The point of the training class is simple – to teach you to identify the FAA test items on the x ray machine. Pat downs, hand wands, those sort of things were covered in a cursory manner. Pat downs, incidentally, had their own picture, illustrating that a man cupping a woman’s breast served no purpose for security measures. The rest of the days were spent on the test items. We were drilled frame by frame, chanting in unison –
This went on for hours, then the tests became “tricky”. The film strip was inserted backwards, and we did it again. We lost two trainees that first run, two men who insisted that the slide they had just looked at left to right no longer contained the bomb when viewed right to left. Then they ran the strip upside down. When we concluded, it was time to be tested.
Test items. Not actual items considered a threat. Do you think I’m just displaying my Aspergers? Ha! Got you this time. Check out this:
“How do you know it’s a gun?” He asked me.
“it looks like one,” I said, and was immediately pounded on the back.
“Goddamn right it does. You get over here,” yelled Mike to Will.
“How do you know it’s a gun?”
“I look for the outline of the cartridge and the…” Will started.
“The barrel you can see right here,” Will continued, oblivious to his pending doom.
“What the hell are you talking about? That’s not how you find this gun”
“No sir. It’s how you find any gun, sir,” said Will. I knew right then that this was a disaster.
“Any gun? Any gun? I don’t give a fuck about any gun, dipshit. I care about this gun. The FAA will not test you with another gun. The FAA will never put any gun but this one in the machine. I don’t care if you are a fucking gun nut who can tell the caliber by sniffing the barrel, you look for this gun. THIS ONE.” Mike strode to the test bag and dumped it out at the feet of the metal detector, sending the machine into a frenzy.
“THIS bomb. This knife. I don’t care if you miss a goddamn bazooka and some son of a bitch cuts your throat with a knife you let through as long as you find THIS GUN.”
“But we’re supposed to find,” Will insisted.
“You find what I trained you to find. The other shit doesn’t get taken out of my paycheck when you miss it,” said Mike.
The incentives are screwed up. It’s important they pass the tests, not that they catch you or I with a knife in the bottom of our carry-on luggage. Bruce has another post that points us in generally in the correct direction. But we really need to consider alternatives. The incentives need to be aligned with the desired goals–safe air travel. The passengers and crew of the plane have the motivation and are in the best position to implement appropriate security measures. Let them do their job instead of taking away their defensive tools.