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The Thin, Distant Line

By xC0000005 in Culture
Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: Airport security, Airport insecurity (all tags)

"Bocka, Bocka," said EJ as he waved to the woman again. She glanced beyond the metal detector. The gulf that separated her from her family might as well have been miles. We held our breath as she again eased forward through the metal detector. "BEEEAAWWNK" screeched the machine for the fifth time, and the woman burst into tears. "Bocka, Schteep Bocka!" said EJ, and then doubled over, almost convulsing. With each gasp a sound like a sparrow in a blender burst from his throat. EJ was laughing.

It's been over a decade since I worked as a screener, and things have changed since 9/11, or so I hear. It may be that the process is less mind numbing, that the candidates are better, that the environment isn't geared to make you not care. I expect not. Note that the authority in charge is really called the TSA, so mentally think TSA when you see FAA. Ten years changes some things. When I graduated I needed a job that paid well, required no experience, and would let me get as many hours as my teen body could withstand. I got it all, as well as a lesson on airport security.

Form a line

Screeners, as we were called, were the "line of defense" against those who would hijack planes. I know this because it was on the first film strip they showed us during training. Not a video. Not a film in a normal projector. Not even a slide. It was a film strip, and by turning the advance arrow, the strip curled downward one frame at a time through the projector. The next frame showed "The enemy." These days the enemy would wear a rag on his head and have a swarthy look, but the company for which I worked, we'll call it ASC (for airport security company) had making profit as an airport security company down cold, and so it displayed the real enemy of screeners - the FAA test items.

FAA Test items are supposed to have the same pattern on the X-Ray machine as the items you are really after. They included a starter pistol with a plugged barrel, a "bomb" that consists of an old style alarm clock, three pieces of PVC pipe and two lead wires, a knife encased in three inch thick plastic, and a couple more I have forgotten. The FAA test items must set off any metal detector. They must also, more importantly, be detected by screeners. On the slide I looked at the items that would become my second worst enemy on the job.

The worst enemy is boredom. Airport screening is a horrible job. The qualifications for it are minimal. You must be fingerprinted (I was) and pass a background check (I did), but other than that, there are no real requirements. You don't even need a command of the English language, as EJ, and his brother DJ, proved so often. I won't go into the race of candidates here because you might mistakenly think that their pitiful performance here was racially driven. It wasn't. We had oxygen thieves of every skin color.

The point of the training class is simple - to teach you to identify the FAA test items on the x ray machine. Pat downs, hand wands, those sort of things were covered in a cursory manner. Pat downs, incidentally, had their own picture, illustrating that a man cupping a woman's breast served no purpose for security measures. The rest of the days were spent on the test items. We were drilled frame by frame, chanting in unison -
This went on for hours, then the tests became "tricky". The film strip was inserted backwards, and we did it again. We lost two trainees that first run, two men who insisted that the slide they had just looked at left to right no longer contained the bomb when viewed right to left. Then they ran the strip upside down. When we concluded, it was time to be tested.

Testing is intended by the FAA to make sure that only the qualified screeners make it onto the floor and out to the gate. In reality, testing is all about the company. The goal of the test is to make sure the screeners can spot the FAA test items, because at any time the FAA might send people to test the screeners. When they do, they pass a test item through the x-ray machine. If it isn't caught, the screener is fired. More importantly, the company is fined.

Now, about the turnover - In any such job, you have a high "rotation factor", as they put it. So high, in fact, that there is enormous pressure to put new recruits out the door, regardless of how badly they flub. That this is in direct contradiction of the company's main goal is something that was recognized, but never spoken. We began our test, somewhat written, followed by pictures, in which we had to identify the threat (if any). I completed my test, turned it in, and was directed back to my seat with no indication if I had passed or failed.

Others completed, and approached the instructor. Again they returned to their seats. Then one young man got up. He approached the instructor, who looked over the test. He looked back at the student, and handed him back the test. Without a word, the man returned to his seat, where he changed some answers and returned. Again, the test was given back to him. Again, he brought it back. Now, it was lunch time, and we retreated outside to eat lunch. Inside the classroom a group of five students remained. The teacher fired up the film strip.

"This is what a Bomb looks like, Reginald"
"Does anyone see the Knife in this picture, Sam?"
"How about the gun here. Everyone see the gun, right here?"

After lunch, we were surprised to learn that everyone but Sam had passed. We were issued orange stickers for our badges and sent out to begin protecting the world.

Get in Line

While you might think that security screeners are the most hated people at the airport, that wasn't true in my experience. The honest truth was that everyone hated everyone else, but there was definitely a ranking to the process. At the top are the pilots, who detest everything about the airport. Below them are the flight crew, also known as stewardesses. At the time when I was a screener, both weight and appearance rules were still in force, so a flight attendant was usually a jiggly blond with curves and angles in all the right places. Below the flight crew were the airline employees, and below them, passengers. The passengers ranked higher than food service people, but the food service people were still higher than the security screeners (me). Below the security screeners were skycaps, and below them, the luggage transport people. It was the matter of much debate if the homeless people who lived in the terminal were ranked higher or lower than the luggage crew.

So low on the ladder were we that we weren't allowed to eat lunch where we could be seen. A stairwell in the east side of the terminal was a permitted eating area, though most of us caught a ride on the airport tram and ate while we rode. EJ and DJ ate the same lunch every day - a rice and meat slurry that was heavily spiced with ginger and looked like it had been regurgitated at least twice. Midnight shift, meat slurry. Morning shift? meat slurry. I could barely stand the smell, but they devoured it, scooping it up with their fingers, slurping them clean.

There was one group in particular who truly despised security screeners though - The supervisors. Supervisors, recognizable by their orange vests, are responsible for the security station. Your screw up is theirs. To become a super you needed to develop time honored skills at identifying threats. No, not really. The real requirement was that you needed to last at least three months on the line. Not many made it. Supers hated orange badgers worse than anyone else, because an orange badger was a trainee, unqualified to perform any action on their own. The super had to stand at the metal detector (the worst possible post) along with the trainee, the super had to search bags, and if an oranger got fired for missing an item, his super would be taking a walk with him.

Angie (name changed to protect the bitchy), was my normal super. Angie was a chain smoker of a type I had never encountered before. There were four gates at the terminal where I worked. Before Angie entered the building, she would smoke a cigarette. With its last puff she would enter the office to get her assignment, and walk twenty yards to A gate, where she would have a smoke. Dropping the lit cigarette at the sliding door, she would walk to B gate, where she would smoke again. After a couple of cigarettes at B she would walk to C gate and again, light up. Now, from C to the E gate (I do not know what happened to D) it was a very long walk, and could only be reached inside. Each morning Angela would begin walking from C to E and upon arrival, she would be shaking.

"Good morning, Angela", I would say each morning as she stalked past.
"Shut the fuck up, puck," she'd snarl as she limped outside. Her hands would tremble horribly, so bad she would burn herself with the lighter until after her first cigarette. Three cigarettes later, she would come inside and establish her pattern of peering at the screen while she waited for her next smoke break. I passed my orange stage one Thursday on a 3:30 am shift with Angie and we celebrated it by her leaving to go smoke again. From that point on, she was rarely at the point for more than five minutes, which left me with EJ and DJ and an ever changing cast of new suckers, I mean employees. EJ and DJ were brothers, but their names contained neither Es, Js or Ds as best I can tell. A good screener points out things that make people fail. EJ never pointed out the problems, probably because he couldn't speak English. A couple months in I met the oldest screener at the company, and was shocked to realize it was his muddled English that EJ and DJ were imitating with the few words they spoke.

Crossing the Line

One morning as I arrived, Angie was waiting at the checkpoint.
"We had a miss on the line", she said. I stared at her blankly.
"A miss, goddammit." I looked around and realized that everyone was staring at the ground. I still didn't understand, but I nodded and she continued, "They're sending Mike." This name rang a bell, and as I tried to place it, Will leaned over and said "The trainer."

A miss means that the FAA tested someone, and they failed. It meant someone went home that day, fired. More importantly, it meant that ASC had been fined for the miss, and that was what had everyone on edge. Manure placed on a sharp angled slope will yield to gravity, and I was firmly planted in a downward direction of said slope.

Mike didn't make it to our station until 4:00, thirty minutes before I was scheduled to be off. When he arrived, it was with a wide grin on his face. He resembled a shark with dentures when he smiled. It always made me uncomfortable when anyone at ASC smiled, because it usually meant that they were happy. I knew from experience that the only thing that made ASC employees happy was ruining someone else's day.

"Did you know that A station, they don't have the slightest idea what a gun looks like? I'm here to help you figure out what a gun looks like. When I leave this station, you will all know what a gun looks like, you will know it because I will shove it up your ass if you miss a gun." That is where things went downhill.

At the time the airline flights had a huge gap between when the 2:15 from India arrived and when the 6:00 came in. I don't recall what the 6:00 flight was because the 2:15 was the one that got all the attention. It was the 2:15 where passengers would take a dump in the middle of the terminal after getting off. It was the 2:15 where people got off carrying fourteen inch knives. It was the 2:15 where passengers BIT screeners. I hated that flight, but I would have given anything for another flight from India to arrive, because for the next twenty minutes, Mike walked about ranting about the gun. He ran it through the machine over and over, drilling each of us on it.

"How do you know it's a gun?" He asked me.
"it looks like one," I said, and was immediately pounded on the back.
"Goddamn right it does. You get over here," yelled Mike to Will.
"How do you know it's a gun?"
"I look for the outline of the cartridge and the..." Will started.
"The barrel you can see right here," Will continued, oblivious to his pending doom.
"What the hell are you talking about? That's not how you find this gun"
"No sir. It's how you find any gun, sir," said Will. I knew right then that this was a disaster.
"Any gun? Any gun? I don't give a fuck about any gun, dipshit. I care about this gun. The FAA will not test you with another gun. The FAA will never put any gun but this one in the machine. I don't care if you are a fucking gun nut who can tell the caliber by sniffing the barrel, you look for this gun. THIS ONE." Mike strode to the test bag and dumped it out at the feet of the metal detector, sending the machine into a frenzy.

"THIS bomb. This knife. I don't care if you miss a goddamn bazooka and some son of a bitch cuts your throat with a knife you let through as long as you find THIS GUN."
"But we're supposed to find," Will insisted.
"You find what I trained you to find. The other shit doesn't get taken out of my paycheck when you miss it," said Mike. I looked at my watch and realized it was 4:30. Our replacement shift was standing at a distance and Mike was waiting for them as they approached.

"Did you know that here at E station they don't know what a gun looks like?" I heard as we walked away.

Out of Line

The hours a screener works are long and monotonous. In the middle of the night on a distant gate there is nothing to do but talk, and if you were paired with an east African who speaks no English, there's even less to do. I took turns walking through the metal detector carrying the test items. By the end of my time at ASC I could walk through carrying any of them without setting off the detector.

If you've never spent any quality time in an airport, consider yourself lucky. In Texas the airports have massive air conditioners. In August they labored day and night to keep the air mildly cool. One fine day in late January I arrived to find the insides of the terminal doors frosted, the airconditioners full on. The air outside was a balmy thirty, and it felt good compared to the temperature inside. The airline refused to acknowledge anything was wrong. The security company saw it as a way to make money. Security screeners pay for uniforms, and most of us had passed on the option to rent a coat with the corporate insignia. In the frozen terminal we shivered. Our paper thin uniforms were perfect for the blast furnace heat of August.
"Get your jackets. Sign the stub," said the Super.
"I don't need a jacket," I said. I didn't want to pay for a coat for the next months that I would never use. A few hours into the shift I could no longer feel my fingers. I spent lunch letting the freezing rain outside warm me up. When I went home, the airline had finally called in maintenance to turn the air conditioners off. It appears that when the coffee began to freeze, they finally realized things were slightly out of hand.

EJ had a nasty sense of humor, and on the last night I finally figured out his secret. A penny, tapped on the side of the X-Ray machine, would trigger the metal detector. I knew that flexing the sheet metal panel on the machine would do this, I had no idea a simple penny would do so. From his perch behind the machine, EJ would cause people to fail over and over until they had to be wand searched or patted down. DJ no doubt did the same thing. Near impossible to prove, and easy to deny, I could only guess at his reasons for doing it.

End of Line

I would like to say I flamed out and left scorched earth behind, but I did not. I had worked for nearly four months, sometimes fourteen hours a day (or more) and amassed plenty of savings for college, so one morning I checked the box for "intent to leave." My last day I was sent to relieve someone at E, and when I arrived, a familiar face greeted me. Mike stood at the metal detector, his face purple.
"Get your ass on the detector boy, I'm running the machine," he said.
"Where is"
"Shut that hole in your head!" Mike yelled.
Later that day I learned that Mike had come down to instruct due to another miss. This was actually the fourth miss in a month, and there were rumors of a major fine, to be compensated for by firing all the supervisors. Mike and Angie had an argument which ended with him ordering her to run the metal detector. She made it forty five minutes before she walked outside to smoke. Angie was fired on the spot for deserting her post.

EJ and DJ, who had never said a word of English in my presence, and received their morning directions from a food services worker who would read the schedule, walked out the door with her. This left Mike alone at the station. This is a violation of FAA guidelines, as you need at least two screeners at all stations, but he didn't close the terminal, or even notify anyone. That would have meant a fine for the company, perhaps even worse than a miss. At the end of the day I walked away.

When I enter an airport now, I look at the signs that say "Security" with an arrow, and I believe the arrow is pointing to the blank space underneath the signs, because I've seen the line of protection. I've been it. You decide for yourself how safe we are.


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Display: Sort:
The Thin, Distant Line | 117 comments (83 topical, 34 editorial, 0 hidden)
Didn't we typecast you to bees? (3.00 / 4) (#11)
by Joe Sixpack on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 06:02:07 AM EST


We'll find out in voting.$ (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by xC0000005 on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 12:36:51 PM EST

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
If only passengers has their Second Amendment (2.50 / 6) (#12)
by Adam Rightmann on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 09:27:36 AM EST

rights, the whole hoopla about security screening would be moot. Why, airport gift shops could even sell special frangible ammunition, in all the proper God Fearing sizes (.45, .38., .357 and .22).

The 1911 Colt .45 was designed to stop Muhammedan terrorists, it's time to honor that heritage.

I believe the Colt Model 1911... (3.00 / 4) (#20)
by BJH on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 11:36:36 AM EST

...was actually designed to stop the Moro tribespeople in the Philippines, who have been many things but were not terrorists.

Not unless you consider people fighting to retake their own country from invading forces terrorists.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

Yes, and Iraqis (nt) (none / 1) (#57)
by Scott Robinson on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 05:10:29 AM EST

[ Parent ]
I know you're kidding... (none / 1) (#21)
by thefirelane on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 12:03:57 PM EST

1) It wouldn't stop people who just want to blow up planes, so this would become more common.

2) Take the percentage of people who would carry a gun onto a plane, multiply this by the average flight size. This number plus 1 is now how many people you need to hijack a plane.... problem not solved. Probably less since the hijackers would have the surprise advantage, more amunition, and more training.

Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
[ Parent ]
Blowing up planes is fine (none / 1) (#31)
by debacle on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 04:49:10 PM EST

Only assholes fly in planes.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]
Won't someone think of the snakes!? (3.00 / 8) (#39)
by thefirelane on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 06:49:40 PM EST

Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
[ Parent ]
hmmm (none / 0) (#82)
by khallow on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 04:34:16 PM EST

I think there's no problem with filling a plane with snake-citizens and blowing them up. I don't see any discrimination possible here. We'll have to come up with something for the larger whales. Maybe we can obtain some C-19 cargo planes so they can enjoy the right to die horribly in a plane explosion.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

oh, but... (none / 0) (#106)
by CAIMLAS on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 06:45:08 PM EST

There's a simple solution to #2

And number one, actually.

Number two: only allow people already legally licensed to carry a firearm to do so. Most states (80%?) have "shall issue" firearm laws, which means if you want a permit and are a law-abiding citizen, it's not a problem (coincidentially, thesea are also the states with the lowest crime rates). You undergo a background and criminal check before one is issued, and checking them is trivial (via database).

Being as the screeners are now federal employees, it seems trivial to me to simply standardize on a national firearm card and have a scanner (analog) available so that such records could be easily checked.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Shall issue laws (none / 0) (#107)
by darkonc on Wed Aug 09, 2006 at 05:58:40 PM EST

Most states (80%?) have "shall issue" firearm laws, which means if you want a permit and are a law-abiding citizen, it's not a problem (coincidentially, thesea are also the states with the lowest crime rates).

Not sure here... You may have cause and effect reversed. (presuming that you're implying that 'have carry causes low crime rates). It may simply be that the states with the highest crime rates revoke (or never pass) 'shall issue' laws and regulations.

I guess that the best test would be to have one or two states with rigid certification laws to change to 'shall issue' (and vice versa) and see what that does to their crime rate over time, compared to the national average.

Then argue over the statistical significance of the results.
Killing a person is hard. Killing a dream is murder. : : : ($3.75 hosting)
[ Parent ]

clarification (none / 0) (#112)
by CAIMLAS on Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 08:47:18 AM EST

Not only are 'shall issue' states the states with the lowest crime rates, they also tend to have a marked decrease in crime levels after the signing of 'shall issue' licenses into law.

On the flip side, the instigation of gun restriction legislation has a very strong historical precidence for increasing crime, and even being encouraged by organized crime (see: NYC firearm restrictions, circa 1920s).

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

-1 sick of these dumb ass bee stories (1.03 / 26) (#15)
by Tex Bigballs on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 10:36:23 AM EST

dude get another hobby aspie man

how is it (none / 0) (#84)
by loteck on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 11:42:06 PM EST

that so many people fell for this?
"You're in tune to the musical sound of loteck hi-fi, the musical sound that moves right round. Keep on moving ya'll." -Mylakovich

[ Parent ]
So...let's see you do better then... (none / 0) (#90)
by yellow shark on Sun Jul 30, 2006 at 02:46:31 PM EST

I mean, people with the nastiest comments (not you necessarily) can't seem to get shit posted.

I know not why......

[ Parent ]

Great story. +1FP when it goes for voting. I (none / 1) (#24)
by ESAD1 on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 12:50:59 PM EST

do a lot of air travel and have found some airports wave you on thru without any problem while another will search you to no end. The smaller airports do not seem to have such a tight security as the bigger ones do.

I think the first section is needlessly long (none / 1) (#32)
by debacle on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 04:55:59 PM EST

The rest is pretty good though. Very professional editorial.

It tastes sweet.
I shortened it. (none / 1) (#35)
by xC0000005 on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 05:16:58 PM EST

Better? It's hard to convey the absurdity of this east african dwarf herding people through the security checkpoing without ever speaking a real word of english. It's also difficult to convey the deep pleasure he seemed to derive each time someone failed to pass the detector.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Ah, sorry (none / 0) (#36)
by debacle on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 05:19:42 PM EST

I didn't mean the intro. I meant the section under the first header.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]
Thanks for putting this in the queue (1.50 / 4) (#40)
by terryfunk on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 07:12:22 PM EST

very enjoyable to read! of course +1 FP from me.

I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

Thank you. (none / 0) (#43)
by xC0000005 on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 07:18:38 PM EST

It's not bees, but I need to take a break from bees every now and then.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Some addendum (2.50 / 2) (#45)
by xC0000005 on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 07:32:21 PM EST

Not fit for inclusion in the article, but will give you an idea of how things are now.  The TSA is listed as the employer for screeners now, so I suppose companies like ASC are now reduced to skycap services only.

I found a job description for a screener, here's what is listed as requirements now:

Description:  If you are interested in a career in the aviation security field that provides you the opportunity to defend and protect your country and protect our freedoms while assisting the movement of people and commerce, a career as a Transportation Security Screener is for you. TSA promotes excellence in public service and security through integrity, teamwork and innovation.

TSA professionals provide frontline security and protection of air travelers, airports and airplanes. In this role you are responsible for identifying dangerous or deadly objects in baggage, cargo and on passengers - and preventing those items from being transported onto aircraft. In performing these duties, you must remain both courteous and professional. TSA personnel use cutting edge electronic detection and imaging equipment and have the opportunity to be trained to use the latest in security devices.

To qualify, the TSA is looking for personnel who:

·  Effectively interact with the public, giving directions and responding to inquiries in a reasonable tone and manner

·  Maintain both focus and awareness within an environment containing numerous distractions, people and noisy conditions

·  Can stand and remain standing for periods of up to three (3) hours or more without sitting

·  Are able to lift and/or assist another individual (from the ground) an object weighing 70 pounds

·  Work within a stressful environment i.e., noise from alarms, machinery, distractions, time pressures, disruptive or angry passengers

·  Excel at identifying/locating potentially life threatening devices used for creating chaos and/or massive destruction

·  Make effective, clear decisions in both routine and crisis situations

Work Schedule(s):

TSA personnel work shift hours on any day from Sunday - Saturday and these schedules may include irregular hours, nights and weekends, changing and split shifts. The individual airports and their hours of operation determine specific schedules.


You must be a United States citizen or a U. S. National and have one of the following:

·  High School diploma, GED or equivalent OR

·  At least one full year of full-time work experience in security work or aviation screener work OR x-ray technician work

In accordance with Public Law 107-71, all applicants must pass tests, interviews and other evaluations demonstrating necessary skills/abilities for job performance. These requirements include, but are not limited to:

·  English Proficiency, reading, writing, speaking, and listening

·  Interpersonal skills: customer service, honesty, integrity and dependability

·  Physical abilities: repeatedly lifting and carrying baggage up to 70 40 pounds and identifying objects by touch

·  Mental Abilities: visual observation and identification, mental rotation

·  Work Values: responsibility, honesty, integrity

·  Medical standards: Distant sight corrected to 20/30 or better; in the best eye and 20/100 or better in the worst eye

·  Near vision corrected to 20/50 or better binocular

·  Color perception, able to see red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, brown, black, gray, note: color filters (e.g., contact lenses) for enhancing color discrimination are prohibited

·  Hearing as measured by standard audiometric tests cannot exceed: a) an average hearing loss of 30 decibels (ANSI) at 500, 1000, 2000, and 300 Hz in each ear, b) single readings of 50 decibels at 2000 or 3000 Hz in each ear, c) single reading of 55 decibels at 4000 Hz in each ear

·  Adequate joint mobility and dexterity and range of motion, strength, and stability (to lift and move up to 70 pounds), as well as a completion of a medical evaluation questionnaire

·  Drug and Alcohol screening through testing

·  Pass a background investigation, including a criminal check and a credit check

The TSA absolutely requires employees to demonstrate that they are fit for duty, free from impairment from illegal drugs, sleep deprivation, medication or alcohol.  

What is missing from this is how the screeners are tested, and how they are rewarded for performing their job.  One hopes it is well.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't

Who works for the TSA (2.66 / 3) (#59)
by rusty on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 08:45:47 AM EST

When they formed the TSA there were a huge number of screener jobs to fill and not a whole lot of money to fill them with. Who do you think they hired?

Yeah, they basically hired the whole staffs of the former private security companies. It's all the same people we had doing this before, they're just federal employees now.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Yes and no. (2.50 / 2) (#65)
by xC0000005 on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 02:11:33 PM EST

Many of the worst would no longer pass the minimum requirements. EJ and DJ spoke no english that I am aware of (They said "Schteep" for step, "Bocka" for "back", "Again", and "Pis" (please)). They would never make it. Several of the supers who could not go through a rotation without a smoke would not make it.

Again, I content that it is about how the people are trained, tested, and rewarded. We'll see, I guess. Last time I went through a metal detector I found it was way more sensitive. The machines are different now - the screens are orange and green. Batteries are still solid black though.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]

They're no better at detecting weapons though. (2.50 / 2) (#66)
by rusty on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 04:29:42 PM EST

I won;t tell my knife story yet again, but suffice it to say, they're really good at confiscating DEADLY NAIL CLIPPERS and not much else.

I hate the air travel security process now, not because it's tedious and annoying. I hate it because it's tedious and annoying and still doesn't work worth a damn. If we're going to be unsafe, we might as well do it without all the extra hassle.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

An airport story, post 9/11. (2.75 / 4) (#67)
by xC0000005 on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 05:18:42 PM EST

Some asshat took my wallet at the happiest place on earth. I had to fly back with no identification, which means a happy fun trip to those clear plastic cubes, and a lot of questions. They took a knife with a blade that was just under 1.5 inches from my keychain. They took my screwdrivers, and a can of breath freshner. This isn't the screener's fault, it's the TSA's. They set the insane rules for what you can carry on. The screeners aren't usually intelligent enough to figure out a threat, so they are hired to follow the rules. The TSA doesn't get that the muslims were only able to hijack planes with box cutters once. That's a one trick pony, because people know now that if your plane is hijacked, better to die killing your hijacker, because he's just going to fly into a building anyway.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Seriously... (2.50 / 2) (#70)
by thefirelane on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 06:09:24 PM EST

The TSA doesn't get that the muslims were only able to hijack planes with box cutters once. That's a one trick pony, because people know now that if your plane is hijacked, better to die killing your hijacker, because he's just going to fly into a building anyway.

I've said that before too, and people just don't get it. Hell, that trick didn't work 10 minutes after the WTC crashes... as the PA crashed flight can attest to.

Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
[ Parent ]
Not my experience (2.50 / 2) (#99)
by cburke on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 07:22:04 PM EST

I've said that before too, and people just don't get it.  Hell, that trick didn't work 10 minutes after the WTC crashes... as the PA crashed flight can attest to.

I think a lot of people get it.  Every time I've painted the picture of some dude standing up holding anything less than an AK-47 -- box cutter, steak knife, katana, whatever -- and declare that they are taking over the plane, and asked people whether they thought everyone would just sit down and take it or would they instead bum-rush the idiot and tear him limb from limb, I've gotten nearly universal agreement that the poor SOB would have to be identified by his dental records assuming he had any.

Sometimes someone will look a little apprehensive, as if they aren't quite sure they'd do it, but not denial, indicating to me that it's just a little tough to volunteer to rush at a guy with a knife when you're safely on the ground.  But at the point it actually happens, you're either dying in plane crash or potentially dying preventing the plane crash.  Sure I'd be scared, but that doesn't make it a tough choice.

I think most people understand this, and yeah the PA flight is the most direct indicator that this is really how it would happen.  I truly pity anyone deluded enough to actually try to take over a plane with a shiv, and I highly doubt it'd be a real terrorist.

[ Parent ]

Are you ever going to write that story for the q? (none / 0) (#95)
by kuroXhin on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 10:48:50 AM EST

I really liked that diary. You didn't mention the wallet theft. That would add a delightful touch to the end.

The Economist - The Playboy of the new world order!
[ Parent ]

Maybe. (none / 0) (#96)
by xC0000005 on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 12:18:09 PM EST

I don't sit down to "write something for the queue." I'll look at it some lazy day when I'm in no mood to write about bees (which happens quite a bit).

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
It's not about being safe... (none / 1) (#77)
by thejeff on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 08:07:48 AM EST

It's about convincing people they're doing something, so they'll think it's safe and be willing to fly.

From that point of view, you don't want effective but inobtrusive security.

[ Parent ]

Raising the "Barrier To Entry" (none / 1) (#78)
by xC0000005 on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 11:12:43 AM EST

My take on it is that airport security doesn't even slow down someone who really wants to take down a plane. They'd get jetway access or something like that. What it does is raise the barrier for entry into the hijack market, which is why you don't seem some idiot every night being led away after hijacking a plane because his girlfriend was farking the dog, video taping it, and making a living off of the tape.

Similarly, when Teen Idol Angsty McAngst's newest record flops because someone finally realized that he can't sing, can't dance, and is actually 34, he drives his beamer into a fountain instead of putting a gun to a stewardess's head.

That's what airport security is good for.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]

Maybe... (3.00 / 2) (#79)
by thejeff on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 01:17:30 PM EST

But did any of that happen before we tightened security after 9/11?

I don't remember any. Certainly not common. So yeah, a basic minimal security level is useful. It keeps the casual nutcases away.

Anything past that is propaganda. Remember right after 9/11, airline traffic was down drastically. Everyone was afraid to fly. Irrational, but true. Beefed up airport security convinced more people it was safe to fly again. And that was its purpose. (That and a need for the government to be seen doing something to protect us.)

Practically, the increased level is useless. Symbolically it serves a purpose. And that purpose would not be served if the security wasn't obtrusive.

[ Parent ]

Actually, yes (none / 0) (#110)
by duffbeer703 on Sun Aug 13, 2006 at 09:00:03 PM EST

Back in the 60's (when people had to carry lots of cash while travelling) it was very common for business travelers to carry handguns. Then airplanes started getting hijacked to Cuba on a regular basis, and screening started.

For the first few years, screeners confiscated something like 30,000 handguns.

[ Parent ]

eyeglasses repair kits too (3.00 / 2) (#85)
by janra on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 11:59:16 PM EST

That micro screwdriver is extremely dangerous. They let me keep the magnifying glass and tiny screws though.
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
I'm suprised. (none / 0) (#86)
by xC0000005 on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 02:11:58 AM EST

I mean you could use the hollow handle on the magnifying glass to blow the screws like darts. Yeah, they took mine too once. :) The comment below about visual security to make us feel better is probably closer to the truth than I'd like it to be.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Colour (none / 0) (#117)
by Mitheral on Fri Sep 22, 2006 at 02:24:54 PM EST

I wonder how much colour differentiation is required? Anyone know what test they use for this?

[ Parent ]
this is not bees (2.75 / 4) (#47)
by wampswillion on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 08:22:53 PM EST

but it was interesting anyway.  

so right after 9/11, i guess because i was the opposite of the stereotype, i got picked on constantly for searching my bags and all that.  and one time when i was late to make a connection from cincinnati because of weather affecting another flight, and everyone else was already on the plane, and even tho i had already gone through security, i got picked on again before i could get on the plane.  

 and they spent 10 more minutes holding up the plane that was already held up so they could do this.  so then i had to get on the plane and walk past all these people who were tired and angry and wondering who the hell i was to hold up their plane, in order to get to my seat.

i also once got nail polish taken away from me because i decide to paint my nails on the plane because i was bored.  and  because apparently sandalwood lasting finish is a common weapon of terrorists.  

i also got knitting needles confiscated once, although those i could kinda see why.  i actually once stabbed my own self with one of those by mistake.    

but anyway, it's pretty clear to me that as your article points out, they are clearly more interested in the appearance of providing security than they are in actually making sure people are safe.  

Well (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by ShooterNeo on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 11:35:02 PM EST

What about the fumes?  That acetone from the nail polish can REALLY stink up the plane.  Were you using acetone based nail polish?  If so, what were you thinking?

[ Parent ]
well i was thinking (none / 0) (#56)
by wampswillion on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 11:42:39 PM EST

that i really hate to fly.  and that i needed to do something and that i had this bottle of nail polish in my purse and that it might be nice if since i had the time, to paint my nails and so i thought i would.  
never dreaming that this would cause the flight attendant to come unglued.  

[ Parent ]
WTF (3.00 / 2) (#61)
by zenofchai on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 09:46:58 AM EST

somebody in a sealed air environment starts painting their nails and they had better be dreaming that all kinds of hell and pain are going to come down. worse than smoking for fume factor. i can't imagine anyone trying to paint their nails on an airplane, enough to the point it makes me swear you're making it up, because i've never thought you to be that kind of moron.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
nope it's true (none / 0) (#62)
by wampswillion on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 10:14:15 AM EST

i'm that kind of moron.  

no really, i never gave it a thought.   i really do not like to fly.  and i was really just trying to occupy myself for a bit.  and i was really thinking that i could by painting my nails and i was really thinking that my nails could stand to be painted and that i was just sitting there.  and the bottle was in my purse and had gone right through security with me and so yes, i was the kind of moron who thought to hereself "well i think i'll paint my nails."  

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 1) (#72)
by ShooterNeo on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 07:04:11 PM EST

I can imagine you on that plane, hands trembling like a smoker who's quit for 2 days, trying to madly paint your nails.  

I don't like to fly either.  I'm not nervous -> be awesome to get a license someday, but I got a noticable headache last time I went and I was crammed into a tiny window seat next to a hefty buddy of mine.  I knew I would have felt better if I could have just gotten up and walked around.  I tried to but after more than a couple minutes standing I was told to sit my ass down.  Jerks.

[ Parent ]

well maybe (none / 0) (#76)
by wampswillion on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 07:26:41 AM EST

if you hadn't been wearting your "shooterneo" name badge, they would have relaxed.  they probably thought it indicated a terrorist.  

on my most recent flight, which was quite long, i walked around a lot.   but it amazed me how many people never got up or even moved around the whole 13 hours.  i thought maybe i was flying with corpses.  

[ Parent ]

Alright already (none / 0) (#89)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 30, 2006 at 06:54:52 AM EST

Was about to make an excuse that my screename is years old.  But, then I looked at your profile (best to compare dick lengths before you get in a pissing contest).  8000 posts!  Postwhore!

[ Parent ]
I think I speak for all here (2.66 / 3) (#48)
by LilDebbie on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 08:29:19 PM EST

when I ask:

How does one get a metal gun through the metal detector?

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

Level, and slow. (2.33 / 6) (#53)
by xC0000005 on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 09:25:20 PM EST

Don't move up and down much. Of course, if I were to try and punch airport security, it would be via a laptop. The batteries (lead) are solid black.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Really? (2.25 / 4) (#69)
by alby on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 06:05:44 PM EST

The batteries don't look all black to me.

[ Parent ]

Reversed. (3.00 / 4) (#71)
by xC0000005 on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 06:09:56 PM EST

You can clearly see the cells in that one - in many of the old ones, the battery pack is a solid (black in the machines I trained on, white on that one.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#91)
by alby on Sun Jul 30, 2006 at 06:55:10 PM EST

I've only ever seen battery packs composed of cells. That's what a battery is, it's a 'battery' of cells.

[ Parent ]

Think custom cells. (none / 1) (#97)
by vectro on Wed Aug 02, 2006 at 01:20:31 AM EST

Many portable devices (e.g., laptops, cell phones) have shaped single-cell batteries. This increases production cost substantially, but lets you get maximum battery life per unit volume. Presumably such batteries would in fact appear "all black".

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
I should clarify (none / 1) (#98)
by xC0000005 on Wed Aug 02, 2006 at 02:28:02 AM EST

that the laptop batteries, if scanned by themself, are not "all black", exactly - there's a thin line of gray/white which is the plastic casing. If the battery is in the laptop, it certainly looks all black. (or white, as in the picture from the post above). The point is that in a laptop such as my wife's where the battery is thick, there's a lot of space (relatively) that you can't see into. And screeners are used to that. Those two things are a problem together.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
So that's why... (2.50 / 2) (#74)
by danro on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 10:11:21 PM EST

So that's why the Stockholm Airport security goons has started to demand that I open up my laptop every single frigging time I fly...

Strangely they don't seem to do it in other airports in Sweden.

[ Parent ]

Must boot. (3.00 / 2) (#75)
by xC0000005 on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 11:01:31 PM EST

Of course, you see the basic problem - many laptops have multiple batteries. One might be real, the other, a shell masking something far worse.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Venting with flames (none / 0) (#108)
by fortytwo on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 12:28:18 PM EST

It doesn't need to be anything worse. Lithium batteries are essentially bombs anyway. Just take it apart, disable the safeties, put it back together. The laptop will boot fine, but short the contacts and it'll go nuclear.

[ Parent ]
Well (none / 1) (#109)
by ShooterNeo on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 09:06:00 PM EST

I COULD get out some math here and explain this, but just trust me : a fully charged Lithium Ion battery has nowhere close to the energy of the same mass in explosives.  So no, be better to pack the laptops battery with plastic explosives and have a second battery to power it.  Could easily throw an electronic detonator in there too - there's circuitry in batteries - to avoid the matches problem our shoe bomber had.

[ Parent ]
Answer: easily (pre-9/11, anyhow) (2.33 / 6) (#63)
by bgarcia on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 11:17:49 AM EST

My dad used to be a state policeman. One day we went to the airport to pick up my grandmother. As we were walking to the terminal (back then, you were allowed to meet arrivals at the terminal), he realized that he had forgotten to remove the pistol from his ankle holster. He decided that he would just flash his badge when the detector went off.

Turns out that it wasn't necessary. The metal detector never went off.

[ Parent ]

Guns through detectors (2.50 / 2) (#87)
by Big Bob the Finder on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 04:00:09 AM EST

The GAO auditors would beat the detectors by putting a weapon behind a large (think "Texas rodeo winner") belt buckle. The portal magnetometer would go off, so they'd get wanded. Of course the belt buckle would cause the wands to bleat- but how's a belt buckle going to hurt anyone?

My understanding is that auditors successfully got .45 caliber M1911 pistols through security in this fashion.

[ Parent ]

Belt buckles have to be opened too (2.50 / 2) (#88)
by janra on Sat Jul 29, 2006 at 01:19:04 PM EST

At least in Canada they do. I've seen quite a few people who set off the alarm get wanded and their belt buckle cause a beep. They then unbuckle their belt, hold it out of the way, and get their belly wanded again to make sure it was only a belt buckle.

I'm constantly amazed at how many people leave their keys in their pockets while going through security, though. Sometimes I swear I'm the only person in the lineup who doesn't get wanded, because I'm the only person who actually empties everything out of every pocket.
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]

Alright, now I'm curious (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 08:30:05 PM EST

If I stick my flintlock in a duffel and try to get past airport security, what are the odds they will catch it?

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne

You will be caught, most likely. (2.66 / 3) (#51)
by xC0000005 on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 09:24:18 PM EST

The barrel's a big black blot that they'll check.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
great story...+1FP all the way! (1.50 / 2) (#50)
by dakini on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 08:59:47 PM EST

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
Bee-man: excellent ..."monkeywrenching"! (none / 0) (#58)
by mybostinks on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 07:50:44 AM EST

landslide (none / 0) (#64)
by loteck on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 01:28:54 PM EST

look at those voting numbers :o
"You're in tune to the musical sound of loteck hi-fi, the musical sound that moves right round. Keep on moving ya'll." -Mylakovich

I am surprised. (none / 0) (#68)
by xC0000005 on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 05:21:00 PM EST

I didn't expect the voting to work out this way. The only thing I'm curious about is the abstain votes - I wonder if this really is something they just don't care about (reasonable, given the datedness of this story), or if there were issues I could have addressed. No changing it now, so be it.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Abstatin (none / 0) (#114)
by FattMattP on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 04:50:10 PM EST

I often abstain if I don't have time to read the whole article or don't care to.

[ Parent ]
beautiful $ (none / 0) (#73)
by skyknight on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 07:55:59 PM EST

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Back in the early 90's (none / 1) (#80)
by wuckers on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 01:56:39 PM EST

I snuck a brass pinch hitter, rubber-banded together with pens and pencils in my carry on (the weed was waiting at my destination), and that didn't get any attention.

Was drug paraphrenalia looked for?  Is it now?  Not that I'd try that again post-9/11.

Not that I know of. (none / 0) (#81)
by xC0000005 on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 02:08:56 PM EST

I was always interested in looking fo things that could get other people killed.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
I thought this was a story of taking bees on.. (3.00 / 3) (#83)
by newb4b0 on Fri Jul 28, 2006 at 06:39:33 PM EST


http://www.netmoneychat.com| NetMoneyChat Forums. No Registration necessary. Ya'll.

Heh (2.50 / 2) (#92)
by trhurler on Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 12:12:07 AM EST

Bruce Schneier quoted this. I'm surprised. I don't doubt the story might be true, but were I a well known security professional, I would not blog about a k5 story without checking into it first...

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Who? (none / 1) (#93)
by xC0000005 on Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 12:59:19 AM EST

Don't know the name.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Security consultant (none / 0) (#94)
by wiredog on Mon Jul 31, 2006 at 08:45:43 AM EST

Wrote "Applied Cryptography", "Beyond Fear", and some other good books on security.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Link here (none / 0) (#105)
by The Diary Section on Sun Aug 06, 2006 at 08:07:25 PM EST


Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]
Enjoyed the story! :) (none / 0) (#100)
by JennyB on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 05:53:44 AM EST

I always wonder how airport security is organized "inside". You shed some light on this topic, which is extremely interesting for me. I was surprised when you said that only minimal qualifications are required for this job.
He almost survived the car crash

Read the post below (none / 0) (#102)
by xC0000005 on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 12:26:36 PM EST

where I listed today's qualifications - they are more stringent now, but at the time, there were almost no requirements.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
that's much better (none / 0) (#104)
by JennyB on Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 04:51:30 AM EST

*sigh of relief* :) Now I feel in safery again, when flying by plane
He almost survived the car crash

[ Parent ]
Ok I have to know... (none / 0) (#101)
by z84976 on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 09:44:16 AM EST

Were you working at Hartsfield?

DFW$ (none / 0) (#103)
by xC0000005 on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 12:27:00 PM EST

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
bocka bocka! (none / 0) (#111)
by I slept with your fat ugly punk girlfriend on Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 06:44:22 AM EST

bocka bocka

They could both say a few "words." (none / 0) (#113)
by xC0000005 on Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 12:55:12 PM EST

I wouldn't really say it was english, because they were imitating an old indian man.

"Bocka" - "Back", the "a" sound on the end was the result of an extreme emphasis on the "ck"
"Schteep" - "Step", you just had to hear this one.
"Jin" - I believe "again", but due to their adding the a to "back", its hard to say. Not often used.
"Pis" - "Please", used when someone (as usual) failed, to ask them to step over to the wand point.
There were probably a couple others, but that's about all I ever heard them say.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]

security (none / 0) (#115)
by headonfire on Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 10:03:17 AM EST

is a funny business.  i left on a trip and was fine on the way out; on the way back the screeners found i'd accidentally left my leatherman in my backpack.  Oops.  that bag came round-trip with me, and I'd forgotten I put it in there.  Had to mail it to myself.  Of course, I doubt my originating airport ever got to know that they missed something.  

At one point I was transporting a firearm in a locked case inside a large bag and the TSA paged me to come and unlock it.  They made me give them the combination to the lock to open it, which is specifically against their policy; they also then admitted that they really just wanted to see my gun, as they were also avid shooters.  they were polite, but it was irritating - i'd been spending my final moments in town having slushies at the snack bar with my father.

don't even get me started on non-airport security.  
let me tell you from personal experience, being a security guard is one of the worst goddamn jobs ever, particularly if you're got two brain cells to rub together. if it's a quiet place, you're bored out of your skull.  if it's lively, then you don't get a moment's rest and you're constantly at risk; not to mention the mental exhaustion from being half terrified yet having to be a hardass.  

The uniform is nobody's friend, and you become the uniform.  So many people have an innate aversion to perceived authority, it's not funny.  Few people talk to you.  Some may shout or swear.  others just won't look you in the eye, even if you put on your best award-winning smile.

All that for between $9-12 an hour.  That's not a living wage around here.  So you're making shit money for watching other people's junk and trying not to get your ass kicked, stabbed, or shot in the meanwhile.

oops. i got started.

Security guard (none / 0) (#116)
by xC0000005 on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 01:50:58 AM EST

Did that, for an extremely brief period (read a week or so). I don't get paid enough for the sort of danger I was in. Fancy cars in poor area of town in the middle of the night. Not enough money in it. Bullet proof glass on a plywood shell. Sigh.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
The Thin, Distant Line | 117 comments (83 topical, 34 editorial, 0 hidden)
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