Off to London  JAN 27 2005

I'm leaving for London in a couple of hours. I'll probably be posting a bit while I'm there as time and connectivity permit...hopefully some photos as well.

Packing this morning, I came up with a list of the extra stuff that I need to do before going to the airport now that everyone's a terrorist until proven innocent** and the major airlines are all about to go out of business:

  • Clip my fingernails. With nail clippers verboten on planes, you need to do it before you leave.
  • Silence my electric toothbrush. Last time I traveled, my toothbrush turned on in my luggage and the battery was long dead when I got home. Luckily I can plug the power cord into the brush to prevent it from turning on, lest some anxious baggage screener thinks it's a buzzing bomb and/or illegal sexual device.
  • Leave ridiculously early. I am a single male traveling alone on an American Airlines flight to Heathrow on a ticket purchased not so long ago...I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get pulled aside for a "random" screening. My only hope: my summer tan has faded and I'm white as can be (Non-Terrorist White is the hottest color for pants at J. Crew this season)...come on, wave whitey through!
  • Wardrobe change. Gotta wear pants that don't require a belt and shoes that can be slipped on and off with ease.
  • Eat. You may get food on the plane, you may not. With random screenings come random feedings and I don't like my odds in either case.

** The Jan/Feb 2005 Atlantic Monthly has a couple of great articles on terrorism...here's a relevant snippet from Success Without Victory (subscribers only) by James Fallows:

Screening lines at airports are perhaps the most familiar reminder of post-9/11 security. They also exemplify what's wrong with the current approach.

Many of the routines and demands are silly, eroding rather than building confidence in the security regime of which they are part. "You can't go through an airport line without thinking 'This is dumb,'" says Graham Allison, the author of the recent Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, and the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, at Harvard, which conducts many projects on anti-terrorism and security. "You have two people whose job it is to see if the name on your driver's license is the same as the name on your ticket -- as if any self-respecting terrorist would fail to think of that. You have a guy whose job is to shout out a reminder for you to take off your jacket and get your computer out of your bag. You've got one-year-olds taking off their shoes. It is hard to think of a way you could caricature it to make it look sillier." At the same time, the ritual manages to be intimidating, as a standing reminder of how much Americans have to fear.

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