… wait ’til you see the new TSA regulations!
Now, I’ll admit that when I learned that the latest terrorist attempt occurred on Northwest’s Amsterdam-Detroit flight, I was a little spooked. Since that’s a flight I’ve taken several times in the past, even a highly inept terrorist seemed pretty real to me.
But, oh, these new regulations make the response to the shoe bomber look like pure genius (and mind you, even my ten-year-old already sees the stupidity of x-raying everyone’s shoes). I’m all in favor of measures that might actually save lives – like, say, stopping suspected jihadists from boarding airplanes? Or denying them a visa? Or keeping syringes out of carryon luggage (except for people with a documented medical need)?
The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.
But several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.
Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item, and domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines.
Yipes! I fly to and from Europe just about every year, always with two kids in tow. They’re getting older and more civilized now, but the prospect of having nothing on our laps except the fucking Sky Mall catalog is still excruciating. No books? No DVD player? No handheld toys? Not even coloring materials?
I guess I will have to entertain my kids with my delightful personality! They will be thrilled!
But my sprouts are at least school-aged. I really feel for the parents of toddlers and preschoolers. Keeping a tot strapped in for takeoff and landing is enough of a struggle. There have already been a few instances of flight attendants ejecting toddlers and their parents before departure when the kids were behaving like kids instead of little Hummel figurines.
Then there’s the bathroom problem. This obviously affects kids (who will have to hope for soft-hearted flight attendants) but it’s a big problem for many adults, too. On short flights – 90 minutes or less – people likely won’t have access to the bathroom at all. Add in the time spent boarding and waiting to take off, and you can easily reach two or three hours without a chance to use the facilities.
As the daughter of a Crohn’s patient, I know there are some people who often can’t wait for more than a few minutes without risking a godawful mess. People with bladder urgency problems or stress incontinence can’t wait, either. Such problems are distressingly common among women (though men aren’t spared, either). A 2008 study by Ingrid Nygaard et al. found the 15.7% of adult, non-institutionalized women suffered from moderate-t0-severe incontinence and 9.0% from fecal incontinence. And y’know, these conditions disproportionately affect mothers: the same survey found that women with three or more deliveries were 2.5 times more likely to report such issues than women who’d never had a baby.
Maybe we’ll eventually all be expected to don adult diapers for the duration of the flight. Hey, astronauts do it! Just think of it as an adventure in low-altitude space travel!
And the gain for the new policy is … what, exactly? Potential terrorists may have to plan their explosions for shortly after takeoff, thus forgoing the no-longer-free cocktails? That’ll be a real deterrent, considering that the mini-bottles of alcohol were never a huge hit among the jihadist crowd anyway.
Then again, there are some folks who already apparently think sharing a plane with kids is nearly as bad as traveling with a terrorist. After the recent incident where Southwest ejected a mother and child before take off, the amount of vitriol vented at parents and children at Broadsheet – a feminist blog! – was just stunning:
Throw Them from the Plane (at Altitude)
Sorry, I’m childless which apparently makes me already at risk for being an asshole, but having flown recently in a plane with a six year old kid who apparently was autistic and screamed the whole way? Fuck’em. If they can’t shut up, I don’t want them on the plane. That’s what driving was invented for.
(More examples of this constituency are here. This comment was unfortunately not atypical, although it gets bonus cruelty points for its ableism.)
Maybe we don’t have to worry about such people becoming terrorists, but the new policy sounds like a great way to achieve a new spike in air rage among child-haters.
As for those situations where driving isn’t practical, such as the trans-Atlantic routes, I guess families are supposed to travel by rowboat, so as not to disturb anyone? At least the kids would be too busy paddling to be bored.
Update, 12/28/09, 5:45 p.m.: I wrote this before I read that Ivana Trump got booted from a plane for acting even worse than some rather unruly kids. According to the HuffPost:
Police say Ivana Trump has been escorted off a plane in Florida after she became belligerent when children were running and screaming in the aisles.
Authorities say the first ex-wife of billionaire Donald Trump cursed at the children Saturday, and when flight attendants on the New York-bound plane tried to calm her, she became even more aggravated.
Now, obviously the kids shouldn’t have been running and screaming, either, but the kids, at least, still have a decent chance of becoming civilized.