Frustration flying high

A View Askew

Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2006

At what point do safety measures meant to protect air travelers create more risks by frustrating normal people to the point of violence?

In the words of a bored kid in between kicks to the seat in front of them at hour one of a four-hour flight: Are we there yet?

We’ve got to be getting close. In response to the foiled Aug. 10 plot of terrorists in Britain trying to smuggle liquid explosives onto U.S.-bound flights, the Homeland Security office (official motto: Prevention After The Fact) has restricted what travelers can bring on planes with them — no liquids and no gels.

What were they thinking? OK, yes — prevent anyone else from bringing liquid explosives on planes, curb terrorism, safeguard passengers, blah, blah, blah.

Do they not realize how low Americans’ tolerance of inconvenience is? This is a country full of stained office breakroom counters because people won’t wait for the coffee machine to finish its brewing cycle before they pour a cup. And now they’re banning lattes on planes?

Even worse, they’re banning personal grooming supplies — because that five-hour flight next to a large man with no concept of personal space apparently isn’t bad enough; now he has to lack deodorant and toothpaste, too.

The biggest threat to aviation security lies in banning cosmetics. As we all know, hell hath no fury like that of a businesswoman taking a red-eye flight and not being able to touch up her hair and makeup.

Have you seen these women?

Stupid question —of course not. Most of us are too blurry-eyed after an airborne all-nighter to notice if we even have hair, much less what other people are doing with theirs. Yet there they are, going about their morning primping routines like they just lifted their heads from an ergonomic pillow at a Hilton, instead of yanked it from the crevasse between the seat and window where it became wedged after encountering turbulence.

The thing that kills me is their clothes aren’t even wrinkled. I could wear a suit of armor on a trip to the Lower 48 and by the time I’d arrive it’d look like Joan Rivers’ face would look without all her face-lifts.

These women are not to be trifled with. Anyone who can summon the fine motor skills necessary to apply eyeliner after spending a night on a plane is not someone you want to make angry.

Strangely, cell phones, laptops and other electronics have not been banned, although the liquid explosives would have required an electronic device to be detonated.

Personally, I’d rather TSA (official motto: Don’t Make Me Wand You) outlawed electronics, as well. I enjoy listening to music on planes (it drowns out the snorer and/or fussy baby that will inevitably be seated in a four-seat radius), but I’d be fine without it. If passengers really can’t survive a plane ride without hearing “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas, we, as a nation, have bigger problems than terrorism.

Outlawing electronics would certainly speed up the security screening process. No longer would you get stuck behind the following exchange in the screening line:

TSA agent: “You’ll have to take that laptop out of its bag, please, sir.”

Passenger: “What? My laptop? Out of the bag? Really?”

TSA: “Yes, sir, all laptops must be removed from their carry-on bags to be screened.”

Passenger: “Huh? What is this of which you speak? I’m from the planet Self-Involved, and though I have been standing in this line for over an hour with nothing to do but watch everyone in front of me be told to take their laptops out of their bags, it somehow didn’t sink into my in-flight-snack-bag-sized brain that I may be required to do the same thing.”

TSA agent: “And please take your shoes off and put them on the belt.”

Passenger: “Shoes? Off? What ... .”

And so on.

If TSA isn’t going to create a screening line just for people who have their boarding passes and IDs out and ready and who can whip their shoes, bags and coats off and onto the belt in under one minute, then the least they can do is limit the ways for stupid people to hold up the line.

Personally, I think the government is going about aviation security all wrong. Get rid of TSA altogether. Just hire those women putting on eyeliner in the morning. If they can get their hair to lie flat after a night of rubbing against coarse seat fabric, I’d love to see what they could do to the terrorist that comes between them and their styling gel.

Jenny Neyman is the city editor at the Clarion.

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