Stupid Human Tricks
Oct 1, 2002 12:00 PM, By Nathaniel Hecht
IS ANYONE ELSE out there as worked up as I am about the state of airport security?
To say that I have to travel a lot as the editor of S&VC is an understatement. With trade shows, editorial travel, and visits to advertisers, I certainly generate a lot of frequent-flyer miles, and things have not let up much even in the post-9/11 environment. I've noticed some things that I find amusing (or irritating) about security while traveling. It's scary to think about what passes for security in many U.S. airports. Here are some sobering facts that were reported a few months ago on the cover of USA Today: Seventy percent of individuals with knives in their carry-on baggage manage to make it onto the aircraft, as do 30 percent of passengers carrying guns. Does that worry you at all?
Considering that old ladies with knitting needles are not being allowed on board, nor are people with nail clippers, it seems rather amazing that so many people are still managing to foil the crack teams of airport security people. Why is this happening? Some of the strange security procedures might have something to do with it.
Before 9/11 X rays managed to pass right through even the thickest of leather briefcases to see computers inside, but now we have to remove them from our cases. What about other computer-related products, such as PDAs, cell phones, CD-ROMs, external floppy disks, or compact-disc players? I have yet to see an airport security officer inspect those things.
Also, what about the thing with the shoes? If you take a close look, not everyone gets his or her shoes inspected. That is like playing Russian roulette. Everyone takes their chances when all shoes are not checked; it is the most inconsistent security procedure of them all. In fact, I've discovered an equation when it comes to the shoe thing: check your shoes equals check your bag.
I guess the security personnel figure that if they detain you to check your shoes, they might as well delay your trip further by checking your bag, as well. There is no logic to explain this. Again, the Russian roulette continues, because they don't check everyone's bag with equal zeal.
Another great thing is when you become training for someone who just started out of high school for the Argenbright Security Company (that is the company that supplies most of the security employees for U.S. airports). On a recent trip, I had just made it through the metal detector — without a peep from the machine — when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find a very young man with a blue uniform on who asked, “Do you mind if I use the wand on you?” I know that he saw me go through without any alarms ringing, so I asked him if he did not just witness what I had. He said nothing. Biting my tongue while I submitted to this unreasonable search of my person, I prayed to the security gods for a speedy transition to government employees. That might be the first time in history that has ever happened.
I have been through 11 of our country's major airports so far this year, with at least a couple more to go before the end of the travel season. The best security I have seen so far is at Boston's Logan International Airport. Those people have something to prove, and I am impressed with the speed, abundant staff, and thoroughness of their system. It is probably because they hired some Israeli security people to train the staff there.
The worst security is at the Oakland International Airport in California. It was so understaffed and so inefficient that I actually missed my flight while still starting out two hours in advance of my scheduled departure. Granted, this doesn't have much to do with contracting, but sometimes a person has to vent.
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