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Pilot Pat-Downs

Security is a big issue when something bad happens. When nothing bad is happening, it doesn’t seem necessary or appropriate. Everyone who travels on commercial planes experiences, first hand, the uncomfortable intersection of security rules and - what by any definition should be considered – harmless activity.

Those who have been subjected to a TSA “pat-down” know well the sense that they have had to endure something that is not quite right. It doesn’t feel right because the pat-downs are thorough like those given to prisoners. And it doesn’t feel right because a passenger hasn’t done anything to warrant it except to show up for a flight on a commercial plane.

Most amusing is the sight of TSA hand-searching airline pilots. In addition to the pens and tie pin nominally worn by most pilots, airlines require pilots to wear metal wings and name tags. The extra metal required to be worn by the pilot can set off the TSA’s metal detectors. Uh-oh. The pilot must now submit to a pat-down. A full pat-down, nothing left out pat-down. A shoes off, pens out, watch off, belt off, hands inside the belt line all around the top of your pants, spread your legs, arms-out pat-down. Nothing like making sure that the guy who is about to start-up and operate a 600 mile an hour machine with three hundred people and 70 tons of fuel on board and preparing to manage a nearly infinite number of variables is sufficiently pissed-off.

Until the bad guys start wearing uniforms or name tags that help identify their not-so-good intentions, all of us will have to submit to the indignities imposed by the TSA. We do so with varying degrees of patience with the hope that there will soon be a better, less intrusive and time-consuming method of determining whether we are good people or not. Unlike St. Peter, the TSA doesn’t already know.

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