In the wake of the most recent terror threat, our governments have imposed yet more restrictions on travelers. When anyone demurs or complains, the bloody shirt of terrorism is waved: "oh? would you rather die???
It is a poverty of thought and action to be forced into such a situation. Especially since it isn't clear exactly when and where we draw the line.
Sooner or later -- if we continue along this line -- "security" will mandate even more invasive searches. I am sorry to be gross, but we're talking X-rays, strip searches and cavity searches. People who are ready to die exploding an airplane will certainly be willing to hide the explosives within their own bodies.
Someone made the point (I'm sorry I can't recall where) that apparently, the government would rather allow an unarmed terrorist on a plane, than give offense by singling anyone out -- despite what common sense tells us. That is a startling statement, yet rings true: consider our security measures! The focus is not on finding the villains, but on their tools, which are increasingly innocuous. Peroxide?
I am very sorry that this falls heavily on Muslims, on people of particular nationalities and with certain types of names. Would that we had a moral X-ray machine! But if there were a horrific crime in Piqua today, and a key identifier was that the suspects drove a white Hyundai, I would be among those pulled over for questioning, simply because of the car I drive. It would beyond stupid to say, "oh, that would be so unfair--we must instead pull people over randomly."
Of course it's not only a matter of focusing on the obvious: of course the terrorists might use a grandmother or a child, and when they act squirrelly, there you go. But to bypass the obvious, so as not to give offense...well, that is where we are at present.
Meanwhile, we have the wretched air-travel industry which seems nearly beyond redemption.
On one level, I feel sorry for this industry. Every time the air-travel industry seems about to get up from the canvas, another roundhouse punch sends it reeling. Can't get a break.
But, no industry seems more deserving--it is so incompentent, even anti-competent, if I may coin that word. I say that because of how seemingly immune, if not hostile, the air-travel industry is to its customers.
Of all the various experiences we have in ordinary life, what is more seamlessly stressful than air travel? I understand that this results from many necessities; but the air-travel industry shows little sign of wanting to help the customer in any of this.
For example: would it be so hard for airports to have comfortable places to gather and sit and wait? A few do; but mostly, seating areas are poorly designed.
How would I do it? Well, must they be so cramped? I realize we're stuck with what was designed years ago, but in planning new construction, really spread these areas out, so folks who have to wait for hours can have some chance for comfort. Sitting on top of one another is stressful. They were designed for brief use; but alas, those days are gone. Even if we can't expand these areas, could we not upgrade the seating so it's comfortable for lengthy stretches?
And would it be so awful if the airports thought about the incessant noise that is blared at people constantly? I understand announcements and such; but CNN screaming at you? Please!
Also, I would provide better food and drink services in airports. You can't get anything to eat on airplanes anymore, and now you can't bring a drink onboard. Yet frequently, the place where you can buy drinks is on the wrong side of security.
Here's an idea--why not have have someone bringing food and drinks around the airport, the way they do at ballparks? Doesn't have to be fancy.
At this point, more must be demanded from the airlines: if we now can't carry on a cup of coffee or bottle of water, then you're going to have to provide this sooner. One of the reasons people carry on bottles of wine and expensive cologne is because they don't want them smashed or to disappear. Airlines say they'll do a good job; fine--back that up with a clearcut guarantee. (Everyone knows what a hassle it is to deal with airlines whenever stuff disappears or gets damaged.)
Here's the thing: we all do business all the time with lots of companies, and we trust businesses we deal with to keep their promises, based on track record. I do business with lots of folks, all the time, and it's mostly pleasant. If it's different with airlines, the airline industry can only blame itself.
We need a fundamental rethinking of how we do this, instead of incremental adjustments and impromptu patches that rely on the docile public to go along. Those traveling for just one night now face the prospect of checking baggage, since they won't be able to carry on their shaving kits. Or are we headed to the day when one simply won't be able to bring such things at all (i.e., because the terrorists might find a way to detonate something even in the baggage compartment)?
It would help if decision-makers at airlines and airports simply had a change of attitude: Stop condescending to us, stop lying to us, stop treating us as an interruption to your work--we are your work! It is frustrating when, a plane is delayed, you won't simply say, "I don't know" or even, "I'm not allowed to say" but instead, you tell us the plane is delayed for manifestly false reasons; or you tell us, "only a little while longer" for five hours. I realize many customers can be obnoxious and feel free to drag them out by their heels--but I think the power-equation, at the airport, is leaning heavily your way, now. It will not kill you to smile, to say "I'm sorry" frequently.