Tuesday, November 30, 2004

End of Air Travel?

A friend of mine was working on a research job for the Post Office and told me this possibly-apocryphal story. It seems that part of their project involved reviewing the 'employee handbook', or whatever the document is that new employees are expected to read and understand. And in this rulebook was, he swore, a rule against smearing shit on the restroom walls. Seems that one postal employee chose this form of self-expression and then challenged his firing with the defense that 'there wasn't any rule against it.'

Now, reasonable people would agree that someone who smears shit on the restroom walls should be fired for being too stupid not to know that's unacceptable behavior. But the official reaction is to make a rule specifically to cover this one aberrant instance.

My point, which I'm getting to, is to draw a comparison between this and the current treatment of air travellers. A guy tries to smuggle explosives in his shoes - now all flyers have to remove their shoes before boarding a plane. Then some women successfully bring down planes in Russian with explosives smuggled in bras. So of course all women everywhere are potential terrorists who must have a public breast exam before boarding a plane.

Can't anyone see where this is going? If the next terrorist packs his rectum with C4, are all air travellers going to have to submit to body cavity searchs (no doubt on the public concourse) before getting on a plane?

Unless saner heads prevail, we're looking at the end of private air travel. Ask the average person if they'd be willing to accept even a one-in-a-hundred chance that they'd have to drop their trousers and bend over before getting on a plane, and I think you'll see an upsurge of alternate travel and an unprecedented bankruptcy rate in the air industry.

Will that stop the terrorists? Of course not. Once passenger air travel has been destroyed (and however much of the economy that depends on it), they'll move on to other things. Bridges, tunnels, sports arenas... so many targets, so little time.

Isn't it time to admit that people 'fighting' the 'war on terror' don't know what they're doing?


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