Remember Richard Reid?
He is the British fruitcake who, in 2001, tried to blow up a plane with
explosives he had installed in one of his high-top sneakers. You�d think
someone clever enough to design a shoe bomb would have known that you can�t
detonate plastic explosive with a match. I guess there�s not much opportunity
to work the bugs out of suicide bombings.
Suspicious passengers wrestled the Shoe Bomber to the floor,
sedated him and, at least in theory, saved the plane and their own lives. They
also saved Reid, who achieved terrorist immortality. The passengers also
clearly showed why a repeat of 9/11 will be impossible.
I�ve noticed that whether a hijacker succeeds or fails, the
attempt is commemorated with new rituals at airports everywhere. It�s a wacky
form of immortality, like being sainted in the Church of Perpetual Paranoia.
Although passengers will never again allow a plane to be
hijacked with a box cutter, the successful attacks of 9/11 gave us the ritual
sacrifice of pen knives, hat pins, nail clippers and tweezers. Reid�s shoe bomb
added Footwear Removal to the boarding ceremony. I forget why lighters and
matches were banned. Maybe that was St. Richard�s work, too.
And now, a suspiciously timed
busted plot in Britain has barred liquids, pastes and gels from the
temple, even though no liquid explosives ever made it to an airport.
Authorities made a successful preemptive strike against the Goo Bombers, but
you would think it was the bombers who succeeded.
Goo Bomber security rituals spread across the world in a
flash. They are more elaborate and bizarre than ever. Mothers must drink their
own milk. Sanitary supplies, wallets and ID must be carried in ceremonial
Goo Bomber ritual is more monastic, too: security now
requires boredom and discomfort, no books, no phones, no games, no toothpaste,
no deodorant, no KY Jelly. Passengers arriving in the Land of the Free will be
testy and gamey, but safe from exploding fluids.
The new Goo rules also have what may be dangerous underwear
loopholes. Five grams of lip gloss is too perilous for carry-on but gel-filled
bras, with as much as a half pound of form-enhancing goop in each cup, will fly
We can expect more hysteria as well. A flight from London
made a fighter-escorted emergency landing when a claustrophobic 60-year-old
woman became excited. The AP account breathlessly reported that the woman had
of a book of matches and a bottle of hand lotion. �Grim tools;� thought I, �the
implements of evil.�
The idea that passengers would submit to the depraved
designs of a grandmother armed with tweezers and a tube of Vaseline is
insulting to every traveler alive. Picture the scene at the cockpit door, �Get
back, sonny boy, I�ve got styling mousse and I�m not afraid to use it.� Is
there a random selection of passengers anywhere who would allow granny to succeed?
Mature women should get an automatic exemption from the
search-everyone-for-terror-weapons ritual. These are our wives, mothers, aunts
and sisters. They�ve raised our children, nurtured our grandchildren, and
inspire us with their wisdom and grace. In return we suggest they are mass
murderers. At the risk of appearing a hopeless chauvinist, I�ll suggest our
womenfolk deserve more respect. Besides, when the chips are down, a couple of
grown men should be able to get the tweezers away from any one of them.
Movie magic aside, making a binary
liquid bomb is way harder than making a good martini, and could
probably not be done in the can of a 757. But the authorities
and the media
act as if it were as easy as pouring milk on your cereal.
I cringe to think of the security measures that would follow
the discovery, or heaven help us, detonation of a real binary liquid bomb.
Imagine ingredient A and ingredient B in opposite sides of a pair of gel-filled
falsies. Suddenly we�d all be flying topless. And it is surely only a matter of
time until some clever nutcase figures out how to make explosive cloth. Having
to fly naked should reduce crowding quite a bit at our busiest airports.
At this writing, there appears to be no limit to what air
travelers will put up with to hedge the already astronomically small chance of
dying in a hijacked airplane. I read a post on the web recently by someone who
said he would gladly crawl on his hands and knees if it would make his flight
safe. Obviously he is not alone. But I would like to propose that there should
be alternatives for those not as eager to undergo pointless ritual humiliation.
Almost no one would crawl on their hands and knees to reduce
their risk of drowning in a bucket. Not many would submit to a full body search
before every meal to reduce chances of death by food poisoning. Yet you are far
more likely to suffer either of those fates than to be killed by a terrorist.
If airlines offered voluntary, lower security flights where
grannies, moms, kids and geezers were allowed to board without performing all
the security rituals, it could save millions of dollars in resources and
millions of hours of wasted time. I�m sure there would be no shortage of
volunteers for low stupidity security.
O�Boyle writes from barrio Jesus in Costa Rica. His articles are archived, some
with pictures and links to dubious web information, at haloboyle.blogspot.com/. He answers email at