Monday, January 20, 2014

Security Farce

I know I'm going to come across as being really angry here, but I just can't stay silent on this issue.

For those of you who haven't heard the news coming out of Edmonton this last week, an 18-year-old kid accidentally brought his homemade pipe bomb with him when attempting to board a flight last September.

It was discovered when going through security but -- allegedly -- the agent who found said item didn't realize it was a bomb and instead thought it was only a bong pipe.

And so, naturally, the agent was then caught on tape ATTEMPTING TO HAND IT BACK to the little punk.

Plus, this incident wasn't even reported to police until FOUR FREAKING DAYS LATER.

[As an aside, had this kid's name been "Mohammed" or something similar, not only would he have never been allowed on that flight, but the entire airport would have been put in lock-down mode with all flights grounded until they thoroughly interrogated him and fished out any potential accomplices. Just sayin'.]

Now whether you believe the agent's story or not is irrelevant. The bottom line here is that all those painful hours spent going through security at the airport is, well, useless.

In 2010, Canadian actor and comedian Steve Smith (AKA "Red Green") wrote a book titled How to Do Everything: A Completely Exhaustive Guide to Do-it-Yourself and Self-Help in which he has a section labelled "How to Survive the Airport Experience."

To quote from this book:

"Security guards are trained to look for all levels of potentially dangerous substances -- guns and gun powder are on the lowest level, next up are plastic explosives and nitroglycerine, and on the highest level of danger is a normal-sized tube of toothpaste."

Truer words were never spoken.

(Unless you're an 18-year-old white kid from rural Alberta, that is.)


If you remember my post about what I would do if I won the lottery, I briefly mentioned my annoyance of always being delayed at customs. Truth is, I've reached the point where I'm willing to do just about anything to bypass airline security when travelling. And I mean it, too.

Over the years, we've been treated horribly by their agents and have wasted innumerable hours being searched and questioned.

I've been escorted to separate rooms on multiple occasions. I've had the entire contents of my luggage spread out and searched. I've been accused of having trace amounts of explosive residue on my backpack-style diaper bag. I've had to dump out my daughter's juice (which she was carrying and actively drinking.) And I've had to fill out several forms -- on more than one occasion -- stating all my personal information, including my place of employment. Even my young daughter and elderly mother have had to go through one of those full-body scanner machines........ All in the name of national security.

I'm pretty sure the next thing to happen is that we'll all just end up on a no-fly list.

One of the worst incidences for us was when we were returning from a Caribbean cruise, and an agent in Florida reamed me out for packing baby formula in our diaper bag. Our daughter was only 10 months old at the time and, because I hadn't been able to breast feed, one of the only convenient things we could give her on the flight was formula.

The thought of having to throw it out pre-flight was horrifying.

First of all, that stuff is like liquid gold; we spent thousands of dollars in my daughter's first year of life on expensive medication, breast pumps, specialist visits and, essentially, formula -- all because I couldn't breast feed.

And, secondly, how on earth were we supposed to survive an entire day of travel without any formula?? If she fussed on the plane, it's not as though I had the option of buying something off the cart for her to eat.

And I certainly couldn't just step away and give the other passengers a break from her constant crying.... because WE WERE ON AN AIRPLANE! There's no escape once you're in, so you better be prepared and have everything you need with you in your carry-on.

That's if the security agents are feeling generous and allow you to bring your items on board, that is.

In this case, I simply said to the woman, "What am I supposed to do all day if you throw that out?"

She had no reply for this and instead called upon a colleague of hers to escort me to another room where I was -- wait for it -- searched. All while my daughter was terrified and screaming next door.

In the name of international air travel security, I was expected to set aside my maternal instincts and calmly tolerate the Barnum and Bailey Circus display of security. My daughter was crying out, and yet they wanted me to provide quiet, rational responses to their questions --  because we all know that if I'd taken the opportunity to tell them how pointless this exercise was, we'd all be pulled from our flight and barred from any form of travel.

So this is how our governments choose to deliver safe air travel for their citizens.

It's 2014, and we're still conducting "random" security checks that ensure everyone can count on committing several hours to the moments leading up to travel -- merely for the illusion of security.

Remember, here in Edmonton, security was willing to return a pipe bomb to a traveller; elsewhere, the underwear bomber and the shoe bomber actually made it onto their flights before their explosive devices were detected.

If nothing else is apparent, it should be clear that nobody in charge has any intention of actually doing anything meaningful to make air travel safer.

(But again, in the name of international air travel security, my 77-year-old mother -- all four feet and 11 inches of her -- was put through a full-body scanner before we could be allowed to leave Miami International. Ridiculous.)

The good news is that, for a nominal fee, there is something called NEXUS, which is specifically intended for low-risk travellers who regularly cross the border and want it to be a relatively hassle-free experience each time.

Umm, that would be us! Pick me! Pick me!

As soon as Junior is born this spring and has a passport of his own, our entire family will be paying into the privilege of not having to be interrogated at the airport anymore. That is, if we pass the interview process anyway.

Here's hoping I don't get escorted away again.




1 comment:

  1. A-freaking men. Preach it sister. My husband was practically raped and made to feel like a criminal for hours. I made the mistake of putting my carry on onto the ground, thereby picking up nitrogen from the grass. All while 4 muslim men passed by me with absolutely no stopping. All in the name of political profiling, because heaven forbids, we wouldn't want to profile the obvious.

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