As I write this, another plot by religio-terrorists to blow up airplanes and make fish food out of the hundreds of innocent people aboard them has been foiled. Authorities have nabbed dozens of would-be perpetrators. The “terror-alert” ratchets up to Code Red. Our stomachs tighten. President Bush’s approval rating inches up a few points.
What I’m about to say has been churning around in my brain since 9-11. I think that now is as good a time as any to finally say it in public.
About 10 years back, before there was a Transportation Security Administration, I took a flight to London with my family. I had with me my 35mm SLR camera with a yellow contrast filter over its lens; if you shoot black and white film outdoors without such a filter, the sky comes out flat gray with little cloud detail. Anyhow, I asked the security inspectors to please hand-check my photo gear, as I always do, and when one of them looked through the viewfinder, she went ballistic. She got in my face and started barking at me “Why is it yellow? Why is it yellow?” When I told my frequent-flyer cousin about this incident, she told me to cut these people some slack since they were under a lot pf pressure and only getting paid the same hourly wage as the high school kids who get us our fast-food cheeseburgers.
On a transcontinental flight in mid-2001, only a few weeks before 9-11, I needed to use the bathroom. Unfortunately the coach class bathroom had a long line in front of it. So I snuck into the first class bathroom which is just behind the plane’s cockpit. On leaving the bathroom, I saw, to my left, a door made of flimsy plastic on which was printed “Authorized personnel only” or words to that effect. I then realized, to my horror that this flimsy piece of plastic was the door to the airliner’s cockpit and that anyone could easily traipse through it and do God knows what.
Why did it take the catastrophe of 9-11-2001 (in which I lost a friend) to get the US Government to finally set up the dedicated transportation security force which should have been in place at least since the late 1960's when homesick Cubans started hijacking planes to their homeland? Why did regulation-phobic airlines fight the creation of the Transportation Security Administration tooth and nail? Why in this day and age is there not a rapid-deployment airport security force which can be mobilized to deal quickly and effectively with a threat such as the kind revealed today without having to force passengers to wait for hours or even days to get where they’re going?