"Draconian" Air Security Evokes Praise, Controversy
High-level government and airline sources revealed yesterday that new drastic security measures are being contemplated for commercial air travelers and that much more stringent regulations loom ahead. Major airlines, embarrassed and angrily censured for permitting knives and box cutters aboard their hijacked aircraft, have now closed their barn doors and introduced severe and questionable restrictions.
Immediately after Sept. 11, airport gate keepers started confiscating pen knives, nail files, nail clippers, knitting and crocheting needles, corkscrews, folding travel scissors and even tweezers if passengers seek to carry these items aboard on their person or in their makeup cases and travel kits. Security experts around the world viewed these actions with arched eyebrows and bemused observations.
"It is difficult to imagine a band of terrorists, armed with tweezers, taking over an aircraft," said J. Edgar Hoople, Chief of American Hindsight Intelligence. "There are many better ways besides pinching to threaten bodily harm in a hijacking situation. Strangulation and eye-gouging come to mind as real potential threats," Chief Hoople added.
Sir Anthony Stealth, Hoople's British counterpart, agreed. Accordingly, a collaborative team of Anglo-American security officials proposed that all air passengers, when boarding, be deprived of their belts, ties, suspenders and shoe laces -- all of which can be lethal instruments for garrotting unsuspecting crew members.
William Prince, air safety officer for Air Apparent, a British charter service, applauded the proposal. "I'd like to see those blokes try to hijack one of our planes while trying to hold up their pants and walking out of their shoes," he observed dryly. Also lauding this crackdown was a major American airline executive, Lewis Costello, who advised that his company is contemplating changing its name to Untied Airlines.
The joint committee further noted that eye gouging is also considered to be a deadly threat. It was recommended that pens and pencils, house keys, auto keys, pocket pointers, and even women's pointed-toe or stiletto-heeled shoes cannot be worn or carried aboard. Similarly fingernails will be inspected to assure that they do not exceed .5 centimeters (3/16ths of an inch) in length. Transgressors will not likely be able to board the plane at all, since all devices to trim fingernails will be either consigned to the baggage compartment or already confiscated at the gate.
In response to the anthrax scare, some airlines have already announced that they will no longer serve packets of sugar substitute which might panic passengers. Oddly, the same airlines will permit travelers to bring on board their own Sweet'n Low or Equal packets. One veteran security expert, who asked not to be identified, expressed dismay. "That is backwards logic," he said, "Shouldn't we be suspicious of people bringing packets of any powdery stuff on to a plane?"
"But," he added, "there is consolation in all these so-called safety measures: powdered non-dairy creamer will also be banished from aircraft cuisine."
The continuing anthrax problem and threat of other bio-weapons will also evoke tough new taboos. Henceforth, parents travelling with infants may not bring baby powder or cornstarch on the plane. The same goes for face powder, foot powder and powder to prevent jock itch. As an added precaution, no postal workers, journalists and national legislators or their staffs will be allowed on regularly scheduled flights. "These are necessary steps," explained Chief Hoople, "Rash covered baby bottoms, itchy groins and shiny noses will become the American badge of patriotism."
These proposed draconian measures are evoking strong protests all over the globe. The folding-knife ban has prompted the Swiss army to call up its reserves to "restore its honor and the national economy." Similar resentment was voiced by the French in the face of the corkscrew edict. In Washington, the Boy Scouts of America, joined by the National Mumblety-Peg Federation, are seeking an expedited Supreme Court ruling to enjoin these extreme actions.
Constitutional experts expressed doubt that the Supreme Court would concur. According to Dr. Prudence Juris, Distinguished Professor of Law and Order at the Global University of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri, "There is strong evidence that the high court is ready to abrogate the Bill of Rights in its entirety and scrap all of our nation's laws. Indeed, some members of the Court -- importantly Scalia and Thomas -- have already revealed to their staffs that they wish to be called Mullah rather than Justice."
In Hollywood, motion picture distributors fear that films such as "Edward Scissorhands," "Knife in the Water" and "This Gun For Hire" will be prohibited from in-flight showings. One airline carrier has already announced that it is planning a Shirley Temple retrospective for the coming tourist season followed by a Three Stooges Festival and Disney animated showings (They note tbat the hunting scene in Bambi will be edited out.)
Despite radical changes in airport security policies, other traditional airline practices will be preserved to provide reassurance to travelers that it's "business as usual." Air carriers will still reserve the right to continue to misdirect luggage to cities and exotic nations other than the passenger's ticketed destination. Also, adhering to existing airline procedures, travelers with the flu, tuberculosis, meningitis, plague and other communicable disease will not be screened and will be welcomed aboard so that their collective exhalations might be recycled, as customary, through the airplane's air circulation system.
Sid Frigand is the author of Sid's Almanac, a weekly compilation of satire and rants.