I am sick of Plexiglas.
I am sick of scanners and beepers and buzzers and people being treated like cattle.
Yes indeed – I have been travelling.
I have the tag pinned through my ear to prove it.
(I am also opposed to body piercing of any sort, including earrings. I would never do that to a child, and I could not go through with getting my ears pierced when I tried it. I took out the offending metal in my flesh and let my body heal. I find particularly hideous the expanding donut-hole ‘earring’ that some men are/were wearing – is it still in style these days? – to prove that they – to prove that – to prove – um, to prove that they are ‘daring’ or ‘brave’ or ‘fun’ men to be with.)
So I write now to tell you something about my travels and how I really feel about Plexiglas.
Apparently, long before I reached the airport, Delta chose me to be one of its Special Victims. I was “randomly selected.” Maybe it was random. Or maybe I was selected. (Delta and I don’t get along very well.)
Can’t say I know.
But anyway, it was stupid.
I’ll tell you the stupid part.
They searched me TWICE – on both parts of my journey into the United States.
What criminal, upon being searched on the first leg of his journey, decides that on the second leg of his journey with the marked tickets (they write “SSS” on your boarding pass), he’ll carry explosives in his socks?
Am I wrong, or am I right when I go out on a limb here and say that even the dumbest of criminals will say, “Hey boss: I think they’re on to me. They, uh, marked my ticket. How about if you carry the Make-Your-Own-Bomb-Using-A-Big-Bottle-of-Shampoo-Kit (spellchecker acts like that’s not a word) after we get to Minneapolis? Whaddya think, boss?”
Is anybody over at the Delta administration doing any thinking these days?
I suppose there must be a lot of thought actually. It would be difficult to design a rewards program as cumbersome and as unrewarding as SkyMiles. It takes ingenuity and craftiness to defeat passenger after passenger who is earnestly trying to reach the Promised Land of one free flight.
I have given up on redeeming any points myself.
I am instead thinking back to high-school math (or was it physics? Or maybe it was chemistry, or maybe all three) where the Greek letter delta, shaped like a triangle, was used to represent change, and I’m thinking that I need a change from Delta.
And to top it off, I noticed that Delta has these signs which refer to this ‘randomly selected’ security program. It has some kind of acronym; I can’t recall and don’t care to look it up. (What does it matter? It’s not as though you want to sign up for it anytime soon.) The sign stands there near the Delta desk, and I didn’t read the whole thing, but it was written in a style that could be called ‘fun’ or ‘edgy.’ It said, in part, “Benefits include:” and then it mentioned something about needing to remove any footwear up to the socks.
I am disgusted.
This may be humourous for the person who wrote the sign, or for Delta administration, but trust me, the prospect of additional hassle at an airport does not bring a smile to anyone’s face, no matter how you word it.
In fact, it is far worse if you make light of the inconvenience that you are planning to cause us, Delta.
People do not like being searched.
The fact that it is a woman padding me down does not make everything hunky-dory. It is still a huge violation of my privacy.
(And of course, I cannot help but notice the inconsistency here in our perverse society. When I am outside the airport, I am “educated” about the wild gender-free lusts that apparently everyone has, whether they realize it or not – hence the need to educate – but when I enter an airport, I am supposed to be comforted by the fact that it’s a woman searching a woman?)
My point is, that “searching” another person by padding them down is not something that Delta should joke about. It is, at minimum, an inconvenience. But it can be far worse than this. Some people are quite frightened of the prospect. As a matter of fact, as a society, we educate children that strangers should not touch them. (And how rightfully so! But how unheeded this rule is! It seems that far too many adults consider the top of children’s heads to be ‘public property.’ At the drop of a hat, they will come along and do a sudden pat-pat of a child they don’t even know. Excuse me? How about if the child did that to you? Can’t think of an instance where the pat-pat is actually okay.)
