Back in December 2001, just three months after 9/11, Richard Reid, a passenger on an American Airlines flight, tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes. Fortunately for everyone on board, Reid’s shoe size was considerably higher than his IQ. He brought attention to himself, was subdued by passengers and is currently serving a life sentence at a maximum security prison in Colorado, the only prisoner in America required to wear plastic see-through shoes.
Thanks to the shoe bomber, many passengers were asked to remove their shoes as they passed through airport security and, as you can imagine, some of them made quite a stink. And others made a stink about the stink. As for me, I found myself cursing the shoe bomber in several languages, thanks to the book “The Rough Guide to World Cursing.”
Me: “$#@& shoe bomber! If it weren’t for him, I’d be able to travel without showing everyone the hole in my sock.”
Security officer: “That’s a big hole. Do you mind if I look inside it?”
Millions of people removed their shoes over the last decade and not a single bomb was found, though a Kentucky man did knock several people out with the fumes from his feet.
Fast forward to December 2009 and we had another case of a failed bombing attempt aboard a plane. This time, the alleged terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old passenger on a Northwest Airlines flight, concealed the explosives in his underwear. I say “alleged terrorist” because his lawyer will likely contend that he wasn’t trying to blow up the plane –- he was merely trying to give himself a sex change operation.
Fortunately, the explosives in his underwear failed to detonate, producing only flames and popping sounds, prompting one Christian on the plane to wonder if this was truly a miracle from God, a slightly different version of the “burning bush.”
Needless to say, many travelers were concerned that they would now need to remove their underwear at the security checkpoint. But a top U.S. security official put them at ease, saying, “We respect the rights of passengers and will not ask them to remove any undergarments. We will just use scanners to see right through them.”
The underwear bomber was not paid by the company that makes full-body scanners, but considering how much they’ve benefited from his actions, the least they could do is send him a new pair of underwear.
I’m not keen on someone using a scanner to look through my clothes, but since terrorism is such a big concern these days, I have no objection to scanners being used on everyone else on the plane. Especially the ones who seem a little too well-endowed. Yes, I’m talking about you, Miss Aspiring Model.
Thankfully, we have the option of getting a pat-down instead of a full-body scan. And if the security officer happens to be particularly attractive, we may be inclined to get a full-body pat-down.
If you think these security measures go too far, just wait until a terrorist hides explosives in one of his orifices. The full-body scan will seem mild compared to the ROP (random orifice probe). So don’t laugh when your Indian friend, who works at the airport, says, “Goodbye. I’m off to my orifice job.” It could mean that security has been tightened further.
Security officer: “Sorry for the intrusion, sir. Just want to make sure you have nothing in there.”
Me: “What would I be hiding in there?”
Officer: “That’s what I’m going to find out. Hmmm … I see some wax, but no wick.”
Me: “That’s ear wax, you idiot!”
Officer: “Yeah, sure. That’s what they all say. I’m going to have to take a sample and test it, just to make sure. It will only take three hours.”
Me: “Three hours? What am I going to do in the meantime?”
Officer: “Well, you could go shopping for a new pair of socks.”
Cartoon by Mahendra Shah