Carole is getting ready to do some international travel next week, so we have been going over the usual litany of indignities one is now subjected to in order to get on an airplane. Carole is also a knitter, which means she uses knitting needles, which are banned by the airline she is flying. Now it’s true that Carole has some big knitting needles that could cause a nasty puncture wound, but all she wants to do on the airplane is work on a a pair of socks. The knitting needles involved are larger than toothpicks, it’s true, but they are smaller than the cheap wooden chopsticks you get with Asian take-out. You would have to be some sort of fantastic ninja to use one of these things as a weapon. But of course the point of the regulations is not, as in the nauseating cliché, to “keep us safe.” No, the TSA regulations are intended to keep us obedient. In the most recent entry in his NY Times weblog Jet Lagged, Patrick Smith comes as close as anyone in the media to laying this fact before the public. He does not quite draw the final political conclusion — that obeying the airport screeners is intended to be practice for obeying any absurd regulation — but he gets everything else exactly right. The purpose of having to take your shoes off & go through a search of your belongings is to teach you to swallow your rage. Try this thought experiment: Imagine the whole enterprise transfered to a psychology laboratory & all the passengers turned into rats.
Update: Swiss Air let Carole take her knitting needles along, but she reports that ripped out most of what she knitted in flight because she made a mistake she “couldn’t live with” in the sock she was working on.