Tag Archives: metal detectors

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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Filed under Culture, flying, humor, life, people, security, travel

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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Filed under Culture, flying, politics, security

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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Filed under Culture, environment, history, humor, Publishing, Writing