In the Bush years, the agency’s scope and the intrusiveness of airport procedures expanded year by year. X-ray screenings and laptop inspections grew to include shoe removal and liquid restrictions. Threat levels were stubbornly stuck at Orange; no-fly lists proliferated. No matter that there was no logical cause or proximate threat: somehow the absence of further incidents served to justify the effectiveness of the system.
This week’s learning was not to carry flour in my luggage. Predictably, TSA opened it, coating everything in my bag. I wrapped it in plastic and carried it for the rest of the trip, getting stopped for further inspections and the occasional fingertip tasting at every portal.
The other lesson was not to respond to the question “Are you carrying $10,000 or more with you?” by smiling and sighing I wish… .
I’m concerned that, rather than reform, the effort is to rehabilitate the image in popular culture. ABC’s new Homeland Security show is a scary example. And then there’s the new PlayMobile Security Checkpoint playset, right. I loved the commentary from Kiera Butler at Mother Jones:
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that’s the worst security ever!". But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.
PS: While on the theme, here’s a link to a wonderful complaint letter to Richard Branson that brightened my day.
PPS: …and, completing the arc, here is my all-time favorite hotel complaint.