Much Ado About Nothing
by Jerry Gilio
September 4, 2006

I had a certain amount of anxiety before a recent trip to L.A. The country was at terror threat level RED for the first time. A plot had been uncovered to blow up planes en route from the U.K. to the U.S. But this had little to do with my fear. I wouldn't even be leaving our borders this time.

My fear was of what ridiculous overreaction would come spinning out of our government. The plot was nothing new. Twelve years ago Ramzi Yousef blew a hole in the side of a 747 using a liquid explosive. According to Eric Berger and Lise Olsen of the Houston Chronicle:

Ramzi Yousef, a master al-Qaida bomb maker, boarded a Philippine Airlines flight in December 1994 with a few ounces of nitroglycerin in an empty contact lens solution bottle. Using wires from a Casio watch, he built a small bomb in the lavatory and placed it beneath a seat. The bomb exploded on the flight's next leg, killing one and forcing the airplane to make an emergency landing.

What had our government done to protect us from liquid explosives since then? Not much. But now they'd feel pressure to look proactive, taking decisive steps to insure our safety. A friend asked if I was going to leave extra time for my airport security screening. I was uncertain if I should. However, the more I heard and read about the increased security, the more I felt that I'd be lucky to board a plane with the saliva in my mouth.

I'm happy to report that my concern was unfounded. Nothing had changed. Granted, I've never taken shampoo in my carry-on. I tend to wash my hair before I leave home, not in the airplane lavatory. But none of my usual carry-on items caused even the least bit of concern.

I behaved exactly as I have on every flight I've taken since 9/11. I took everything I normally do. I checked my bags and got my boarding pass. I had my ID out of my wallet and ready to show. As I approached the x-ray station, I removed my watch, belt (metal buckle), pen, keys, coins and shoes, which I placed in a plastic tub. My computer came out of its case and went in a tub by itself. No special questions were asked, no new delays. Total time from drop-off to completing check-in and security screening: 20 minutes.

The cynical side of my nature tells me that this is because the airline industry, which is already experiencing problems, wouldn't tolerate any excessive government nonsense. They need to keep flying a reasonably pleasant experience. Although Bush and the federal government my not pay much attention to the average citizen, they listen when big business speaks.

No matter what the reason, you can set your fears aside when going to the airport. As long as you're not determined to wrestle a TSA Agent for the "right" to get your liquid lip-gloss onto a flight, you'll be fine.

I still have the uneasy feeling that any new terrorist attacks on the U.S. will be foiled in spite of our security procedures, not because of them. We seem to look at one area under a microscope while totally ignoring others. What we have going for us is a lot of serious people who are doing their best. If anything saves us, that will.

To her credit, my wife anticipated the entire situation. She said the extra "cushion" I was demanding was unnecessary. This led to a great deal of good-natured harassment as we whiled away the hours in the terminal.

Copyright © 2006