Friday, January 8, 2010

Still Learning to Fly

Life goes on . . . ever immune to prediction. My word on the subject you need not take. Simply ask anyone and everyone who either had a rooting interest in or money on the outcome of last night's BCS Championship Game. Show of hands of everyone who anticipated that the All-Everything quarterback for the University of Texas - Colt McCoy - would depart the field three and one half minutes into it due to an injury and not play again the rest of the night. If you blinked, you missed him. You were still probably trying to understand the explanation of why everyone - including Steely Dan - calls Alabama the Crimson Tide but their mascot is an elephant when McCoy's night, season and college career came to a rather abrupt end.

Big news here in the State of Concrete Gardens is the dedication to public safety being displayed by at least one employee of the TSA at Newark Liberty Airport. This time last week I had the chance to spend some quality time at the 'Port (as no one calls and hopefully never will) doing the wee small hours of the morning pickup on back to back days to retrieve the distaff side of my household from their respective Western adventures. Fortunately, because Margaret's flight home from Denver arrived at 5:30 AM Sunday and not PM we were home eating dinner when the now infamous security breach occurred. Given that Margaret flew Continental (as Suz had done the day before) and the breach happened in Continentals Terminal C, you would have been able to color me thrilled had my wife and I been trapped in that building for hours because (and I need to drop a footnote here to Bill as the source of this turn of phrase) some, "Minimum wage plus a nickel" security guy failed to grasp the intricacies of his job.

To the untrained eye, the task of the typical TSA employee at the 'Port (c'mon, it is a little catchy. Say it softly to yourself. I'll wait....OK) appears fairly straightforward: (1) Man your post; (2) Keep your eyes open; (3) Investigate suspicious activity; and (4) Man your post. All of those appear interrelated towards the same goal, which is matriculating the ball down the field to safe (meaning free from crazy Nigerian kids with bombs in their britches) flights for your loved ones and - well I am a selfish prick - more importantly for me my loved ones. As I see the TSA employees milling about the 'Port I cannot help but be reminded of the line Steve Buscemi's character (Rockhound) uttered in Armageddon, "You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it? " Forgive me if I feel secure only with a lower-case "s" watching them in action.

And that lukewarm, not-quite-so fuzzy feeling improved not at all in the wake of this incident, which it turns out appears to have been 100% avoidable. The TSA employee at whose post the breach occurred has been captured on video - not a TSA video mind you but on Continental's security cameras as it turns out the TSA video cameras had been non-operational for several days prior to this incident - walking away from his post for more than a minute and seemingly closer to ninety seconds, leaving it unmanned although the soon-to-be breacher (who the same TSA agent had moments earlier told to vamoose) remained nearby. At least one published report stated that the TSA agent received a call on his cell phone and walked away from his responsibilities to answer it.

Thank goodness for cell service inside of Terminal C; right? I would hate to think now long he would have stepped out for had he been required to exit the Terminal just to be able to use his phone. I know not your thoughts on the subject but I hate when someone's job cramps their ability to do what they want, whenever they want.

In a moment, everything changes. And while it did not change for the worse Sunday night - thankfully the breacher appears to have been some lovesick dude Jonesing for some last-minute sugar with his girlfriend/wife as she was preparing to get on her plane - let us hope that this incident becomes one of those great "teaching moments" that President Obama speaks of often.

And not simply just a momentary lapse of reason.

-AK

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