And not everyone is wired the same. Those young people who have a vocation to religious life have an entirely different set of sensitivities to touch. They truly dread the very thought of being man-handled like a parcel. So their anxiety is increased, as they wonder what will happen to them when it’s their turn. It’s not funny.
It’s not, Delta.
Don’t joke about “the benefits.” There are none.
Consider the people who are travelling. Here is a woman with her husband who has been saving for more than 2 years to go on what they think will be a ‘dream’ vacation. They are full of anticipation and silly notions about the ‘joy of travel’ all of their friends have bragged so readily about, leaving out the truth about the hard parts, the slogging parts, the can’t-find-a-normal-washroom parts. They are dressed up, entirely naive and blissfully happy. There they are. You interrupt this with your ‘Randomly Selected’ program. The airport personnel now directs them to remove that and put those into these tubs and take out their lap-top and open that bag. At minimum, let’s call it a Mood Killer. So we don’t joke about that, Delta. Not one of those jokity moments.
So much for the ‘joy of travel.’ Honey, I think we lost that at the airport.
How much did Delta pay me to take their airplane? What? You mean, I paid them? Wait a minute – I paid actual after-tax dollars to be treated like this? Wow. Am I stupid or what?
But anyway, let me step out of an imaginary story and back into my real one, because my story is just getting more interesting.
You see, I got the Blogger Special. Know about that? That’s when people make your life more interesting than usual just so that you can blog about it afterwards – as if you don’t have enough to write about already, as if you don’t walk around with your head full of paragraphs and sentences and mentally-partially-written posts. Though I must say, being a Catholic blogger, that I know perfectly well that God is actually behind all of this, and I know that He is good.
And speaking of good, when I was done my second search in Toronto, I asked the fellow whether I was done. He said, “Yup, you’re good.” I retorted, “I could have told you that. You didn’t have to search me to find that out.” I was in a jokity mood myself.
Ha ha. (I kill me.)
But anyway, upon entering into the United States customs portion of the same (Toronto) airport, which currently looks like the neglected basement of an abandoned shopping mall, I saw a whole bunch of do-it-yourself terminals, like they have in retail outlets nowadays, except they were crowded together almost as if space were really tight.
Picture this: one rude and grumpy fellow trying to suddenly instruct scores of international travellers on how to operate terminals they’ve never seen in their lives.
Press your passport down exactly this hard, or else your passport won’t read properly. Don’t you know that? And if your face doesn’t even appear when the machine snaps your photo from some teeny built-in camera you can’t even initially locate (ready or not, photo is taken!) you are supposed to know that this is no biggie and that you should keep going onto the next screen. Don’t you know that?
Haven’t you ever used one of these terminals before?
Well you better learn fast! You may miss your flight, but no pressure, buddy.
In my photo I look like I’m having a celestial vision because my eyeballs are looking up up up, while the thought bubble on my head is filled with this: “Camera? I don’t see no camera. Where’s this supposed “camera”?” CLICK!
And so on and so forth. All the little quirks of a quirky little machine are for you to figure out, right now.
It was like that.
The travellers were, in many instances, rushing. They wanted to make sure they got into the next line, wherever that was. ‘Hurry up and wait’ is how the phrase goes. The passengers were, in many cases, balancing luggage and children. It wasn’t the best moment to Learn a New Skill. They didn’t sign up, in life, to become an airport security-staff person.
It was as if someone decided that everyone was really, really wanting to play Amazing Race all of a sudden. How many hours of sleep have you had? How badly do you really want to connect to your trans-Atlantic flight to Venice where your accommodation sits, already paid for and waiting?
In the group that I was travelling with, three out of five of us got an X on our printout from the Amazing Photo and Printing Machine.
The X meant something.
I don’t know what.
And apparently, nobody thinks that I need to know.
The Powers That Be have decided that in The Interests of Security, it is better that I don’t.
