Almost everything about airport security is idiotic. The X-raying of shoes, the prohibition against cigarette lighters and cigar cutters, the puff machines, the random searches.
Today, a wizened (see Word to the Wise, below) old Palm Beach County airport cop dressed me down for leaving my bags “unattended” while I got myself a coffee. Rather than lug everything with me through the line, I like to put my things down on a chair that is within eyeshot of the self-service counter and get my coffee unbridled with personal crap.
That explanation didn’t sit well with this crotchety fossil. He threatened to write me up, to detain me, to arrest me, even to “blow up” my bag. I wanted so much to tell him what a fool he was.
But you can’t call foolery by its proper name these days. In the name of national security (whatever that is), we submit to dumb rules and dumbbell regulators … even though we know very well that all of it put together doesn’t amount to one little bit of extra safety.
Take this stupid rule about keeping your bags with you. The idea is to prevent some terrorist from planting a bomb in your suitcase. What we have learned about terrorists, however, is that they are perfectly willing to blow themselves up with their bombs. So they don’t need to plant a bomb in some else’s luggage. They can simply carry it on themselves.
Cigarette lighters aren’t allowed on planes because they hold fuel. They are, to the minds of the people who write these regulations, little bombs. I wonder how many of them you’d have to “set off” to destroy a cloth napkin.
My favorite prohibited device is the cigar cutter – the kind that looks like a little plastic guillotine. The idea, in banning it, is not that it would be used to decapitate someone’s (presumably, the terrorist’s) finger (“Fly this 767 into that building or I will cut off my index finger!”) but that it could be “disassembled” and the blade used as a weapon. I don’t know what kind of damage you could do with a little blade like that – possibly cut off someone’s suit jacket buttons.
Most people – travelers and security personnel both – know how silly all this is. The problem arises when you run into someone feebleminded enough to take the regulations seriously. Then you are in real danger – not from terrorists, of course, but from your protector.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]