Saturday, March 23, 2013

Safety in Numbers

Wonder of wonders—the TSA, the government agency in charge of providing security at the nation’s airports--has decided once again to allow passengers to carry small pocket knives aboard airplanes. 

Since I have carried a pocket knife since the third grade—except when specifically denied such a dangerous weapon by an overly protective government—I’m glad for the change.  Now that I think of it, the genuine Barlow that I carried when I was nine is still too large for what the TSA will allow on a plane today.

Since I have previously written on this subject--and proffered the TSA the kind of excellent and creative advice that one would expect from this blog--only to have the agency totally ignore me—this time I will just rejoice in my newly-recovered personal freedom.  I understand why, for the last 12 years, my government has been terrified of my pocket knife.  After all, the most lethal assault weapon in American history, responsible for the most deaths in a single incident, was a 1 inch box cutter in the hand of a terrorist on 9/11.

But that was then, and it is no longer possible for a terrorist to get into the cockpit of a plane with any kind of a knife.  I’m not sure it makes sense to disarm the passengers on planes in any way—remember that the only plane that failed to reach its intended target was stopped by passengers with improvised weapons.  Still, I guess I will have to settle for this one small concession by my government that I am not one of the guilty.  (At least as long as my pocket knife has less than a two-and-a-half inch blade:  three inches, I’m obviously a traitor.)

Since the TSA will not listen to me, I have a few suggestions for you—the traveler.  Actually, the internet is already full of travel advice: wear shoes without laces, buy a belt without a metal buckle, how to package your toiletries in small bottles, etc. ad nauseam.  None of this advice will in any way make you safer while you fly; all it will do is get you through airport security a little faster.  Getting through security faster just means that you will sit in the lounge longer.  This is kind of like walking fast on the people movers they have at airports—it just makes you work harder to get to the same place where you will end up waiting longer.

The biggest danger facing today’s traveler is a bomb.  Somewhere, somebody is working on a bomb that can be carried aboard a plane disguised as a rambunctious two year-old child.  Or something.  In the meantime, I suggest that we ban all small children from planes unless they are smaller than two-and-a-half inches tall.  Let’s err on the side of safety.  Or at least check them in as baggage.

The horrible truth is that we can’t keep a bomb off a plane–they are simply too easy to make.  Someone will combine something that looks like mouthwash with what looks like toothpaste, and stir it with what was supposed to be a fountain pen and–BLAM!  God knows, there are already loads of highly dangerous chemicals on board cleverly disguised as airline food.

All TSA can do presently is make it extremely difficult to get a bomb onto a plane.  The odds are supposedly 1 in 10,000 that you will fly on a plane with a bomb.  This is not necessarily frightening: it is at the very heart of my plan to fly safely.  If the odds are 1 in 10,000 that one person on a plane has a bomb, then it must be at least 1 in 1,000,000 that two people on a plane would be carrying bombs.

Obviously, whenever you fly on a plane, you should carry a bomb to improve your odds.

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