July 10, 2010

Cut and pasted rants

Running lately has not been often, but each one is going moderately well. yesterday's 2-miler went better than expected and I'm determined to do 4 tomorrow. It's time to start pre-training for the Staten Island Half; that is: get my body to being able to do 3 miles 3-4 x week easily. Also, time to get back to weights and stationary bike as cross-training. As much as I like the elliptical, Runner's magazine recommends non weight-bearing aerobic exercise as cross-training, to give the joints a break. The weights will be targeted for core strength, not mass.

So. I realized I often write some pretty good things in emails to other people or in forums. I've decided that now and then, I'll cut and paste those here; mostly for posterity, but also because I think the discussions they're culled from are quite thought-provoking. Over the next couple days, I'm going to write up my experiences touring Israel and Italy, using cut-and-pasted forum posts as a basis, but expanding them for this blog.

As a teaser to those, I here present a response I wrote to some complaining about the TSA. Enjoy.
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On Jul 10, 2010, xxxx wrote:

They randomly choose people, so that the next 4 or 6 people quietly suffer the rest of the indignities, since they can see that you got it worse than them. It's job justification... "Look how hard we're working!" Next time this sort of thing happens, calmly ask them how many terrorists they have captured.
If you're really bold and can afford the time, hold up an ordinary Q-Tip and ask, in your best fake-stage-villain voice, "Did you know I could put your eye out with this? Mom said so." Your life should get more interesting, right after that.

Bullshit. Stop this. I expect better from professionals.

I'm no fan of the TSA - their workers are, as a group, lazy, undereducated, and don't care much about their job - only that they HAVE a job.

HOWEVER, without exception (in my personal observation across the country), these people do a mind-numbingly boring job with consistency, expediency, and are unfailingly polite. They do make mistakes now and then, such as missing the Leatherman I boarded my flight to SC with two weeks ago, but those are few and far between.

I can't explain the variability of "random" searches. At times, they're sticking to the script (supposed to be every 20 persons or so) and at other times (red-eye flights) are either hyper-vigilant, searching every other person, or are content to just screen for liquids and sharp objects. I've been told by the mean ones (in the holding area of the airport) that there are written procedures for everything and that's what they follow, even if it doesn't make sense to the worker on the line or the passenger. Those procedures include detailing the proportion of passengers selected for extra screening.

yyyyyy wrote:
Please do NOT crack jokes or "hold up a Q-tip" as XXX suggested. While airport screening in the United States is an ineffective joke intended to pacify worried passengers, the TSA screeners DO have authority to confiscate and detain, and mixing a wisecrack with a scolded inspector will delay your trip far worse than heavy weather at ORD or ATL.

Exactly. If you were a TSA screener, especially during busy, stressful periods and when your bosses have raised the alert level, how'd you like some smartass cracking jokes? Well, guess what? There's written procedures for these cases and you will end up in holding and you will miss your flight.

I write this to make two points:

A) If you want to change the system, do so from the top-end - get to the people who make the policies. Nothing you say or do at the airport will affect TSA policy or procedures and can only lead to further trouble for you. So keep your yap shut, put your laptop in the grey bin, and direct your hate at the idiot tourist types who show up in their pajamas and have a gallon of shampoo in their bags. But if enough citizens voiced their opinion, wrote to their congressmen, the president, the FAA, and Dep of Homeland Security; assuring them that we would accept increased risk in exchange for less invasive and more expedient measures, then those agencies would eventually listen. They do, after all, work for us, for our communal safety. ( I'd urge a boycott of airlines as a "stick" measure, but have learned that modern jetliners get better gas mileage than almost any vehicle on the road. The 767s I was on get 50+ miles per gallon!)

B) Next time you chafe at America's current form of air travel security, remember three things:
One, that security screenings existed well before 9/11, seeking to catch any explosives or other materials unsafe for air travel or obviously a weapon.
Two, hijacked aircraft were MORE prevalent before 9/11 - I remember a time when it seems like there was a hijacked aircraft every couple of months or so. Hijackings are DOWN.
And three, airport security in other countries is often far more stringent than America's. In my limited experience, it looks like most countries have followed the FAA and the TSA in establishing the basics, but often take restrictions and body/baggage searches to a much higher degree. I've already posted about my experiences with Israeli security, and Italian TSA pulled me right out of screening and all the way back to check-in because of my insulin pen needles. They wanted the gate agents written authorization to allow those on the flight -- and SHE wanted proof that I do, in fact, have a medical need for these items. She wanted a letter from my physician confirming diagnoses of diabetes and prescription of the needles. After a 10-minute Mexican standoff, she grudgingly satisfied herself that my multiple prescription labels (which I carried just in case something like this happened) were proof enough.