I am not opposed to the letter X. How can I be? It can be used to stand for Christ. Hence, we have a reference to X-mas. Christmas. Christ-Mass. X is the symbol used for generations of regular folks who weren’t taught to write (but some were often much more intelligent than modern folk, thank you very much). They would ‘put their mark’ on the marriage certificate or whatever, and it was the mark of a Christian.
X is okay.
Triple X means you’re a really enthusiastic Christian: XXX. I’m into XXX.
Ha ha. (I kill me.)
But I quibble with the way it was done. Suddenly singled out for no given reason. An X through my printout.
Alrighty. Fun times at the airport. Apparently the United States wants it to be difficult to enter their country and spend my Canadian cash there.
Our party stuck together. We were put into a different line.
We were directed to wait for Mr. Number 7.
Actually, there was no human telling us what was going on. We just noticed the pattern. Those of us who found ourselves segregated were always sent to number 7, while the other passengers were accepted at custom-officer desks number 1 through 6.
We will wait.
I ask the passenger next to me, what is the reason for the X? He has a theory. It doesn’t apply to me. Hmm.
We will wait.
The other passengers in the much longer line are wondering why we are getting Special Attention. I think some are envious of our shorter line. But of course, nobody is allowed to know. It would ruin the effect of the Mystery of the Airport, where you are herded like cattle and you are expected to be as silent as them too.
Well, maybe more silent.
What would they do,
Were you to ‘Moo’?
A cow may wonder.
Or maybe a cow wouldn’t.
Just stand there enjoying the grass.
Would a cow get stressed out?
Would a cow say,
Maybe I’ll become sandwich meat.
Would a cow say,
Better keep quiet
Maybe the cow would just daydream out loud and mostly relax while she waits, and say, hey look at the condition of the ceiling! All those unsightly wires hanging down. I don’t think they’re renovating this place. I think they started to and then gave up and went home.
Apparently I don’t know all the Right Lines. Or maybe I don’t know all the Right Moves.
Was that what it was? Hey Gultepe from Ohio, is that what it was? How come you put my passport into that little yellow folder, huh? Did I look like a National Threat to Security? You were actually, honestly worried that I would Cause a Ruckus in the United States of America?
Or did I just seem interesting? I bet that’s what you guys do, come to think of it. When you see someone who seems like an Interesting Humanoid Specimen, perhaps you redirect. Send them on to the Boys in the Back. Then later, you can have a Laugh. “Yeah, hey man, what about that kid I sent you with the weird piercing in the middle of his forehead? What did you think ‘a him? And hey man, what did you think of that couple with the matching mohawks?”
Is that how it goes? Just askin.’
Or maybe it was that I didn’t seem Sufficiently Scared. Not Deferentially Spooked?
Anyway, I can’t tell you why I got redirected. Can’t tell you why I got more Plexiglas Time. Never happened before.
So, as it turns out, getting the little yellow folder isn’t a perk or a ‘Good Sign’ in Airport-Land. Now I know.
It brings you into the next room where there are handsome strong-looking men, wearing bullet-proof vests. Their hair is cut short. They really look the part. They have large print letters across their big chests. (In case your eye-glasses have been confiscated I guess.) I can’t remember what the words were. Something about Inspections probably.
First you wait. Take a seat.
As if you got nowhere to go. As if you just like hanging out at airports.
(Silly you! You thought airports had something to do with going places! Who told you that, you naive non-travelling sort?)
I got called up. This is how it went.
Man Without Body Piercing: Where you going.
Man Without Body Piercing: Why.
ME: To relax. [BEEP, BEEP, BEEP: Wrong Answer! Wrong Answer! Airport Script says, You must be blithering and chatty and explainey and Eager-to-Please.]
Man Without Body Piercing: Where you stayin. What’s the address.
ME: I don’t know the address. A VRBO.
[BEEP, BEEP, BEEP: Wrong Answer! Airport Script says, You must be blithering and chatty and explainey and Eager-to-Please.]
Man Without Body Piercing: Any family or friends in Boston.
