Thursday, September 28, 2006

Let Us Sing The Alice's Restaurant Airport Security Massacree

A friend of mine grew up in Soviet Poland. He once told us about a saying they had in those days. It goes like this:

Don't think.
But IF you think, don't say it.
If you say it, don't write it down.
If you write it down, don't sign it.
If you sign it - don't be surprised.


This isn't something we are supposed to worry about in the land of the free; and yet, all ideals aside, there was no reason for Ryan Bird to be surprised about the delay he experienced at the airport today.

For a professional newsy account of what happened at the Milwaukee airport today, read this. My own summary is admittedly unobjective and cranky.

First, let me introduce you to Kip Hawley. No, he is not a porn actor! Get that smirk off your face, citizen. He is a very important man, you know. Mr. Hawley - who is that snickering?? - heads the Transportation Security Administration. Read about him and check out his manly photograph here.

Mr. Hawley heads the agency that makes you hop around the airport terminal in your socks while someone waves The Wand of Liberty around you, and decides whether or not you can bring mascara or Evian water on the air-o-plane.

Incidentally, the current policy is that you can bring toiletries - in a see-through plastic bag. This is where Ryan Bird comes in. Let us say Ryan Bird has opinions about airport security. Let us say that Mr. Bird thinks some of these measures exceed in inconvenience what they obtain by way of actual security. In other words, he thinks it's gotten to be a bunch of shit.

I know, forbidden thoughts. Doesn't he know it's still September 11?? Oh come on, don't look at me like that. Come back, don't leave. I'm a cooperative guy. I let these people poke around in my luggage and feel me up and make me dance and whatever else they want to do. I play along and don't bitch about it. They've got a job, and I am not out to give them a hard time.

Me, I view the situation in a manner similar to the late Ann Richards. Go and watch this video of her telling her own airport security story in 2004. She is much funnier and wiser about it than I am. Seriously. Go watch it. She is hilarious and wonderful.

Perhaps Ryan Bird heard this speech and heeded Governor Richards's call. Ryan Bird put his toiletries in the clear plastic bag as TSA commands. And he wrote something on the bag in magic marker.

What did that naughty boy write? He wrote:

Kip Hawley is an Idiot

A screener took note of this and immediately called his supervisor. There are strict rules about making jokes about bombs at the airport; there is no rule about ridiculing the head of the Transportation Security Administration. There are no guidelines on how to handle this.

The screener told him: "You can't write things like that!"

The supervisor came and inspected the bag. They called a sheriff's deputy. The sheriff's deputy ran a check on Bird to see if there were any warrants for his arrest. Bird asked him if he was under arrest now, and was told he was being 'detained.'

The supervisor informed Bird that his toiletries would be confiscated, and Bird said, no they won't. And Bird was right. They inspected the see-through bag of toiletries for 25 minutes in order to rule out a bomb threat. Instead of stealing Bird's property, they photographed it. Exhibit A. Take that straight to Mr. Hawley.

Since no crime had been committed, Mr. Bird and his toiletries both were allowed on the plane. There were, however, some hard feelings. They justified 'detaining' him by suggesting that what he did was akin to joking about a bomb.

Not really.

I don't know if Kip Hawley is an idiot. Ryan Bird doesn't know that, either. I think of the passengers who had to wait even longer because of Bird's prank. And just as that Soviet-era commonplace goes, he should not have been surprised by the ruckus.

Still, I acquit him. There is enormous social pressure, post 2001, to take some misguided patriotic pride in allowing political appointees and their agencies to fuck around with us any way they want to. In airports, I have been questioned about reading material and my taste in music.

So Ryan Bird resists. He draws a big pointing finger at the silliness of the whole setup, the system gets angry, but it has to let him on the plane because it isn't illegal for our spirit to resist the bullshit.

Yet.

We could use stealthier methods. Myself, I favor organizing mass outbreaks of people singing "Alice's Restaurant" while going through the check-in process. Like Arlo Guthrie said:

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's
really sick... And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people
walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think
it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I
said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement...


Heck, folks, I am getting on an air-o-plane myself in a week. I think, as I am getting injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected I may have a little song to sing.

3 comments:

quid said...

He looks like an idiot, does he not?

Another thoroughly qualified appointee!!!!

boombud said...

My last few years of heavy air travel I had a leaflet exchange inside the lid of one travel case. Photocopies of my many past TSA inspection receipts appeared with a note from me thanking the inspectors for any additions for my growing colleciton. Also in exchange I offered free copies of the War Resisters League federal spending pie chart which reveals the true fiscal madness of our militarism and insecurity.

Hey, the Arlo quote is so appropo! And that little song can be uplifting when one is facing the unsympathetic system of our deteriorating liberties.

Anonymous said...

The passengers didn't have to wait longer because of Ryan Bird. They had to wait longer because of the idiot thugs at the TSA.