A Modest Travel Safety Proposal

Philip Berne - Nov 18, 2010
A Modest Travel Safety Proposal

It is a sad day when I board a plane and all I see around me are potential terrorists. And I’m not just talking about the obvious terrorists, the disgruntled white Midwestern men. Remembering that most successful terrorists look just like us when they fly, it is impossible to feel safe and secure on an airplane. These potential enemies are all wearing underwear, in which they could smuggle explosive devices (or large sums of cash, if you live in Md). They all have shoes on, with thick soles that could easily hide weapons or bomb-making material. They bring with them luggage, certainly large enough to carry a mass destruction device. Everywhere I look, all I see is danger.

I think we all agree that safety is our number one concern, especially while flying. Everything else is a distant second. What rights would I not give up for safety’s sake? None, of course. I would sacrifice every right endowed upon me by my country and my creator, so long as I can travel knowing that I am 100% safe from harm. What is my freedom of speech compared to safety? I would gladly sacrifice my freedom of religion, and especially my freedom to gather in groups and petition the government for a redress of grievances. I already give up my right to bear arms. There are no rights I would not accede. I would let the army shelter troops in my house, as long as it would ensure the safety of myself, my loved ones and my fellow passengers. I would give up my rights when accused of a crime, my right to vote as a woman, and even prohibiti. . . oh, wait, I see that’s already been repealed. Okay, then I would give up the repeal of prohibition AND prohibition itself.

There has been a major backlash against current airline safety restrictions, for no good reason. The TSA now offers two choices to select passengers. Either pass through a healthful dose of radiation so that a trained, moral and upstanding employee of the TSA can get a good look at your naked body and anything you might be hiding in any crack and crevice thereof. Or, you can let a TSA agent give you a thorough, enjoyable pat-down, reaching up into every hiding spot a lethal terrorist could imagine planting a dangerous device. Personally, I’m amazed that the TSA doesn’t charge you, the traveler for this service. After all, you’re the one who gets the free, full-body massage, while the TSA officer is the one who has to suffer the indignity of performing this work in public.

I understand why pilots are up in arms about the radiation problem. For most travelers, a little radiation before every flight won’t be much of a big deal, at least not for the next twenty years or so, before any cancerous tumors develop. But for pilots, this is a more serious problem. But I don’t understand why pilots wouldn’t go through a pat down before a flight. Their job is stressful as it is, so why not a relaxing massage before flight, courtesy of the TSA? The only way I would see their point is if they thought a massage might relax them too much before a trip. Then, I would want them to experience something more jarring, in order to help keep them awake. Perhaps a full cavity search would improve their alertness level, and also keep them from falling asleep during the long hours in the air.

For the rest of us, however, I think I understand the problem. It is not that the TSA agents will see our naked bodies through the backscatter X-Ray machine. This is an anonymous stranger who has no personal attachment to us. It’s a clinical sort of naked, like visiting a doctor who you only see once and whose credentials you did not have time to check. It’s like streaking in college, except that you are only doing it for one person and you’re probably sober.

The problem is the unfairness of the scanning procedure. The TSA is only picking certain people to go through this scan, either at random or because their name showed up on a government sanctioned security list. The problem is that passengers feel they are being treated unfairly when they are scanned, so the solution is easy. First, scan everyone. Everyone has to submit to a scan or, if radiation is a concern, a full-body security massage. If everyone has to do it, nobody will feel left out or singled out. Either way, we all win.

Second, if the problem is that the anonymous TSA agent will see us naked, there is an easy solution. Require all passengers to be nude passing through the scanning machine. Also for the pat-down, of course.

This solution takes advantage of our human nature. When we are the only ones naked, we feel isolated and out of place. We stick out and feel self conscious. But think of nudist colonies. There, everybody is naked, and nobody feels uncomfortable. If every single traveler had to remove their clothes, none of us would feel uncomfortable. We would quickly get over the unease of our own nudity, as we embrace nudity on a community level.

There have also been complaints about children being subject to these security procedures. Some parents, who apparently care less about their children being safe on an airplane full of potential terrorists, and who care more about their children’s vanity passing through an nude X-Ray scanner or being frisked by an adult TSA agent, are protesting the new security measures. For them I have a similar solution. First of all, the children must be naked as well as the adults. Children enjoy being naked. I have a two-year-old child, and he would much rather strip down and run around in the buff than wear the constricting layers and layers of clothing require for a simple trip to the grocery store.

Of course, some parents will complain about the radiation, so we’ll also need an alternative pat-down procedure for the children. If having a trained TSA put his or her hands all over your naked child seems like an intrusion, there is an easy solution. Hire children to pat down the other children. After all, only male TSA agents can pat-down men, and women do the same to female passengers. It only makes sense that we hire children to thoroughly search our naked children as we pass through the security gates.

I can already see the problems here. Child labor laws would be a concern, so these child security agents will have to be accompanied by an adult, but its better to have an anonymous adult watching one child searching another for the dangerous weapons and destructive devices that their terrorist parents could have planted anywhere on their persons. Also, it would be best if these children were volunteers, not only to save money, but also to avoid the child labor dispute altogether.

There is no price that is too high to pay for our safety. Our country was founded on the ideas of safety and security, not freedom and personal comfort or happiness. The rest of the world may be an unsafe place, but there is no reason we have to simply accept that and move on with our lives. It is time that we all sacrifice our basic freedoms, the most that we can possibly give to the airlines, after our money and our return business. Only then will we all feel safe, naked and secure.

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