Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Top Security Secret

Today I went through airport security at the burgeoning Bellingham, Washington airport. Aside from a backpack filled with wave-polished agate rocks collected on the Lummi Island seashore, I had the usual carry on luggage (although one must have rocks in the head to attempt carrying a pack full of rocks on board a flight). But this was not business as usual. Apparently, traces of explosives were found on my clothes, my luggage, my backpack, and the rocks. Considering that I have never been near an explosive in my entire life, the findings were amusing - to me. I quipped, “Someone yelled at me today. Maybe that’s what you’re picking up on.” Thank god I was not boarding El Al. A wise crack like that might have landed me in the back office for a seriously traumatic grilling.

I was, however, given a pat down by a mellow northwest lady cop, which felt more like a light massage than an invasion of my space, while every item in my possession was tested for the location of the “explosives.” Apparently my clothing still tested positive for incindiery material after the first once over, so off I went with a second mellow northwestern lady cop to go “behind the curtain” for the exact same pat down, which also felt like a light massage. This time the lady cop received compliments on her soft touch, and she replied, “It’s way better than a pap smear. I hate those.” Considering that her hand never went anywhere near my cervix, I wondered what was going through her head. 

 Finally, I was cleared of being a potential threat to air security as they deduced that the chemicals in my cold medicine might have had something in common with explosives. This slightly alarming fact is refreshing new information – it's good to know that Sudafed shares ingredients that are also contained in deadly weapons.

As I collect my stuff, two more passengers are called out for the shake down: a mother with an infant in her baby sling, holding the hand of her three year old picture perfect little girl, and an ancient Indian woman who is told to unwrap her sari as her middle-aged daughter looks on. Including my own security detail, I count no less that 5 officers whose hi tech/low tech gear have been involved in searching three of the most innocent looking ladies on the planet.

My husband, observing the whole dance, later told me that only lady cops were stopping people at the security check point and that all the suspects were female. He wondered if all those women with badges, blue uniforms and sturdy shoes were lesbians. Then I had to wonder what was going on in his head.

Our tax dollars would be better put to use to train airport security in developing their intuition, so that needless time and resources are not wasted on silly procedures for blatantly innocuous citizens. Years ago when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped and a website was constructed to enable her recovery, the site offered a piece of advice: according to law enforcement statistics, the best defense is intuition, the most powerful deterrent. Common sense: one is more likely to avoid trouble by foreseeing its possibility and heading in the other direction. Walking straight into the lion’s den waving a steak is not the most advisable method although the US military has used it for years.

Intuition is one of the most elegant radar systems developed by the creator of cause and effect. It comes from the gut, which houses thousands of nerves transmitting information directly to the brain. If we were able to sort out the quiet whispers of those abdominal sensors from the more brash thought-habits that careen across our brains, how much more elegantly and effortlessly could our social systems flow?

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