by Ira Katz
Recently by Ira Katz: Edgar Allan Poe and the Purloined Social Science
Virtually every minute of every day the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is committing the serious crimes of arbitrary search and seizure (a hunt by law enforcement officials for property or communications believed to be evidence of crime, and the act of taking possession of this property) and assault (an act that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent, harmful, or offensive contact). I contend every minute because international airports that have flights to the US have also been forced to implement TSA procedures. For me, an expat living in France, the formerly cheerful anticipation flying back home is now perceived with dread. My recent trip through the Dallas, Denver and Orlando airports was typically awful, but with what I found to be another crime. In the spirit of Betty Akers I will describe what transpired below.
I travelled to Denver for a conference where I had purchased a small (perhaps less than 100 ml) snow globe with a buffalo in it as a gift for my three-year-old daughter. It was in my luggage when I passed through security in Denver for a flight to Orlando. Leaving Orlando for New York for a connection to Paris the globe was identified on the scanner and confiscated. I was politely offered to check my bag, but waiting another 30 minutes to go through security again is not a real option. So the little snow globe souvenir was gone. Luckily I had also bought a book for my little one.
This admittedly small incident I believe accurately reflects the stupidity and inconsistency of the TSA. Traveling is inconvenienced, often to a great extent because Blair's government ginned up a case against a supposed cell planning to use liquids to make a bomb. We must take off our shoes because of a single attempted shoe bomb that failed. We must go through porno scanners and be groped because of a single attempted underwear bomb that failed. These were the thoughts passing through my mind as I gathered up my belongings in Orlando, sans my daughter's buffalo, when I spotted a stand with a stack of TSA Customer Comment Cards that cheerfully stated that the agency wants you to "Help us improve our customer service by completing and returning this card to a TSA drop box, to a TSA supervisor or by mail."
CUSTOMER! This is a complete disfiguration of the word customer, which, as Orwell taught, is a grave crime when put to the service of state power. This use is akin to a slave owner calling his chattel employees. A customer is a person who purchases goods or services from another. The appropriate word is victim, a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency. Now I am sure travelers could complete reams of victim comment cards. The cards ask the victim to provide their name and contact information. It is likely that the comment card is simply a ploy to have on file the names of trouble makers.
My trip back to France was without further incident. But I can tell you, traveling by train is much more enjoyable.
Ira Katz [send him mail] lives in Paris and works as a research engineer for a French company. He is the co-author of Handling Mr. Hyde: Questions and Answers about Manic Depression and Introduction to Fluid Mechanics.