Friday, 10 December 2010

Where do you draw the line?

TSA= travel sexual assault

I am not a big fan of flying and haven't been for some time. My all time worst experience was on a trip coming back from Germany. Hamburg-Amsterdam-Boston-Halifax. The trip from Hamburg to Amsterdam was fine but things started to go awry when I began the Amsterdam Boston leg.

1st there was the 20 minute some what invasive stand before official looking dude to answer a list of questions that made me RAHT exam look like a joke. About half way through this bizarre experience I asked the guy if something bad was going on. I had traveled from Europe to Canada and back via various routes for many years and never had this sort of thing happen before. He said no this was routine when one flies to the USA.  My next question was "Oh, should I be worried?" This was September 6th, 2001.

Eventually I got through the American inquisition and boarded the skankiest, oldest plane I had been on for a while. They mixed up my seat reservation and screwed up the meal plans. Things were broken and my seat didn't work properly. I sucked that all up because I just wanted to get home. I had said a tearful goodbye to my beloved and was heading back for the last leg of school and life in Canada.

We landed at Boston and it was chaos. Utter and absolute chaos...when I asked about it I was told rudely this is normal. I went through customs and had to pick up my suitcase, even though it was booked right through, just like in Montreal that's a lie. It isn't booked right through you have to go to the luggage claim and rebook it. I got asked multiple times about my reason for my visit to the USA. ( just passing through) and then the next question How long woudl I be planning on staying in the USA always made me double take, my answer... as long as it takes to catch my next flight ...around 3 hours. and it went on.

When I finally got through the hellish line up and stupidly inefficiant security to travel through to Canada things got worse. American Airlines, my next plane out to Halifax showed me how utterly rude people could be.

At the desk to check in I was told rudely I was not booked on the flight. I had positive seating booked, ticket in hand and had already confirmed once. I told the bored, rude young man this and he simply repeated the same sentence and added you are not on this flight now go away. Eventually after me getting very upset and raising my voice, something I rarely ever do, I was told the best they can do is put me on standby. I took that and wen to wait, and wait and wait until it eventually came out that they had over bo9oked this flight by 20 people and Air Canada would pick up the slack. Please go to the AC desk to get a seat. I was 1st in line and there were no discussions. The very friendly and I might add kind agent  booked me through no issues or problems. After all I had a ticket in my hand.

After 24hrs travel and no sleep, a delay of over 5 hours at Boston eventually i was on a Dash 8 headed home. I was so late that I was certain my pickup taxi would belong gone but you know what, Dave the taxi driver I always called to do pick ups was there. He had waited for me the whole time. I don't know that I have ever been so grateful to see anyone in my life as I was at that moment.

After this experience I vowed A: Never to book or fly through the USA again. WAY too much hassle just to get to somewhere else.  and B: Never to use any American run airline either. ever. I will pay extra to fly with Lufthansa ,or Air Canada before I ever step foot on a US run airline. 

Now it's gone from bad to insane. It's no longer just a hassle to fly it's terrifying. I get the need for security but sexually assaulting people before they get on a tin can is a bit over the top. I don't want to be felt up in an invasive manner by strangers. I don't want to run the risk of skin cancer either. X-rays are bad. We teach our children not to let strangers touch them in an inappropriate manner yet there are videos online of a 3 year old girl in hysterics screaming "stop touching me" to a TSA agent who doesn't stop touching her. So it's okay for a person in a uniform at an airport to touch you, little girl just don't let anyone else do the same thing.

People justify these actions by saying, well it's for our good,we need to be safe, the terrorists are out there. In reality you have as much chance of being killed by a terrorist as you do by falling space junk. Drunk drivers in cars will probably kill you before the terrorists do.

So what is this really about? It's about control, it's about personal freedom vs governmental control and it's mostly about power and money. What is going on in the airports especially in the USA has little to do with security. It's been shown time and time again that should someone want to do a bad thing and get bad stuff through a check up they can. That little rule about liquids? Useless and stupid but really good for the pocketbooks of the people who sell water and other drinks behind the red line.

Those safe to use we'll never keep your naked pictures scanners they now have are not safe, no one knows the long term harm they dish out with their x-ray doses but doctors are concerned and you should be as well. Terrorists won't kill you but skin caner will. And you have to ask... the company that's  making them what sort of financial reward are they raking in and what backdoors have they put into the system? All this security....

So I get the need to check stuff, before anyone says I am being too liberal and naive. Bad people have done and will do bad things. Airplanes are nice juicy targets. They make great weapons when slung into a building at top speed. We've all seen the images, they are burned into our brains. But when does it become too much? What's the next step? We travel naked? We get handed a nice set of orange jammies and an ID bracelet at the gate?

The term Police State comes to mind more and more often as I watch the way things are headed in North America. Freedoms are restricted daily. The police agencies have more and more power, then there is the little thing called Homeland Security which sounds and acts an awful lot like Reichssicherheitshauptamt. And before anyone says there are no death camps I'd point out that Gitmo isn't exactly a good place to be if you were on the wrong side of the fence, so to speak.

I get it, you know, I do. We live in difficult times. People want to blow us all up in the name of (insert appropriate deity name here). We need our governments to think for us because really we're all stupid sheep, we need our governments to do what is best for us because really we can't do much for ourselves. We are all dopey idiots... we plod along without questioning what is really going on. It's for your own know we've heard this before. Last time this sort of behavior started up from a government it led to a world war. ( but mostly after the damage had been done)

In light of what's coming out via wikileaks I find the whole security thing surreal. Yes, airplanes make great weapons, trains, buses, ships not so much but I am pretty sure the people who were blown up and injured during the train bombings in Spain kinda wonder why you have all this crazy security at an airport but NONE at any train stations outside of cameras and standard police patrols. Yeah, you can't run a train into a building but I'm pretty sure a high speed ICE packed with explosives hurtling into a centrally located major train station could do a fair amount of hurt as well. And two ships packed with explosives colliding are also nothing to sneeze at...Halifax harbour....just saying.  It's just not a newsworthy or spectacular. Planes bashing into sky scrapers is better tv.

Am I jaded? Yes. It's all about power and money and it all has very little to do with safety. We lose personal freedoms bit by bit in the name of staying safe and don't realise what is going on until it is far too late. We live in a world where big money and big corporations hold the world by it's proverbial balls. We live in a world filled with evil and bad people. The terrorist will get you if you don't watch out.

Where do we draw the line? I don't know but I draw mine at flying to a country that allows me to either be exposed to radiation which may cause skin cancer or sexually assaulted by strangers all in the name of safety.

....Secrets are not my concern. Keeping them is......maybe if we had less secrets and more openness the world wouldn't be in such a freaking mess. Me I subscribe to the Bill and Ted philosophy of life...

Be excellent to each other.  ( and find your own personal phone booth to fly in)

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