Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Death of Common Sense

“The scone must go on the conveyor belt or it doesn’t go onto the plane!” the TSA agent shouted. I had just placed all of my carry-on items into the x-ray machine and was about to go through the metal detector. “What about the coffee? Is it too a possible weapon of mass destruction and a threat to the passenger and crew? It’s only decaf.” I reply.

This only seemed to agitate the minimum wage federal agent even more. “Just put the scone on the belt!” he shouted.

As I turn I mumble some more acidic comments. “Is this a new plot from al Qaeda? Have the terrorists infiltrated Starbucks and replaced my regular chocolate-chip scone with a Symtex explodie scone?” I could tell that what I had just said was heard by the second agent located next to the metal detector from the look on his face. He shouts at me, “who has the boarding passes!?” “I do and you should consider switching to Sanka, you guys really need to calm down,” I reply. “Just step through the metal sir and hand me your passes.” As I walk through the metal detector I raise my hands above my head and say “I’m an American, hold your fire.” This really sets them off. A supervisor walks over and tells me to put down my arms. I then ask them if my papers are in order. Realizing that their aggression will not get me to act submissive they just give up with their border guard act and send me on my way. For the moment I had won.

“You were in a testy mood,” Jill remarked. Up to the point where the guard had started to shout at me I was in a pretty mellow mood. It was the total lack of logic, the lack of respect and lack of common sense that set me off. Just looking into their sullen, sunken eyes you could see a lack of intelligence, a lack of soul or self.

This leads to the question; Do we have the right people in place doing this? Are they merely a rubber stamp place-holder of a federalized minimum wage rent-a-cop?

...all the TSA really does is serve as a deterrent & take away items from the public...

To be honest we never got it right the moment that the 4th plane hit the ground. We panicked and federalized the airports with the military who were untrained and unable to deal with the public. Problems with complaints began early on about the military and the new security force in place ranging from harassment to inappropriate searches on females.

For the most part all the TSA really does is serve as a deterrent & take away items from the public that are verboten on planes. Most of the time these items that were about to be carried on were forgotten about in the bottom of the bag. The TSA agent merely reminds the passenger that they were there. Many times items make it past the guards and scissors, razor blades and needles make the journey without incident.

What does the TSA do with all of their sharp and pointy booty that they have acquired over the years? Even by modest estimates they should have amassed several metric tons of nail clippers, scissors, and Swiss Army knives by now. According to the TSA website all of the items that are detained or “abandoned” are held for 30 days then turned over to a government surplus outlet.

America for the most part has is in the process of becoming a zero tolerance state. Why is that? A child is suspended for a year for having a bottle of Tylenol at school, another is expelled for having a steak knife packed in his lunch by his mother so that he could cut his food.

I met a salesman some years back, an elder gentleman. Very laid back and easy going compared to the harried mentality of Los Angeles. “Life on the range,” is what he would say about his Wyoming upbringing. He said that his son had recently moved out to LA and just as quickly had moved back. The first time that he got out of his pickup truck with his dog he got a $250 ticket for not having a leash. That’s all it took. “What kind of a place is LA where you can’t even walk around with a dog,” he thought.

What it comes down to is the more people you have the more rules you must have. Think about it. Where that kid came from they probably didn’t have a stoplight in his town. He moves to a town of 10 million or so and sees that just about every move that you make is cover by a law of some sort, including his dog.

I’m not going to discount that the TSA is there to make sure that we are all safe and their ultimate responsibility is to get us home safely. I will not forget the fact that 3000 people vaporized in just a few moments because we lacked the follow through in while pretending to be vigilant. All of these laws, rules and regulation are put in place to protect us. But does that have to come with the price of trust and human respect?
Must regulating ourselves as a society result in the death of common sense?

Once on board I ate my scone after spilling my cup of coffee. I ordered a second cup from the stewardess who was kind enough to show me all of the freedom badges on her apron that she had collected from various military, police, fire and governmental agents since 9/11. I thanked her for the coffee and for sharing her story.

The scone was plain, dry and not very good. Sometimes you have to pick your battles. In retrospect this one was not really worth it. I should have given it to the angry TSA agent. Maybe he would have had a better day.

It’s ironic that they don’t serve food on the plane yet you are subject to an inquisition if you try to bring something onboard.


Mr. Middlebrow said...

Great post. Sharply observed, funny and sad. The pull quote is a nice touch. You've really taken the art direction up notch.

"It's only decaf" made me laugh out loud. And made me thankful I wasn't actually drinking coffee at the moment.

Don't you think name-checking Symtex is kind of asking for trouble? I guess by that point you were pretty much past caring. Who could blame you?

This is a classic case of knee-jerk response that doesn't address a problem, but actually makes it worse. Like high schools banning trench coats after Columbine.

Well done, man.

Kenn said...

I remember how I got the 9/11 news. I was sound asleep in South Pasadena when the phone rang. It was my old buddy Ed. You were coming down to Pasadena from Roseville that morning to be part of a project that I had been building for Tech Support. You had been the supervisor that got me off the phone and started me on the path that allowed me to claw my way to the middle. I don’t know if I’ve ever forgiven you for that. I was surprised to get your call but as you gave me the news the surprise gave away to shock then tears and then to anger. The anger was directed at the same place it was for all of us at the beginning.

I am sad to say that the anger has increased from Al Qaida to include a lot of people. I won’t begin to start the list, I’m sure that you have some, if not all, of the same people on your list that I have on mine. That said, unfortunately the easiest and most accessible target is the TSA. It doesn’t help that much of the grief they get they bring on themselves. Years ago my dad told me that if you want to know the worth of a man, pin a badge on him and see how he deals with power over others.

However, as they are a target for anger they also can be a target for a good trickster. It didn’t take me long to see the flaws with the TSA and their search and destroy strategy. The more I experienced it, the harder it was to not take action. Several years ago, when I was way-heavy, I used to wear what I called “fat pants.” Purchased on line from King Size, they redefined the definition of stretch. Not only elastic all the way around, but the belt was a sort of a stretch rope sewn into the lining. This allowed a bit of breathing room for us circumferencely challenged citizens. After being pulled out of the line for the sixth time for the full search I had pretty much run out of patience.

As the guard was running his hands over my body he asked me to lift my shift so he could check to see if I had a knife stuck in my belt. I wasn’t wearing a belt, but I did have the “forgiving elastic fat pants.” I reach down pulled my shirt up to my chest and with the other hand pulled the pants about seven or eight inches from my body. Had the guard been so inclined he could have stuck his head though the opening without mussing his hair. Instead he stepped back several steps, started to stutter and waived me through. He was so eager to get me out of his face he would have ignored any kind of weapon that I might have stuck down in the “they don’t pay me enough to go there” area. I breezed right on down the concourse laughing all the way to the plane.

Of course how that I have lost so much weight and look so pretty I am loath to try that method of search avoidance. I just don’t know how any of them could resist such an opportunity to grab for glory.

Barcai said...

One of your better posts boss- I agree with Middlebrow- name checking the Symtex could have gotten you the full cavity search and delayed you and your family for hours.

Next time sir- give up the scone..

William I. Lengeman III said...

Just one time let someone get through with toenail clippers baked into a scone and you'll stop your whining, Mr. Man.