Thursday, November 25, 2010

Radiation and Groping and Blurry Groins, Oh My!

Due to the nature of my job and lifestyle, I travel frequently.  Which means spending a lot of time in airports and on planes.  So I've been observing the growing hubbub about airport body scans and enhanced pat downs with curiosity and horror.  So I'm going to vent in the following paragraphs.  It's my blog, after all. 

My mother said something the other day that made a whole lot of sense.  She noted that people COULD complain about so much having to do with airline travel, but they are choosing to complain about the one thing that is being done FOR them.  Look at it this way:  we now pay for checked baggage, food and drinks, leg room, early boarding, pillows, head phones, and all manner of other things we used to get for free when we flew.  We put up with surly flight attendants, even surlier fellow passengers, and seats that are less comfortable than those in a doctor's waiting room.  All of these issues deserve complaining about, and we've seen some as changes have been instituted.  But the complaints and public outrage about full-body scanners and enhanced pat downs, which are there to keep us safe, is  way, way out of proportion, in my opinion.  This is not being done to us so much as for us.  There's a big difference.

I was lucky enough not to lose loved ones on 9/11, but I watched the Pentagon burn from my college campus, encountered tanks on the street corners in Georgetown, and mourned along with the entire nation.  And maybe it's just because I've been living in Saudi Arabia, where the media has been heavily covering the recent toner cartridge bombs, but I feel we came very very close to another horrific tragedy just a few weeks ago.  I wonder if our collective memories don't extend back to last year and the underwear bomber?  Is that why we're so up in arms about the implementation of scanners and pat downs?  Are we focused on cargo and checked baggage these days and don't recall last year?

I agree, there are definitely concerns about the technology and/or radiation of the scanners and about the invasiveness of pat downs.  And I think those who simplify the issue by saying, "if you don't like it, don't fly," aren't acknowledging the very real concerns of millions of people.  But I do think we need to work with TSA to find solutions rather than trying to disrupt travel by opting for pat downs.  I am glad National Opt-Out Day wasn't a success (for the sake of so many holiday travelers), and I laughed when I read accounts such as, "That's it? That's all there is to it? Why is the media making such a big deal? I've received more invasive pat downs just going to a rock concert." 

When it comes right down to it, enhanced pat downs need to occur privately and preserve as much dignity as possible for both parties.  And we need to address radiation and privacy concerns for full body scanners.  But TSA has been tasked with keeping air travel safe, and it's a daunting task, and they are not implementing these measures for fun, no matter what the critics may say.  And speaking as someone who flies a lot, I want my fellow passengers adequately screened.  I want to be able to relax.  In my teeny, tiny seat.  With a teeny, tiny soda.  Under my own blanket and resting my head on my own pillow, with my own headphones.  With no leg room.  With a crying toddler in the row in front of me.  And in back of me.  With an inedible meal on my tray that doesn't lie flat because the person in front of me is reclining their seat.  With flight attendants who wake me up frequently with long advertisements about credit cards over the PA system.  And a fellow passenger in the window seat next to me who insists on getting up every five minutes but refuses to switch seats.  And $200 poorer because I checked bags.  And, most probably, on an American carrier on a trans-Atlantic flight that doesn't have in-seat entertainment...  Can you tell I'm really looking forward to twenty-seven hours of travel this weekend?  But, and it must be said, going through security at Logan and Heathrow is the least of my concerns.  Bring on the screening!

*The blurry groins reference in the blog title comes from Dave Barry's airport security experience

Happy Thanksgiving! The post in which I proclaim thankfulness...

Perhaps it's the massive amount of turkey and its accoutrements consumed today, but I am suffering a bit of writer's block right now.  Or perhaps it's the fact that I just spent nine hours wrangling my four year-old nephew, which, when he's consumed sugar, as he did today, can exhaust six adults.  Which it did.  In any event, I'm not in a creative enough state to tackle Just US's great roundup topic this week - "I'm Thankful I've Learned."  So, I'm going to do the ubiquitous "I'm Thankful For..." post instead.  Bear with me.

I am of course incredibly thankful for my phenomenal family and friends, who make it all worthwhile.  I'm thankful for my nieces and nephews, who remind me what it's like to be a kid again.  (Even though one of them is perilously close to being an adult, which makes me feel old.)  I'm thankful for my job, which has changed my life in so many wonderful ways.  I am thankful for my colleagues, near and far, who make the journey far more interesting and form the world's greatest support group and travel network.  I'm thankful for technology, which allows me to stay close with all of the above, even when I'm thousands of miles away.  I'm thankful for the pets in my life - cats, dogs, and even my brother's rabbit.  I'm thankful to have had seven wonderful years with my faithful friend Hattie, who I still think about and miss every single day.  (And now that I'm tearing up, let's change the tone a bit.)

I'm thankful for APO and pouch, which allow me to be a shameless American consumer and enjoy online Black Friday deals.  Come to think of it, I'm thankful I have no compulsion to venture out to the stores at 4am on Black Friday.  (More power to those that do; I just get my crazy in different ways.)  On this subject, I am incredibly thankful for  In so many ways.  There are millions of other things for which I'm thankful, but writer's block strikes again. 

And it's worth saying again - my family, friends, and colleagues are truly amazing.  Wishing all of you as wonderful a Thanksgiving as I was able to enjoy at home in NH today, surrounded by loved ones.