sneak

A TSA agent has a line of Chinese school children in front of him.

“How old are you?” He asks one.

They stare at him.

“How old are you?” He repeats, louder.

“对不起,你多大了?” I say.

“Nine!”

The man shuffles kids under twelve one way and those over another. Twelve is a magical age where your body cannot be affected by millimeter wave scanners and you are a greater threat for terrorist activity. The younger ones go through a metal detector and keep their shoes on. The older ones are sent barefoot to the scanner.

Another TSA agent directs the children through the scanner. He tries to explain what to do, but TSA-speak is too specialized. He makes a motion to each child, showing them how to stand in the machine.

“你向前走,然后等待。”

The children nod.

Things I took through a TSA checkpoint:

1 electric kettle full of socks and underwear (used)
1 electric kettle stand
1 electric tooth brush (sonicare)
1 tube toothpaste (3.8 oz)
1 bottle Bauscher + Lomb Bio true contact lense solution (4 oz)
1 Dell Latitude (with charger)
1 mason jar containing distilled water and a living sphagnum plant (4 oz)
2 pairs microspikes

“Do you have something in your bag?” The screener asks, holding it in front of me.

“Anything big?”

“A kettle.”

“Electric?”

“Yeah.”

He opens my bag and takes it out, running the backpack and the kettle, now separate, through the scanner again.

“Anything in the kettle?” He asks when he comes back.

“Some used socks and underwear.”

“Can you open it for me?”

“Sure.” While he holds it, I hit the open button. He can see one sock and one pair of underwear. There are more underneath it, but he doesn’t ask for any evidence of this. I’m not allowed to touch my bags while he opens them. I’m not allowed to touch things in the bin. For the sake of the agent’s safety, I have to hit the open button while he holds it.

“I didn’t know people still used kettles for tea.”

“How do you make tea?”

“A microwave.”

“Do you fly a lot?”

“I used to,” I say. “Now probably four to six times a year.”

“Have you thought about TSA pre-Check? You can read about it on our site.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you always opt out?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you know that with TSA pre-Check you can keep your laptop in your bag and shoes on. You can also pick which method of screening you want to go through–the scanners or the metal detectors.”

“For $85, I can choose to go through a metal detector rather than a patdown?”

“Yes. It might be more convinent for you. It lasts five years. If you fly four times a year, that’s twenty flights for $85.”

“I think I prefer the pat down.”

After reaching the gate and seeing my flight was delayed, I wanted to brush my teeth. When I started to walk away from my bags, someone told me that you [still] can’t leave bags at the gate.

“Why?” I asked. “So they won’t get stolen?”

“So if there’s anything dangerous in them, like a explosive device or biohazardous agent, a terrorist couldn’t leave it.”

“After the security screening, shouldn’t everything be safe?”

“Do you want some coffee, miss?”

Pandora Helps Political Organizers Target Voters, the scrolling text reads. “You probably vote democratic if you listen to Daft Punk,” CNN informs me as I sit and wait for my flight.

As I write this list, I wonder what would happen if they banned more of these things. I think I remember hearing something about epoxy being material you could make a functional blade out of. Epoxy can look a lot like toothpaste. What if you couldn’t have any toothpaste at all? I wonder if I’d then have to check my bag. The bag I have with the kettle and the microspikes. I think about the cost and the fees. The TSA gets an extra fee for each checked bag. More people are using carry-ons because of checked-bag fees. It is widely believed that the existence of the TSA and the use of scanners is about capitalism and votes.

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Fly, 02

Many people have been linking to things about Mrs. Shoshana Hebshi’s experience on Frontier Airlines Flight 623. I think awareness of what has happened, is happening, on planes is good. But, it’s not enough.

I wrote the following letter and e-mailed and mailed it to the TSA and Frontier Airlines. I implore you to write your own letter to these people.

You can reach the TSA:

Phone: 1-877-EEO-4-TSA (1-877-336-4872).

E-mail: TSA.Civilrights@dhs.gov.

Mail:

Jennifer K. Carmichael, Director
Transportation Security Administration
Office of Civil Rights and Liberties (TSA -6)
601 12th Street
Arlington, VA 20598-6006

Frontier Airlines has a contact page with a webform.

You can also

Call: 800-432-1359 (“other options” then “complaints and compliments”)

Write:

Attn: Customer Relations
Frontier Airlines, Inc.
7001 Tower Road
Denver, CO 80249-7312

My letter.

Jennifer K. Carmichael, Frontier Airlines,

I’m not going to talk about laws, policies, or practices right now. I’m not going to talk about rights, safety, or balance. I’m not going to talk about my political opinions. I am going to talk about manners.

When I walk into someone on the street, I apologize. When I spill a drink, I apologize. When I fight with my roommates, we apologize. We don’t act like children, refusing to say anything or letting bitter, meaningless words escape. We explain, and we mean it.

Frontier said it wasn’t going to apologize to Flight 623 passenger Shoshana Hebshi, or the two men who sat in her row, because, they said, safety is the most important thing. Apologies are not about whether anyone thinks what happened is justifiable: apologies are about recognizing that you were wrong. Frontier, and the security officials, was wrong and this resulted in three people being inconvenienced and humiliated.

When you inconvenience and humiliate someone, you should apologize. You might think what you did had reasons, and they might be good, understandable reasons, but you still apologize. When you make a mistake, you thank the person you put out, especially someone as understanding, polite, and polished as Shoshana Hebshi has proven herself to be, for their time. Then you apologize.
The least they could do is apologize to people they wrongly accused of being terrorists.

Director Carmichael, I also think you should apologize to the three people on Frontier Airlines Flight 623. I think you should apologize to everyone who has felt uncomfortable, unsafe, or discriminated against in their experiences with the new security measures, but it is imperative that you apologize to Shoshana Hebshi and the two men that were sitting next to her. Tell them you’re sorry.

However, I do understand that you may not be entirely comfortable, or familiar, with offering apologies. I believe DeBrett’s does a good job clearly stating the things I learned when I was a child. If you read over these guidelines, and follow them, even the hardest apology will be a breeze. If you’re not sure how to word it, I will happily help you.

A sincere apology should always be offered when your actions have had a negative impact on other people. Even if you do not fully understand why someone is so upset, respect their feelings, and accept that your actions are the root of the problem. Don’t pass the buck, or use your apology as a way of blaming someone else. Take full responsibility for your actions.

 

An apology will be much more persuasive if you acknowledge the fault: “I’m sorry I was so late” is more specific than a simple “I’m sorry”, and actually recognises the other person’s grievance. Never temper your apologies with accusations or insinuations: it will negate its impact. If you have committed a real faux-pas consider sending a handwritten note – but only after you have offered a verbal apology, otherwise it will look like cowardice.

Faithfully yours,
M.