Mon, Nov 22, 2010
Traffic jams suck. Paying bills sucks. Job interviews suck. But they are a part of life.
We deal with traffic to get to the job interview. We deal with job interviews to get a job that pays the bills. We deal with paying the bill for the car that gets stuck in traffic on the way to work.
And we do it all because it’s a means to an end.
So is airport security. We don’t like it. We don’t want to go through it. We certainly wouldn’t do it just for the fun of it. But we deal with it because we don’t want to get blown up on an airplane.
And the TSA is there to make sure that doesn’t happen.
That’s why we’re annoyed that the TSA has recently been facing more criticism than an American Idol contestant. The National Opt-Out Day will make it even worse.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, the National Opt-Out Day is a call for travelers to opt-out of X-ray scans on November 24th in favor of a pat-down to draw attention to airport security measures.
That’s a stupid idea. Here’s why…
#1. Airport security is meant to protect us.
This may come as a shock, but terrorists don’t tend to advertise themselves as terrorists. ANYBODY can be a terrorist. That makes the job of the TSA very difficult.
And that’s why they don’t trust you. We don’t trust you either. We don’t know you. We don’t know if that lump on your chest is a bomb or the fetus of your unborn twin or if you just have one breast as the result of an unfortunate gardening accident. We don’t know if some person’s prosthetic leg has a knife concealed inside. We don’t know if that woman’s tampon is really a bomb trigger.
Since “eeny meeny miny moe” was never an effective system for catching terrorists, the TSA had to come up with a better way of finding the people who are jealous of freedom and want to kill Americans. So they instituted full-body X-ray scanners and pat-downs.
When travelers submits to these reasonable security measures, they effectively gain the trust of the TSA and their fellow passengers. That means when we’re sitting on a plane next to each other, you know I don’t have a bomb, and I know you don’t have a bomb.
That gives us more time to be worried about things we really should be worried about instead: will our airline meal give us food poisoning? Will our flight have a baby that cries non-stop? Will the kid who kicks the seats sit behind me? Will the fat guy spill into my seat? Will the movie selections not suck? Will someone unleash silent but deadly farts the whole flight? Is there something on the wing… some… thing?
#2. X-Ray scanners deter terrorists.
If you’ve ever been to a doctor or watched that movie The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, you know that X-Rays reveal things unseen to the human eye. This works great for finding hidden weapons. That might explain why 81% of travelers support full-body scanners. The other 19% have small penises.
Just kidding. The other 19% oppose X-ray scans because they think it reveals too much. In actuality, a wire-frame rendering of a computer generated character in a video game has more graphic detail.
Airport X-ray scans are the most unsexy images. You needn’t worry that the TSA agent in charge of reviewing your scan is some pervert storing your faceless image on his iPhone — he could easily look up free porn instead. Besides, he can’t even match your face to the X-ray image because he’s in another room. You look like a ghost to him.
An even smaller percentage of people who oppose X-ray scanners claim they give you cancer. But the fact is, you are more likely to die from a terrorist attack than get cancer from an airport scanner.
#3. People hate pat-downs more than X-ray scanners.
Since TSA agents have to physically run their hands down your body during a pat-down, some travelers consider it “groping” or “sexual harassment.”
We say: don’t you go through worse at the doctor’s? You get poked, prodded and felt up by your physician — while naked — but you don’t accuse them of “groping” or “sexual harassment” because they have a PhD. What your doctor’s job boils down to is keeping you safe.
Well, that’s the job of the TSA too. Doctor perform an invasive search of your body to make sure you’re healthy. TSA agents perform a cursory search of your body above the clothes to make sure you don’t have a bomb strapped to your back. Same intent, different method, both appropriate.
Look on the bright side, even if you’re not packing heat, maybe the pat-down will find something you thought you lost hiding in your back pocket, or maybe even discover a “kick me” sign attached to your back.
The pat-down is an effective security measure, but it’s not as complete as the X-ray scanner… and it invades your personal bubble… and it takes longer. So it doesn’t make sense that National Opt-Out Day wants you to opt out of a perfectly efficient security measure that most Americans support in favor of the one they don’t.
#4. It’s rude to other passengers.
November 24th is already one of the busiest travel days of the year. Those who participate in National Opt-Out Day are only opting out of being courteous and respectful to other travelers.
X-ray scans take 30 seconds. Pat-downs take 2 minutes. Opting out of an X-ray scan can increase the wait time at security four fold.
That’s NOT COOL on a day when the wait time can exceed two hours without rude people adding to the mess.
#5. TSA agents are just doing their jobs.
TSA agents are like telemarketers: everybody hates them. But the difference between TSA agents and telemarketers is that you can’t hang up on them.
So don’t vent your frustrations on them. They’re just following orders. They’re just doing their job. And their job is keeping you safe.
They don’t want to pat you down just as much as you don’t want to be pat-down. It’s uncomfortable for both sides, especially since you didn’t go out for dinner and movie beforehand.
They don’t want to be the one who let a suicide bomber through the cracks either. Imagine the guilt and remorse they would suffer. Each person they scan, pat-down or question could be the one that changes the world for the worse. That’s some heavy stuff. So even though their job isn’t difficult, they’re under a lot of pressure all day, everyday. Exercise empathy, not ego.
If you’re going to blame anyone for these security measures, blame the terrorists. They ruined it for everyone.
The TSA is just taking precautions so terrorists don’t strike again. The National Opt-Out Day is a misguided protest against those precautions.
We deal with stricter security because of the 9/11 hijackers. We take off our shoes at the security check because of The Shoe Bomber. We get scanned and pat-down because of The Underwear Bomber. We’re limited in the amount of liquids we can take on board because of the the liquid bomb plot.
With each threat, the TSA has responded by implementing new procedures to protect us.
If that doesn’t work for you, don’t take it out on other passengers by making their holiday travel even more miserable. Write to the TSA or to your local congressman and suggest new methods. And don’t just ask for change without recommending some solutions. That’ll just make you just sound whiny.
Be courteous. Be patient. Be safe. And in the words of Bill and Ted, “be cool to each other.”