[BEEP, BEEP, BEEP: Wrong Answer! Airport Script says, You must be blithering and chatty and explainey and Eager-to-Please.]
Man Without Body Piercing: You bringing any meat products or dairy?
ME: I don’t know; I wasn’t in charge of packing the snacks.
Man Without Body Piercing (Getting Freaked Out): You don’t KNOW?
ME: Well, I don’t have any myself if that’s what you mean, but I thought you meant “You” plural.
[BEEP, BEEP, BEEP: Wrong Answer! Airport Script says, You do NOT challenge the vagueness or lack of clarity of any question.]
Man Without Body Piercing (Staying Freaked Out): I could just drag this whole thing out! We could search everyone’s bags! If you want to be difficult we could do that!
ME: I know.
Man Without Body Piercing (Quite Freaked Out): Alright, bring up everyone!
(The rest of my party arrives at the too-high counter.)
Man Without Body Piercing (Still Freaked Out): What Kind of Snacks Have You Got??!!
(Container of Snacks is Produced. Smallish. Plastic. See-through. Easy-remove lid.)
Man Without Body Piercing (Trying to Stay Freaked Out): What’s in Here?
(As if it’s not see-through.)
VigilantOne: Smarties, pretzels…
Man Without Body Piercings (thinking: Yes, indeed, that’s pretty much what it looks like.)
Man Without Body Piercings (Trying to Sound Freaked Out and Official): Any fruits, any vegetables?
(I really liked that one. VigilantOne is no dummy, after all. He said it fast too. Just like that: “Raisins.” Didn’t miss a beat. Like he knew the question was coming. I liked it, and I think the Universe came to a standstill for a moment, while we all pondered the inspired and sudden Raisins answer.
Ah, the Raisin. Shrivelled Fruit, shrivelled fruit, how shall I call thee? Do you warrant mention on this Customs form? Raisin, Raisin – a raisin by any other name would still be a raisin, no? And by the way, did you know, that Shakespeare thought both Romeo and Juliet were dumbheads? He wrote his play with that as the point, and I could prove it. The modern mind thinks they were the heroes, but the modern mind, ‘unshackled’ from traditional morality, simply cannot break the code to get into Shakespeare anymore; it can’t “get” Shakespeare, whose Catholicism was tolerated by the Airport Security of his day. Shakespeare presented Romeo and Juliet as examples of inconstancy and idiotic ideas and showed how Not to Do a Romance. Everyone dying at the end before bedroom time is not, ah, ideal, shall we say. In order to show you that Romeo is kind of lame, Shakespeare has it so that Romeo goes to a party professing a never-ending love for Girl A and then 2 minutes later falls madly ‘in love’ with Girl B, herself an idiot – one example, but there are more.)
Back to the Airport, and in particular, back to the Windowless Super-Duper Extra-Secure Walled-off and Totally-Enclosed section of the airport, where Strong Men are Armed to the Teeth because at this point, they are surrounded by Hapless Travellers Who Have Recently Been Shown to Be Wearing Explosive-Free Socks.
Man Without Body Piercings: Any Lettuce or Tomato?
(Ah, America! So that’s what this was all about! You wanted to make sure we didn’t bring any nutritious food into your nation. That was close! I had no idea that the United States was so opposed to Meats, Lettuce and Tomato. I guess if you order a BLT sandwich on that side of the border, you’ll get it without the bacon, the lettuce or the tomato. Here you go. Plop.)
ME: Just pure chemicals. Nothing healthy.
Man Without Body Piercings: Fine. Carry on.
We carried on. They didn’t let us keep the yellow folder even. Took it back.
I looked at Man Without Body Piercings.
Did he look Rather Amused?
Perhaps it was my imagination.
But anyway, I think I called his bluff. Either that or I called his bluff.
The thing is, I do know the Airport Security Script and the body language that goes with it. (It’s called “tail between your legs” and there’s also a variation called “utter submission” – which is where the dog lies on its back and pees.)
