I recently got back from flying to Oklahoma to see my father. He’s getting on in years, and has undergone four surgeries on his leg. This last one was an emergency surgery. He is not recovering as he should, and I don’t know how much longer I’m going have him around. After years of “Yeah, we gotta get together sometime,” every minute with him has become precious.
Arranging the trip on short notice reminded me of why I have avoided flying since 9/11. First came the seemingly random pricing, then the predatory municipal fees on rental cars and hotel rooms, then the dismal service and amenities on flights and the cattle car experience that was once reserved for Soviet air travellers.
And now, of course, the security. A writer I recently read (I apologize for not remembering the source) noted that the security rituals we go through at airports — the sacremental disrobing, the blessing of the laptops (which must, of course, be annointed separately from all the other sacred electronic equipment), and the ritual confiscation of the nailclippers — have nothing whatsoever to do with security. It has everything to do with social engineering and the acceptance of government intrusion.
As I was walking through security this time, a TSA agent stopped me. He was young, and had that crew-cut, almost buff look of the law enforcement wannabe. He “advised” me that I should take off my sneakers. I noted that they contained no metal, and asked if it was required. No, I was told, but if I declined it would make me look suspicious and be a reason for a more through, invasive, and time-consuming search. The message was clear: Take the advice, or it will be even worse. I had almost forgotten the word “supercilious” until I dealt with a TSA agent. And then, as I was walking away barefoot from the man, I realized that was exactly the word I was searching for.
With a budget of billions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of the best minds in the country, Homeland Security and President Bush have still not realized that it’s not the fact that someone can get on an airplane with a nail clipper that constitutes a threat, but that someone with a nail clipper can take over an airplane.
I can’t wait for the x-ray machines that will allow these pricks to see us nude. And we won’t say a word. The analogies of civilians lining up nude for government security people are pretty obvious. But as long as we choose to be sheep, we will be treated like sheep. Perhaps we deserve the contempt our government displays towards us.
Every security person I have talked to (and I know quite a few) are as cynical about this as am I. Nobody thinks this really stops any hijackers. It’s just a way to get us used to losing any sense of personal privacy.
But I line up. My father is ill, and I don’t have time to drive.
There’s a little I can do. But there are a few things. I can use my pocketbook. It used to be that my cutoff for driving versus flying on a vacation or long weekend was eight hours. If I couldn’t drive there in six hours, I would fly. Now it is eighteen. And if it is a simple
long weekend and not an emergency, I’ll stay near my home. There’s lots to do around where I live; I have discovered much about my local area I didn’t know. Every place has its hidden treasures and I don’t have to be diminished in order to enjoy the ones near my home.
And I can use my vote. Unfortuately, none of the candidates I have seencare about personal privacy. Unless it involves abortion, of course.
The airlines wonder why they are losing business and running in the red. They have used the federal government as their buttboys for years, using FAA and now Homeland Security regulations to make travel as unenjoyable as possible. Oh, it’s not that *we* don’t want you to have two carry-ons, you see, it’s the FAA. Have a pretzel and shut the hell up. I hope they go under. There’s a demand for flight, and something will arise to will meet that demand; whatever replaces what we have now will have to be better.