Thursday, March 27, 2008

Airport Absurdity

A few weeks ago my husband and I took a short trip to Vancouver because I was attending a conference so we figured we'd maximize on the free hotel room and take a much needed vacation from our darling children. My mom and aunt came to watch the kids for five days while we loafed around one of the coolest cities I've been to in a long while.

But it feels weird to write about sitting in cafes, reading books, walking around, seeing movies, listening to Celtic street music (it was St. Patrick's Day) and generally enjoying each other's company. I mean, what do you care right? Who wants to hear about boring happy times, except our mothers. So I'll spare you.

I will however take a moment to comment on airport security. How is it that nearly seven years have passed since 9/11 and we STILL suck at airport security? It's shocking to me every time. My husband's Israeli and I spent a few years living there myself and I am telling you the Israelis know how to do airport security. And yes, it's a relatively tiny airport with relatively little traffic when compared to SFO or JFK or whatever. And yes, the Israelis use racial and ethnic profiling. Bad Bad Bad. Shame on them. But it is the most secure airport in the world and you can still bring a bottle of water on the plane. And you don't have to take off your jacket, your belt, your shoes, disassemble your stroller, and drink your own expressed breast milk to prove you're not a hijacker. Last time we were there we pushed our double stroller right through a side gate. No need to wake up sleeping babies or rip them from their precious kitties or softies or wubbies to send through an x-ray machine. That's part of why this trip to Canada was so enjoyable. I mean just being in an airport without kids feels completely decadent. Throw in a latte and we're talking near nirvana.

But even without the kids I was still annoyed (which may just mean that I need to practice meditation). Maybe in fact BECAUSE I had less to worry about without babies to shuttle and more time to critique what amounts to, at least in my unimportant opinion, a total security circus.

After we finally got through possibly the slowest line I have ever stood in, my husband and I sat in some chairs on the side to put our clothes back on and just watch the other people file through. I swear I felt like we were on one of the candid camera shows (that are actually filmed in Denmark but then set to music for syndication in the US. Like Menthos commercials). They pulled a guy to the side and told him to take off his belt. Then hold his belt over his head. What? That's when we started to giggle. What was the TSA dude telling this guy?

Sir, could you please remove your belt?
Could you please put your belt over your head?
Can you please remove your shoes?
Can you please put your shoes over your head?
Sir, could you stand on your belt please?
Can you please stand on one foot and hold your left shoe and belt over your head?

I once went through security with my daughter and they actually asked me to take off her little Robeez shoes. Good grief. If they were looking for explosives, they should have checked her diaper.


Anonymous said...

Really enjoy your blog! I'm the mother of a toddler and preschooler, and I happen to work at TSA. I just wanted to let you know that TSA doesn't make anyone drink breast milk - breast milk is allowed through the checkpoint in quantities larger than three ounces even if the parent is not traveling with their child.

It's always shocking to me as a parent, but you'd be amazed at what some people will do to get things through security. We had a man hide a nine inch long knife in his baby's infant carrier, and one of our security officers found a loaded gun in a mother's diaper bag in Miami. Terrorists - or others trying to smuggle things - will put them where they think they have the best chance of getting them through. (Which is why we also find guns, knives, box cutters and other things hidden in wheelchairs and canes, and terrorists are now looking at using remote control toys as explosives devices.) So I know it often seems silly to see what you see at the checkpoint, but there's a security value in what is done, and the end goal is to keep people safe.

Many people talk about Israeli security as the ideal, but it is incredibly difficult to replicate for just the reasons you mentioned - American's disdain of profiling, the questioning of passengers as part of screening, and the fact that more people fly out of JFK in a day than fly out of Israel in a week. One thing TSA is doing similar to the Israelis is behavior detection, so that we can look for people with hostile intent. That allows us to look for dangerous people as well as dangerous things. Hope this helps.

I often post on TSA's Evolution of Security Blog - check it out at and comment or suggest topics for us to write about.


Inner Toddler said...

Lynn, I loved your comment. And I loved that you weren't defensive or grouchy with my obviously half-informed opinion of the whole thing. You must be faced with disgruntled patrons all the time. And truthfully I guess I'm happier to not know that crazy people are hiding weapons in their kids Robeez. I'm sorry you have the burden of knowing all of that stuff. I'll try to be more open minded next time we're in transit.