Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 2001/ 14 Tishrei, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

Post-September 11 security -- I'VE mustered up the fortitude to take to the skyways six times since air travel resumed. Not much has changed in the post-Mohamed Atta skies

Using data processing in my travels, not racial profiling, I saw no one of Arabic descent save it be security employees. One asked, "You are bag?" He then dusted my purse for explosives. But they did the same when I flew to Albuquerque in August.

Security personnel remain a strange lot. Entering their domain, you are forced to eavesdrop on their incessant banter, the type found in my mining hometown when the neighbors argued and Iron City beer had become a part of the equation. A little bit threatening, a little bit flirtatious and a lot loud. National security should have more je ne sais quoi than, "Hey, bag check! Charlie, move your sorry behind! Bag check!"

Charlie searched my purse and focused on my mascara wand. Ah, the damage one can do wielding Maybelline Royal Bleu Great Lash mascara. Brandish it about with under-eye concealer and the world is your oyster. He missed my nail scissors.

Laptop checks, except in Phoenix where security is most lax, have changed. You must remove your computer from its case before it goes through the X-ray machine. This way it can tumble out at the other end and destroy your gigabytes. When I retrieved my laptop from its roller coaster ride down the ramp, the crackerjack security agents asked me to turn on my computer. Luckily, it still worked.

We swear to ticket agents, gate agents and anyone who asks that we do indeed keep our bags in our "control at all times." Yet the security checkpoint finds utter is utter chaos with bags, passengers and Pentium chips strewn everywhere.

Most airports, except Phoenix, hand search even checked baggage. More passengers now check their bags because under new rules, aerosols (i.e., mousse, hair spray) and razors are confiscated. If you carry on your bag, your trip will be nothing but bad hair days, and a great deal of hair at that.

In the Spokane airport, at a table placed in full view of all entering the terminal, an airline employee donned surgeon's gloves and searched my bag. Most of the Spokane metropolitan area saw my dirty underwear, knows my bra size, and covets my black pumps. Spokane missed the mascara wand, something I had transferred to checked baggage after the Phoenix humiliation. Sacramento Airport has placed black fish net material hung on shower curtain rings around the check table for "passenger privacy."

My only full flight was one from Spokane to Seattle because I shared the plane with a women's soccer team. It was like traveling with 17 Gwyneth Paltrows. Very blonde, very bubbly and very concerned about the pregnancy on "Friends," a show whose season premiere they would miss because of their travels. One of the soccerettes misplaced her boarding stub. The flight attendant rechecked her ID and bag and admonished her about keeping boarding stubs. The other Gwyneth Paltrows giggled at their teammate's national security breach.

Passengers are on high alert, something that has the unexpected benefit of keeping them off their cell phones in the waiting area. They're too busy studying other passengers to be yapping on their phones. I saw no passengers who made me nervous except a couple of Seattle grunge types who looked to be self-contained biological weapons, personal hygiene lacking as it was.

Flying now is a surreal experience. Four airplanes crashed just a fortnight ago, killing all aboard as well as thousands on the ground, yet no one speaks of it. The only reminders are discarded newspapers that blare out information on arrests, the fatal flights and hijackers' training. Except in Yoko Ono Seattle. Its newspaper told of the Peace Café. Its theme: "Espresso. Pastry. Politics." Parents take children there for full immersion in posters, to wit, "His whole life is ahead of him. Or is it? War kills." Terrorists kill -- more in one day than war ever did and we fret over stopping them.

There was also a full section entitled, "Understanding Turbans," complete with color drawings of the chapeau difference among Sikhs, Muslims, and desert people. I envision editors of the Seattle Times saying, "Let's give everyone a handy take-along guide - a reference to avoid offenses and misjudgments."

What utter silliness this all is as we face a diabolical enemy. My freedom and privacy are sacrificed for ludicrous security precautions constrained by political correctness that forbids confronting the enemy within our borders. It is an act of courage to board a flight. We have only self-reliance because the media and security will not allow a fair fight. My son Sam yelled to me as I left for the airport, "If there's a hijacker, Mom, throw your purse at him. It'd wipe him out." He didn't know of my secret weapon: the mascara wand.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
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06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
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04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
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06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings