Thursday, November 18, 2010


“Have a nice fright”

by Larry Geller

All this TSA groping brought back a couple of memories.

When we finally left Japan after more than 16 years, I’m pretty sure it was my travel agent’s secretary who uttered the above words when I spoke with her just before leaving for Narita airport and our new home in Hawaii. I still don’t know if it was the not-unusual confusion that many non-native Japanese speakers of English have between L and R, or if she said that because we left on Halloween Eve.

Actually, I’ve never been afraid to fly. There was that engine explosion on a Thai Airways jet that was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangladesh, with exploding tires and fire engines at our sides, but that’s another story, we were already up in the air. And they gave us complementary drinks (c’mon, could they charge us for the booze when we could be on the way to our “final destination” for real?).

But let me take you back to ancient times. I was working for a now defunct tape recorder factory in Long Island City, NY for a summer job maybe before my junior year of college. They needed an engineer urgently at one of their big customer’s plants in Indiana because a whole bunch of tape recorders were suddenly not working right. So I was instantly dubbed an engineer and asked to pack my bags for a trip the next day. Two of us were to go. The other guy was redefined as the mechanical engineer.

Next day we were to go to La Guardia to catch a 6 p.m. flight. I kept looking at my watch, but the other guy was still finishing up some work. He said “don’t worry!”.  I was worried when he said that a couple more times.

Finally, we stuffed ourselves into a car and were driven to the airport. I couldn’t believe we’d get on the plane, the big hand was moving perilously close to the top of the watch. We got there almost exactly at 6 p.m.  The driver drove right out onto the tarmac and up to the airplane, which still had a staircase down. We carried our bags with us onto the plane and were welcomed and shown to our seats.

I am not making this up.

Then they folded up the staircase, closed the door, and we took off almost immediately.

I am not making this up. No pat-downs. Nothing.

True, every so often a plane was blown up over Scotland or the Atlantic Ocean or somewhere like that. Hijackings were not uncommon, and I did wonder why they could not lock up the cockpit or otherwise do something different. Different from what? Different, for example, from flying the whole way with the cockpit door open not even caring if there were evildoers on board.  With the door open, anyone could just wander in and hijack the plane to Cuba, for example. And they occasionally did. Yet the doors remained open. We are slow learners.

With all that hijacking, no one became afraid, or concerned about security. I guess I wouldn’t have minded an unofficial visit to Cuba. I imagined the first thing I would do is call home, “Hey hon, guess where I am” and probably spend lots of time addressing postcards. Or buying rum.

Fast-forwarding to today, there is very little chance that anyone will be blown up or hijacked. That’s good. Still, there needs to be some relief from this Homeland Security mindset. If they didn’t feel our “junk” we’d still be safe.

Who knows if there will be protests. It would be great if this homegrown evil could be defeated, not only because the x-rays and intrusive searches need to be stopped, but because we need to learn, as citizens, that we can be in control of our own government, not victims of it. Just somewhere, there has to be something that demonstrates that democracy actually still exists here.

If we can’t do it, that’s what really gives me a fright.


Israel accomplishes its security without all the crap, expensive machines and indignities. We could too if we were smart. Maybe hijacking is the only way we'll get to Cuba, the bloqueo being yet another stupidity. Cuba's a great place.

I really thought Obama would open up Cuba. I haven't been there, but it does appear that it is a nice place. See these articles.

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