Post-Christmas trip: A few observations on changing airport technology and surveillance

Number 1, by far: the new Indianapolis airport appears to be the only one I’ve ever been in that has the bathroom toilet stall doors opening out rather than in. So much more convenient for travelers all trying to crowd their stuff in with them and then close the stall door. DUH!

Googling the question, I came upon this, which included five possible reasons, one of which makes sense from a paranoid point of view, which of course, is the “normal” point of view, now that “terrorists” supposedly lurk everywhere.

Actually, the question of stall doors is not “number 1, by far,” though it is a comment on the current state of the way humans wrench energy into specialized forms via technology, and hold it there, causing massive convenience or inconvenience over long or short stretches of time and space.

Another interesting development at Boston’s airport: an automated system for bags in their trays. (BTW: I have NEVER gone through airport radiation machines; I ALWAYS opt out, and submit to the grope, in public.) This improved system has the empty trays pop out  from underneath; as usual, you load your stuff and send it through while going through yourself. Once past security, the trays’ assembly line doubles, with bags that TSA wants to check shunted, one by one, to the other side, where a uniformed TSA official wrestles them around to a place where he screens them again, in more detail. One of my trays was deemed suspicious enough to go through this process.

“Okay. This tray will need to go through the security line again,” he says, gesturing with this arm back to the line.

“So how do I do that?” I ask.

“You don’t. I take it to the front where it goes through again.” Which is crazy, not at all efficient, compared to those empty trays popping out from underneath.

While standing there waiting for my suspicious tray, I talked with the woman in front of me who was also waiting. She was young, with a small baby in a stroller, traveling with, it turns out when he re-screened one of her bags and found four “suspicious” bottles, Similac, a baby formula. He said he had to open all four of them. She said once they are open they are only good for an hour. This stymied both of them, until he, without opening any of them, finally said he had to take them all to his “supervisor.” During the time he was gone, she told me that she was traveling all day, that these four bottles were exactly the amount she needed to feed the baby four times. I asked if she could buy milk as a substitute, since that’s available in airports. She didn’t know. The baby has never had cow’s milk. We worked over that question for awhile, before the TSA guy finally came back, and instead of opening the bottles, inserted them, one by one, into some kind of a machine. Probably radiating them, I thought.

The final note on real or unreal advances in technology, is the new gizmo I saw at the Indy airport on the way out to meet son Colin for the hour’s drive back to Bloomington. Didn’t stop to take a pic, but I noticed two people talking, while riding bikes which charged their cell phones. Good idea. Not the first time people have thought of harnessing all the human energy that goes into the technology that creates exercise machines of various kinds.

Aha, they are called “human powered charging stations,” and the Indy Airport has been recognized for this innovation.

Indianapolis Airport recognized for human-powered charging stations

Oh yes, one more note: this one on the intersection between technology and the advancing police state: you can now pay $85 for “pre-check” that lasts for five years. (Or: if you want it “global,” then add $15. What a deal!) “I’ve got it, and it’s great!” says my former daughter-in-law Sue. “But you would hate it. You have to go through a background check and give your fingerprints.” Yep. she knows me well.

And to think that, for some mysterious reason, I had automatic pre-check status for several years up until very recently! I still wonder how that happened. Now I know why it stopped.

On the other hand, there’s another new rule, for travelers over 65, which pretty much makes up for the non-pre-check status. No longer have to take off my shoes. Whooee!

Remember, we can thank the 9/11 “event” for the Patriot Act that started the unrolling of, for the most part, increasingly paranoid automations.

Despite all this, I was heartened by the courtesy and kindness of the uniformed TSA people whenever I stopped to engage them as real people, and especially, encouraged by the many young couples with small children who form personal circles of safety and comfort inside the vast grinding machine that funnels the human race deeper and deeper into the 21st century.

Oh, and BTW: Sue and I love introducing each other to people she knows as “former mother-in-law” and “former daughter-in-law. They always looked flummoxed. “Mother-in-law” has enough bad connotations, but former mother-in-law? So much fun to defy expectations.

About Ann Kreilkamp

PhD Philosophy, 1972. Rogue philosopher ever since.
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1 Response to Post-Christmas trip: A few observations on changing airport technology and surveillance

  1. Equally amazing is that after thousands of years of building large arena size gathering facilities, we still can’t seem to figure out how many female restroom stalls are needed to accommodate peak usage. And they spend tens of millions of dollars in design, engineering, and construction on these stadiums and still can’t get it right. It’s a conspiracy! Probably started by the brotherhood of masons (masons with a small “m”) and a secret hand shake…don’tchaknow

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