Ed Driscoll

"FUN" AT THE AIRPORT: Yesterday,

“FUN” AT THE AIRPORT: Yesterday, September 9, 2002, a day before the US went into “Orange” alert, and two days before a pretty damn significant anniversary involving terrorists, airplanes and airports, my wife and I flew back to California from New York City.

On her way to the ladies room, Nina noticed a very large hard-sided suitcase sitting on one of the “rent me for a dollar” luggage carts, outside the TGIF restaurant at JFK. Rushing past, she had a vague recollection that no one was sitting at any of the tables near the suitcase, where you would think someone would sit if they were leaving their bag, relatively unattended, in violation of all the admonitions we’ve gotten of late. As she describes it:

On my way back I looked more carefully, noticed that this bag was way too large for carry on, and yet was way beyond the point where luggage would be checked in. I also noticed for sure that no one was sitting in any of the nearby tables.

Alarmed, I went to the security drone who looks to make sure that you have a ticket before you have the honor of having your laptop x-rayed. I told him about the unattended suitcase, and he informed me that basically, he couldn’t care less and that “they” (apparently he spoke for all of the security checkers) were only interested in what went through the security checkpoint.

Upon being told that I didn’t think his supervisor would be very happy with that response, and that could he possibly call someone with a brain (I doubt those were my exact words, but I think it was close to that), a supervisor came over and immediately figured out that this was indeed one of those “unattended suitcases” that they really wanted to avoid. In response to being told that the little drone had basically said “not my job” she announced “Security is everyone’s job now.”

The supervisor dashed over to the offending bag, shouted into the restaurant “does anyone own this bag” and was last seen interrogating the guy who was sitting at the far end of the TGIF bar who came forth to claim his unattended luggage.

I guess this is basically the problem: you have people who know their jobs, do them well, respond to whatever is thrown their way, and don’t worry about whether it’s in front of, or behind the security checkpoint. And you have people who are paid not much more than minimum wage, who will never earn more because they just don’t have a clue. I don’t know how you teach common sense, mostly because I don’t think you can. But perhaps you can buy it by not hiring from the very bottom of the barrel.

I realize this is far from the worst offense at airports these days. (Of course, in the event it was a missed bomb that detonated, it would have been–Ed.) It’s not as bad as letting guns get through the checkpoints. But it brought home to me just how dependant our security is on mindless drones.