and I are sharing a room, which actually turns out to be a room with a wide kitchen space and bathroom in the middle and another room at the other end. If we were college students we would have another buddy in each room but we have the rooms to ourselves and doors to each bedroom. I nearly froze the first day because I hadn’t figured out the esoteric air conditioning.

I’ve met all the workshop people: Lane, Barbara, Jerry, Larry, Stewart, Eric, GS (and Rhea) for the novel portion, and Mannie, Mallory, Eric, Chuck, Kent, Oro, Ben, Robert, Jean, (Carolyn who I met the next day) for the short fiction portion (though I think I’m missing a name). Barbara, Larry and Jerry are doing both. And of course there is Chris, Kij who is teaching the novel portion,and Jim Gunn, saying what they wanted to get out of the workshop. I of course want fame and riches. But seriously, it’s great to brainstorm and get other perspectives and see if there’s something I’m missing in plot.

I drank some homemade limoncello by the novel workshop Eric. Very nice and strong stuff, actually better than the store bought, which doesn’t have enough tang for my tastes. Last night we ate at a Greek restaurant (the only one in Lawrence), which also serves falafel and pasta. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a Greek salad with lettuce in it. They asked me if I wanted the olives and I said yes. I was given a whole two. We then took a walk around a wee park and a wee-er Japanese sort of garden, then meandered along a street of cool shops. Last night was very pleasant and it was great to meet fellow writers tonight where we ended up talking new technologies, conservation, pollution, etc. My brain is happy.

I’ll soon be doing some poetry editing for Chizine so Sandra felt obliged to actually get to my poems before I come on board. She accepted “Trials of Lemons,” a poem about bitter fruit and dragonflies. I’m not yet sure when it will be up.

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Not Quite Kansas: Cattle Call

Last year I flew to Ireland and because of my stupidity in reading the time of departure I actually whisked through the airport in minutes. But basically, in either direction, it was stop at the ticketing counter, check baggage and get boarding pass, go through electronic scans and then give your pass to the airline attendant. It was relatively quick on either side of the boarding or disembarking.

Today, as I tried to board my Delta Airlines flight to Kansas via Salt Lake City, there were as many checkpoints as getting in Nazi occupied territory. I arrived about 11:10 am for my flight at 12:51 and lined up in front of Delta. There were less than a dozen people with three ticket counters open. It took about twenty minutes to get through. Oh and a US customs declaration card must be filled out before you go to the ticket counter. On some flights you do it on the flight to give to customs on the other side.

Ahah! But here we have customs on Canadian soil. So I checked my bag but had to keep it with me. Then I was shunted through the duty free shop along a corridor where they ask if you have your card filled out. Through another corridor there are lines for greeting the customs agents who stamp the declaration form, look at my passport and ask how long I’ll be in Kansas and whether it’s business or a pleasure. But they don’t take the card.

Then I go along another corridor, with my luggage (You think I got to check it yet?) where I hand the card to another customs agent standing before the big cattle clash. Now there are big glass doors, perpetually open and what looks like it’s where I would get screened as well as my carry-on. But not yet. Everyone tried to get in nice lines but we were told to bunch up in a large mass so that we could then funnel back down to a line to drop off any liquids bigger than a dormouse. Then we trundled our luggage over to an area on the right and flopped it on the conveyor belt.

Then we squish together again into a large mob moving to the left, and in the middle of this the guy with all the luggage carts wants to get through, but only whispers his request. One woman chose that moment to bend over and open up her carry-on, effectively blocking everything. Then we bundled up again like a passive Canadian gang and funneled into a thin line to go between the red ribboned rows. These rows first took us all the way back to those glass doors then changed to go left to right and zig us and zag us up toward the screening machines.

It’s interesting to note that while in that long sinuous line you can look down on baggage carousels with luggage arriving from different areas. To my left was one from Tokyo; the other was from somewhere in Canada. The baggage on the Canadian carousel was tossed willy nilly onto the conveyor belts, upside down, sideways, at jaunty angles. The baggage from the Japanese carousel was lined up neatly, each parallel to the other, on the long side, handles sticking up. Every single one.

As I neared the front of the line, somehow managing to suppress the urge to bleat, another customs agent pink markered my boarding pass and then I branched off to a particular screening lines. Where of course one has to take off shoes, disembowel bags or purses of little clear bags with liquids in them, take off chains, coins, jewelry, watches, false teeth, limbs and eyes, remove fillings, pop out brains, splay laptops and wander through.

The corridor for the E gates is long, it goes down a flight of steps where the escalator has a sign saying it goes fast but it would take you five times as long to get down than the steps. Then there is a short, fastish moving flat escalator. Then there are steps and escalator going up, which disgorged me into the waiting area, where I find…my plane is late because of headwinds. I wonder how the connecting flight will go.

And the connecting flight went…without me. And many other people. Salt Lake City is Delta’s hub after all, so EVERY flight goes through here. But guess what? Their last flights out are all around 5:00. Whoops. I arrived and got to the gate but they wouldn’t let us board, mostly because I would have had to sit on someone’ s lap. They do give away the seats after a certain time. But the guys there said, oh the planes left late for Vancouver because of maintenance problems. Hmm… Headwinds or maintenance problems or both?

Anyways, I get to spend a night here. I had to get them to dig my luggage out of limbo and I nearly said, Oh you guys should throw in a bottle of booze when flights are delayed, but then I remembered I was in Mormon country. I just had to kinda laugh through all of this. There were a lot of irate people around me but what are you going to do? Me, I’m going to go use that whopping $7 food voucher that Delta gave me and find something to eat here at the Airport Hilton (woooo). And then I’ll probably drink too.

Connecting flight (hopefully) tomorrow at 8:40 and Kansas at noon.

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