Thursday, December 31, 2009

Existential Baggage

Now, this (from the Toronto Star) is mega-ridunkulous:
"Small purses are allowed," Air Canada Employee No. 1 explained.

"But they say `small purse' – what's `small?'" asked Air Canada Employee No. 2.

Employee No. 2 spied the leather purse of a hijab-clad woman sitting on a seat in the U.S. departures area of Pearson International Airport's Terminal 1. To a non-purse-carrying male observer, it looked big. "See," said Employee No. 2, "her purse is – excuse me, can I see your purse there? Just hold it up?"

The woman complied. "That's small," Employee No. 1 said firmly. "You know the big ones that people have these days?"

Here, by way of explanation, she held her hands in front of her about a foot apart.

"But what size?" pressed Employee No. 2. "They never gave us dimensions."

"No," agreed Employee No. 1. "They just said `small purse.' It's up to their discretion."

And so it went Wednesday at Pearson, where passengers flying from Canada to the U.S., and the beleaguered airline workers forced to help them, grappled with questions best left to first-year philosophy students or existentialist playwrights.

Under rules for Canada-U.S. flights imposed by Transport Canada on Monday, no carry-on baggage is permitted – except for a "small purse" or "tote bag," or laptop bag.

But how small is "small"? If a laptop bag is also a backpack, is it a laptop bag or a backpack? What is it about a purse that gives it its pursiness?...
A question that might have perplexed a Rene Descartes--or even a Sayyid Qutb. My rule of thumb: a purse's "pursiness" and capaciousness are entirely irrelevant given that jihadis are freaking trying to kill us by detonating their underwear.

But, hey, maybe if they ban purses altogether everything will be okey-dokey.

Update: Jeff Jacoby explains why all this "security theatre" (as one pundit described it) is both dangerous and a waste of time:
Terrorists can always adapt to new restrictions. After 9/11, knives and sharp metal objects were banned from carry-on luggage, so Richard Reid attempted to detonate a shoe bomb. Thereafter everyone's shoes were checked, so the 2006 Heathrow plotters planned to use liquid-based explosives. Now liquids are strictly limited, so Abdulmutallab smuggled PETN, an explosive powder, in his underwear. There is no physical constraint that determined jihadists cannot find a way to circumvent. Yet US airport security remains obstinately reactive — focused on intercepting dangerous things, instead of intercepting dangerous people. Unwilling to incorporate ethnic and religious profiling in our air-travel security procedures, we have saddled ourselves with a mediocre security system that inconveniences everyone while protecting no one.

No comments: