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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Oh, for goodness sake! (airport stupidity) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Oh, for goodness sake! (airport stupidity)
Nell Gwyn
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link

This is just so stupid! A man was made to miss his flight because someone heard him - GASP! - speaking a language other than English on his cellphone.

And it wasn't just your average paranoid traveler - it was an off-duty airline employee. At one time, I'd have thought they'd be slightly more informed about what ought and ought not to be considered suspiscious, but no longer.

My two favorite parts of the article:

quote:
Parker said the man was cooperative and boarded a later flight to Texas. He told officials that he would not speak in a foreign language on his cell phone at an airport in the future.
I'm sure they were sincerely relieved by this and completely missed the irony, or maybe I'm just reading that into it. And my other favorite is the bit at the bottom:

Sound off:
What kind of suspicious activity have you noticed at SeaTac Airport?
Read 22 comments and post your own now!

[Roll Eyes]

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BlackBlade
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Though not related I have to get VERY mad at my younger brother everytime we are at the airport because his mention of taboo topics in airports jumps up 5000% for some reason once he is in the airport.

"Hey hey! What if you had a bomb in a plastic container in your pocket? How would they catch you?"

"What if you accidentally brought a gun, what would they do to you?"

Man I hate being the one who has to find a way to very aggressvely stop him without drawing attention to us. [Frown]

But back on topic, yes the incident is very ridiculous. But isnt it more ridiculous that people crash planes into buildings filled with innocent people as a way to hurt those in power?

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Mucus
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Heh, domestic flight to Texas.
I hope that the employee in question does not get transferred to an international route, otherwise they're going to have a lot of work on their hands.

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Artemisia Tridentata
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I'm flying to Alabama on Friday. I am wondering about their new "sniffer" machines, since everything I own has explosives residue on it. That's what we work with here and a little gets spread around no matter now carefull you are. If I end up a homeland security victim I'll report it here.
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Synesthesia
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quote:



But back on topic, yes the incident is very ridiculous. But isnt it more ridiculous that people crash planes into buildings filled with innocent people as a way to hurt those in power?

Like those things are even related... [Mad]
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ElJay
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AT, I would totally pack a paycheck or your company badge showing where you worked and a copy of the company annual report or some sort of brochure showing what the company does. Just in case you get sniffed or swabbed and have to explain the residue, having some convenient documentation will probably make things go a lot faster.
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mackillian
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quote:
If I end up a homeland security victim I'll report it here.
...if we ever see you again... o_O
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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by Nell Gwyn:

Sound off:
What kind of suspicious activity have you noticed at SeaTac Airport?
Read 22 comments and post your own now!

[Roll Eyes]

Actually, most of those posts are right on the money.
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Nell Gwyn
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Oh, I wasn't referring to the posts themselves. Just the rather biased question they chose to invite the posts. That's what the [Roll Eyes] was for. Maybe they were trying to be funny/sardonic with it, but it didn't read that way to me.
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scholar
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My favorite airport security still had to be when they selected my dog for special security check. They didn't search us, just the dog. Poor little guy- he got strip searched. [Frown] (my dog is a miniature dachshund).
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Dan_raven
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Well, a miniature dachshund is shaped like a stick of TNT. Just light the tail, and BOOM!

Besides, they have been know to drop lethal packages here and there.

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Nighthawk
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Well, dogs are more use to cavity searches than adults are. Would you rather it be you?
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MyrddinFyre
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Hehehe.

Sounds like another case of Foreign Languages Paired With Darker Skin, like that poor Muslim guy who was taken off his flight for praying (or something like that). Don't people know anything about terrorists? They're smarter than to bring attention to their connection with other countries. Ugh, paranoia is annoying.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Wait. There is mention in the story that "The man also apparently said something in English about a sporting rivalry at his alma mater."

If this guy (and I'm not saying he did, just if) said something like "we need to get a guy in past their defense, which is tighter than it used to be, and then hit them from behind" or the like, followed/preceded by something in a language the airport employee didn't understand, then I wouldn't say this was an over-call. An error in retrospect, but appropriate given the information at the time.

----

Edited to add: If the story seems either too amazing or too outrageous to be true, then we generally don't have all the facts straight. Not always, but generally. And in this case, there was this odd specific mention of a sports rivalry in English, and that seems like it could fit into the story in a way that makes it more sensible.

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Morbo
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A sad case. Another sad case was recently when whiny passengers complained about a man with Arabic writing on his T-shirt. They made such a fuss that TSA agents bought a shirt and told him he could either wear it or take another flight. [Frown]
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Morbo:
A sad case.

Morbo, what do you think of the reference to a "sports rivalry" comment in English? If the details were as I hypothesized, would you have considered that further investigation unwarranted and this still a "sad case"?

(*friendly curiosity [Smile] )

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Morbo
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Claudia, I would say it's sad if the man was deemed suspicious merely for speaking a foreign language.

IF he said something like you hypothesized, it's more understandable and reasonable.

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quidscribis
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So, no one should ever talk about sports in an airport? [Wink]
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by quidscribis:
So, no one should ever talk about sports in an airport? [Wink]

Hmm. Hmmmmm.

I'd say, instead, that if one wishes to talk about anything and were to use words such as "attack," "ambush," "infiltrate," "overthrow," "massacre," and the like*** -- be it sports, or card games like bridge, or a plot for a story one is writing about Hannibal and the Great Oliphauntine Emigration -- then it is not unreasonable to expect to have to be clear about the extent and relevance of the topic discussed, especially as per being in an airport at the time.

Does that make sense, or would you find it an unreasonable expectation?

(Not to be snarky -- honestly unsure. *smile)

----

***Of course, I do not know if this is the sort of situation that lead to this particular encounter. I have my suspicions, but they are just suspicions.

----

Edited to add: Thanks for the clarification, Morbo. I'd certainly agree with you, then.

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rivka
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Personally, I wouldn't find it at all unreasonable to simply rephrase that as
quote:
So, no one should ever talk about sports?
*flees*

[Big Grin]

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Theca
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If the man had said he'd never discuss sports in an airport again, or that he'd watch his words, I'd be happier than I am hearing instead that he won't use foreign languages in airports anymore. That's just so wrong.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Theca:
If the man had said he'd never discuss sports in an airport again, or that he'd watch his words, I'd be happier than I am hearing instead that he won't use foreign languages in airports anymore. That's just so wrong.

I, for one, would hate to see only English spoken in US airports. What a pity that would be.

I wonder how selective the quoting of the man is question was, though, Theca. I suspect (don't know, but I suspect) that this piece was written to highlight the drama and rile up passionate responses. Drama sells.

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Lyrhawn
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Last time I flew, I was wearing a Zetterberg jersey (Detroit Red Wings), and the x-ray guy asked me a couple questions, really friendly like, and then some a bit more pointed. It went from "Go Wings!" to a somewhat more interview like situation where I almost felt like he was testing my knowledge of the Wings.

Damn good thing I wasn't wearing my Pistons jersey, I wouldn't have known enough to even banter with him.

Weird how even the most innocuous conversation suddenly becomes tense at an airport.

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Morbo
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That's reminiscent of scenes from old war movies (and real life in WWII), where two patrols stumble on one another and quiz each other on the World Series or some other Americana. Now airports are battle zones. [Frown] [Angst]

In the deathless prose of some guy quoted in a Spider Robinson novel, "The danger zone is everywhere!"

edit: I love the internet. Percy Mayfield wrote DangerZone in 1950

Just read your paper
And you'll see
Just exactly what keeps worryin' me
Yeah, you'll see the world is in an uproar
The danger zone is everywhere

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AvidReader
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I keep advocating a boycott of the airlines. They've gotten out of hand with their lousy security that doesn't even prevent anything. When we came back from Indy this summer, we had to check our bags to get our toilettries home. But we forgot to take the gate tag off from the trip up. So at the connection in Memphis, the guy brought us our checked bag thinking it was gate checked. I had all my liquids and gels back. Boy I'm glad I suffered through an extra half hour of security for THAT.

I've been advocating Amtrack instead. They could use the business and would probably be happy to have us. So far everyone keeps whining that the train takes too long. Post Katrina, they don't seem to be running out of Tally, so I can't get a great comparison. The New Orleans to Indy leg is about 24 hours with a stop over in Chigago. For two, it's under 400 bucks. If I assume half a day for the Tally-NO leg and half the price for half the trip, it's a day and a half for 600 bucks for two of us. I paid over 800 (about 1000 after I had to transfer the tickets) for the four hours it took us flying, including stopover.

If I factor in the hour preflight, plus security, plus the new no food and drinks policy, and how exhausted I am after the flight, I think I might take the extra time for the train. I can get up and move around. They have a lounge and dining car. And I'd save two hundred dollars or better for the privilege.

So who's with me? Down with the airlines! Let's take the train.

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pH
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Invent a teleporter, and I'll use it.

But I can't sit on a train for very long.

Let's all donate money and buy a Hatrack private jet!

-pH

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El JT de Spang
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quote:
If I factor in the hour preflight, plus security, plus the new no food and drinks policy, and how exhausted I am after the flight, I think I might take the extra time for the train. I can get up and move around. They have a lounge and dining car. And I'd save two hundred dollars or better for the privilege.
As an added bonus, every train I've ever been on has been really quiet. And you can use your cellphone throughout the trip.
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Nighthawk
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So if I'm watching a football game at an airport bar, and I make an off comment about someone missing a tackle and that he "should've taken that guy down", are DHS agents going to come jumping at me from behind the bar?

And...

quote:
I, for one, would hate to see only English spoken in US airports. What a pity that would be.
In Miami International Airport, you're lucky if you hear English.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Nighthawk:
So if I'm watching a football game at an airport bar, and I make an off comment about someone missing a tackle and that he "should've taken that guy down", are DHS agents going to come jumping at me from behind the bar?


I expect that if you were "watching a football game at an airport bar," then it would be reasonable to take that into account in terms of "context."

(I don't mean to be snarky, really, but the situation you propose seems to be obviously silly on the surface. And I'm not sure how to respond in a way that is less uncharitable than a sort of "Well, duh, if you are watching a football game that everyone can see at the time, then surely this is a different situation than being off in a corner talking on a phone without that context.")

[Edited to add:
This doesn't seem much different than the restrictions on speech at airports that we've always had, actually. One could really love one's bath bomb (and I do -- I find the rose-petaled one from Lush to be extraordinary) and worry about it getting crushed in the luggage. And if one was holding it and said "I wanted to make sure that my fizzy bath bomb didn't get damaged en route" while looking at the delightful little ball o' goodness, then this would be a totally different context than if one were to just remark offhand, "I hope my bomb doesn't get damaged in my luggage" while passing through the metal detector. Right? (Isn't this obvious?]

quote:
And...

quote:
I, for one, would hate to see only English spoken in US airports. What a pity that would be.
In Miami International Airport, you're lucky if you hear English.
Nighthawk, I was responding to a comment made by Theca, where we were both noting how unpleasant this hypothetical future might be. You do realize that we were not making any claims about how the world is right now, I trust.

---

Am I coming across as being a real jerk to you? I don't understand the flippancy and dismissiveness, but it might well just be that I am misreading you. (Am I? If so, my apologies.)

[ October 04, 2006, 01:18 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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ludosti
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AT - I'm in the same boat. Let me know if you run into any issues with the sniffers - I'd love to know.
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Libbie
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Oh my gosh. Easily one of the stupidest things I've heard all month. OH NO, A FOREIGN LANGUAGE! TERROR ALERT LEVEL RED!
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Libbie
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:


If I factor in the hour preflight, plus security, plus the new no food and drinks policy, and how exhausted I am after the flight, I think I might take the extra time for the train. I can get up and move around. They have a lounge and dining car. And I'd save two hundred dollars or better for the privilege.

So who's with me? Down with the airlines! Let's take the train.

I've already been thinking about that! If I end up going to the Boot Camp next summer, I'll be taking Amtrak for sure. It's more expensive than flying for me, but way less annoying - plus, EXTRA time to write! It sounds so much more relaxing to go by train.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Libbie:
Oh my gosh. Easily one of the stupidest things I've heard all month. OH NO, A FOREIGN LANGUAGE! TERROR ALERT LEVEL RED!

(Ah, well. *gives up [Smile] )

---

[Edited to add quotation and the following:

Mind you, I'm all for trains. I think it's a much more sensible alternative in so many ways. Go, choo-choo, go!

I had a list of ways to make train travel more pleasant, sort of tricks of the road. (or rails, rather) I'd like to dig that back up again.]

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Zeugma
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While I'd also love to travel exclusively by train, I have yet to board an Amtrak that's less than 5 hours late. Most of the cars I've been on have been poorly kept if not filthy, and if you don't bring enough food for the trip you'll be waiting in line to pay through the nose for a microwaved hamburger.

That said, I still take the train occasionally, but every trip makes me a little less enthusiastic about Amtrak. [Razz]

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ClaudiaTherese
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I think a good bit of the timing problem with Amtrak is that they have to pull aside to let all freight trains past, and this can throw off the schedule. Once it's off, then the conflicts seem to multiply because everthing thereafter is off, too.

And so fewer people take the trains (understandably), leading Amtrak to charge more, and so fewer people take the trains (understandably), and so there is less revenue overall, and so it is harder to hire a full complement of good staff, and so fewer people take the trains (understandably), etc.

I, too, hate the food options available on trains. I suspect that if the company had larger volume, there would be less financial pressure to gouge the trapped masses here. I hope so, at least.

Where trains work in other countries, they tend to have set-aside rails for passenger use, and the volume of use stays high. However, we seem (as a whole) to be less happy about subsidizing the train system (at the local and federal levels) than we are about subsidizing airplanes and airports.

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airmanfour
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This is my personal favorite . I think I broke something when I heard about that.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Synesthesia:
quote:



But back on topic, yes the incident is very ridiculous. But isnt it more ridiculous that people crash planes into buildings filled with innocent people as a way to hurt those in power?

Like those things are even related... [Mad]
Wasnt tryign to conjure THAT response.

Merely noting that increased airport security invariably puts people on edge.

That makes them more liable to see threat where it does not exist. THATS ALL I PROMISE!

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Synesthesia
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Ok then.
*a bit vindicated*

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GaalDornick
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"Actually, most of those posts are right on the money."

Some, but some are pretty dumb. I don't understand why they're all attacking Ted Fleming. He said "Unfortunately, if you look and/or sound Arabic, you will be scrutinized.". That sounds about right, but he recieved responses like

"Ted Fleming,

You're a racist, simply because you make sweeping generalizations about people because of their ethnic origins. That's the definition of racism, and you fit the description to a "T"."

That's ridiculous, that wasn't a racist comment, he said "Unfortunately", not that he supports the method. And I don't know where that guy got "Many Arabs are terrorists" from his post.

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Nell Gwyn
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(Just catching up with this thread. Silly work.)

CT, I'm sure it's certainly possible that the article has a certain amount of spin to its approach. I don't know anything about that newspaper, so I have no idea if it tends to have a more liberal or conservative slant or what-have-you.

But even if your hypothetical sports banter did happen the way you speculated, it still irks me that the person who reported him did that instead of taking a minute to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and maybe, since he clearly spoke English and could communicate with him, he could have just gone up to him and said, "Hey, what language is that? I don't think I've ever heard it before. Where are you from?" instead of jumping to conclusions.

Maybe that's hoping for too much, and I'm not really sure that, in the same situation, I'd be able to do that either. It just makes me sad that it seems like we're being encouraged to fear people who are different and discouraged from trying to understand and appreciate them. I know that's a vast generalization and that it doesn't apply to all differences, but the amount it applies to is still too much.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Nell, I agree that the world would be a much better place if that could be the automatic response. I don't think it is general policy at airlines, though, and I think (not sure, but I think) that there is reasoning behind the automatic clamp-down when there is something suspicious going on in airports. Kind of like how you don't joke around (or even speak casually) about a bomb at the security screening, because they aren't going to just say "hey, are you kidding or not? Because if you aren't kidding, we need to detain you."

I don't think (again, not sure, but don't think) that it was the fact that this guy was speaking another language that was the problem. I think it was that he was "discussing a sports rivalry" [presumably in a way that was not clearly sports-related, as it seems to have been part of the later explanation drawn out of him] ,and that he was additionally around that part of the conversation was speaking in another language, so the person listening couldn't be sure that other plans were not being made. [i.e., couldn't tell exactly what it was all about, although communication was ongoing]

It's odd for me to be making concessions here, because I am absolutely appalled at the restictions of personal liberties we've seen for US citizens and non-citizens. However, I do think there is potentially a sensible reason for it in this case.

I'll see if I can find an explanation online of why airport security always takes anything suspicious as a threat so immediately seriously.

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Morbo
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airmanfour's link is even more bizarre. What good can come from airport security harassing an 84 year old Medal of Honor recipient and retired general, on his way to West Point? He even had the medal on him, to show cadets.
quote:
[Ret. General] FOSS: I was on my way -- after a National Rifle Association board of directors meeting -- to go up to West Point and speak to the sophomore class there.

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ClaudiaTherese
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I found it odd, too, Morbo. I wonder if he had his formal identification on him, or whether he just seemed to be a guy with some sharp pointy stuff that may or may not have been real (from a first glance). If he did become blustering and belligerant (not saying he did, just wondering if it was possible) at being challenged and didn't have formal "I am a General and this is a Real Medal of Honor" on him, maybe they thought he might just be a crackpot.

There are a lot of odd people out there. I suppose it depends a lot on how he presented himself. Regardless, it certainly could have been outside the pale. I can also see how it might have been within the pale, especially having seen some of the people that come through the ER doors.

---

Nell, BTW, I'd personally attribute any slant more to the "news as commercial product" bent than any particular political leaning of the paper.

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Nell Gwyn
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quote:
Originally posted by Morbo:
airmanfour's link is even more bizarre. What good can come from airport security harassing an 84 year old Medal of Honor recipient and retired general, on his way to West Point? He even had the medal on him, to show cadets.

I just read that link now. Bizarre, indeed. Granted, it was less than six months after 9/11, but the security folk seemed more enthusiastic than they really needed to be. Three times with the boots and everything? And at his age, taking boots off was probably a serious chore, to say the least. My dad used to wear no other footwear but boots, and getting them on and off was no picnic. He's fairly close to the general's age (and is also a WW2 vet).

CT, I wouldn't expect airlines to adopt that sort of policy with the way the world is now, but it would be nice if people could. Your scenario probably does sound like the most logical explanation of all motives, though.

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Artemisia Tridentata
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I friend of my daughter used to be a gate checker in the Reno airport. She quit after Rodeo Week. The buckles were more than she wanted to handle.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Nell Gwyn:
CT, I wouldn't expect airlines to adopt that sort of policy with the way the world is now, but it would be nice if people could.

I will join you in wishing there were more courtesy in the world.

Also, it's worth noting that there is a rather common reaction to having just a little power -- sometimes people who have very little elsewhere turn into petty little tyrants when they get a little control over other people (think of the DMV lines, security guards at the mall, etc.). It is entirely possible that someone was very much enjoying being a jerk in this scenario, especially if the General was not "playing by the rules."

Some people worship the rules. It is what gives and sustains their sense of self-importance. Were that it were not so. *rueful look

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FlyingCow
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So, you think he'd have gotten as much attention if the foreign language he was speaking was Spanish?
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by FlyingCow:
So, you think he'd have gotten as much attention if the foreign language he was speaking was Spanish?

I doubt it. Maybe, but likely not.

But I don't see how that invalidates taking the time to investigate this case more thoroughly and making sure everything worked out. Perhaps if he had been speaking Spanish, that should have been investigated more thoroughly, too, and maybe it would have. But I doubt it.

Look, CIA agents are not going to be jumping out from behind bars and no, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. This wasn't necessarily a case of OMG!! This is outrageous!, and if you are (IMO) bizarrely attached to making it so, then I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

I'm cool with that. [Smile] And I still like all of you, even if I can't get this one.

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Dagonee
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quote:
it still irks me that the person who reported him did that instead of taking a minute to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and maybe, since he clearly spoke English and could communicate with him, he could have just gone up to him and said, "Hey, what language is that? I don't think I've ever heard it before. Where are you from?" instead of jumping to conclusions.

It's entirely possible that airline personal are specifically told not to confront, but rather report, anyone they consider a potential security threat. This allows surveillance before alerting the person.

And I don't know that this is a bad thing, either. I think they should probably have been able to clear this up without making the guy miss a flight, but I don't think private, ameteur investigation is likely to be at all helpful.

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TheGrimace
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what bugs me about the incident is that he left the whole thing with the resolution that he wouldn't speak another language while in the airport. Effectively the security measures made him suppress his heritage just to fit in.

Much as many people might want it, there is no official language in this country, so he didn't do anything that should have been suspicious (presuming there wasn't something more confusing/worrisome in the english that he was overheard speaking). If similar measures were taken at LAX half the people going through the place would be detained...

I'm not saying it can't be suspicious, and that it doesn't make for more effective security in some situations, but what language someone speaks shouldn't play a factor. Like someone said above, "what if he was speaking spanish?" the answer is that he wouldn't have been questioned.

Too many people are keyed into the whole "is he arabic? did that sound like what I think arabic sounds like? then he's more likely to be a terrorist" thing. What about potential muslim terrorists from indonesia? what about basque separatists who would be speaking spanish? what about KKK members? To our limited mindset many americans tend to racially profile about 2/3rds of the world population as potential terrorists which is just rediculous.

All that being said, even English, as spoken by a native english-speaker can often sound like a foreign language when you say the right phrase at the right speed etc. Or if I were on the phone talking to one of my coworkers all the acronyms I would be using, and perhaps even hedging my speech to protect company proprietary information would likely sound "suspicious."

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