But I’m not particularly fond of it.
Call me arrogant, but these days I’d rather write my own script, my own lines.
So shoot me. I don’t have a bullet-proof vest but go ahead. (I don’t own a gun either.)
But anyway, about Plexiglas, or, you could say, the set-design part of this post, I don’t like it and it’s overused these days. Real glass is a tad better, because at least it doesn’t get scratched as easily, but it’s the same idea.
Taxpayer dollars are being used to further separate the average person from the services and the people providing those services.
Airports, court-houses, police stations, museums that have an attitude, and taxis.
It’s no good.
I remember seeing a video excerpt of a reporter interviewing Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of our current Prime Minister.
It was funny.
Mr. Trudeau was trying to justify increased security for himself. The reporter was opposed to it, as a taxpayer. The reporter said something to the effect that he didn’t want to pay for more security to protect the politicians. Mr. Trudeau wasn’t pleased. The reporter asked, “But what if that’s a risk I’m prepared to run?”
Ha ha. Mr. Trudeau, who usually had a retort for everything, didn’t have a come-back for that one.
In other words, maybe as a taxpayer I’m ready to run the risk of a maniac in the courthouse taking out his gun and shooting the judge.
Maybe that infinitesimally small risk is worth running if the alternative is that every single man, woman and child entering the building needs to go through yet another ‘airport-security’ type of experience.
Maybe that infinitesimally small risk is worth running if the alternative is that every citizen is made to feel like a threat to national security when they enter a public building.
If the judge thinks being a judge is too risky a profession due to all the incidences of murder that are theoretically happening All Too Often, then he doesn’t have to agree to be a judge. Nobody is forcing him.
Similarly, nobody is forcing the lady at the Pay-Your-Speeding-Ticket counter to work there. If she can’t handle dealing with Angry Bird Canadians without talking through a little hole in some glass, then don’t. Go work somewhere else on earth where people never get angry.
All this glass, all this plexiglas – it’s just self-defeating because it’s off-putting. It’s in-your-face-you-can’t-be-trusted-you’re-the-enemy kind of stuff.
If you’re so scared of the people you drive that you need the barrier, then don’t drive people around for a living. It’s a sign that you weren’t cut out for that kind of work. Do something else.
Too much of our taxpayer dollar is going to protecting who-knows-who and who-knows-what from the average person. The average person is just trying to mind his own business. Leave him in peace.
Take your plexiglas, if you love it so much, Mr. Judge, Mr. Politican, Mr. Indoor-Security-Man, and have it custom made, speaking of customs. Build a little square phone-booth bubble around yourself, and leave the rest of us in peace.
We have places we want to go. We don’t need to be tagged, counted, harrassed, herded and questioned about tomato and lettuce. We don’t need to be scanned, screened, padded down and seen from every angle.
The maltreatment has to stop.
All this super-duper ‘security’ is not really going to prevent anything anyway. What’s faster than a match and some gasoline if you really want to cause trouble? Trouble and harm are not difficult to cause, in any context, taxi or waterpark. Yell the right word in a crowded place and you’ll get a stampede. It’s never been a difficult matter to be a party-wrecker.
You can’t change the twisted turns of a corrupt or crazy mind with more barriers and searching and glass and beepers and buzzers.
Morality does not come from outside, imposed by some guy with short hair and big letters on his bullet-proof costume.
If you’re an out-of-control maniac when you go into the sealed-off-glass-airport-wind-tunnel thingy, then you’re still an out-of-control maniac when you come out of it. The closest thing you’ll get to a phone-booth sized box that can change an ordinary man into a Superman is a Catholic thing, and we call it a confessional.
The airport equipment and posturing and posing is just window-dressing. Just fake. Employment for some and a pain for the rest.
All it does is take normal people and make them frustrated and angry and crazy.
And that – that is precisely what we don’t want.