Friday, September 28, 2007

SDF: Airport Insecurity?

A few days ago, the crack TSA folks at Logan International Airport in Boston arrested at gunpoint a 19 year old MIT student for coming to the airport to pick up her boyfriend while wearing a t-shirt with a blinking computer panel on it. Note that she was not trying to get on a plane, just trying to pick up her man; she was, in fact, outside the terminal.

Star Simpson had come to the airport before school. She'd worn the shirt to show off her talents with circuitry because it was Career Day. On the back of the shirt it read: "Socket to Me" and "Course VI," MIT shorthand for the electrical engineering/comp sci combined major-- so basically her resume. She's an electronics expert, and she's even received a Congressional citation for her work in robotics. Did I mention that she is 19?

While she was standing outside the terminal, Simpson was approached by an armed trooper who was later joined by another trooper armed with a submachine gun. State Police Major Scott Pare, the airport's commanding officer said after she was arrested, "She’s lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."

In response to folks who insisted that the troopers did the right thing and that we should all feel lucky to have these hyper-vigilant security guys on the public payroll, Will Femia says in his Clicked column: "I might feel luckier if I thought they had the ability to recognize an actual bomb and not just freak out over everything that looks like a red wire/blue wire suspense scene from a Die Hard movie. God forbid another Shoey Shoebomber strolls through while everyone is dazzled by blinking lights."

In Loueyville news, Roommate has returned from nearly three weeks away and on Monday I helped him take back his rental car to the Louisville International Airport (SDF). I told him I'd wait in the passenger pick-up area (too cheap to pay the $1 parking fee), and if the security dudes came by and asked me to move on, I'd just keep "making the loop" until Roommate was ready.

Venerable Old Jalopy has been giving me some headaches lately. And while I idled in park right outside of baggage claim, Jalopy decided to act up. When Roommate finally showed up after 15 minutes or so (no security telling me to move on), I went to slip the shift into drive... and couldn't. He started up just fine, but no budging the shift from park.

Start it up-- mash the break-- try to shift. Nope. Over and over.

After some time, Roommate reasoned that if he disconnected the battery, the car may "reset" and forget that it hated me. So as I'm making phone calls to various VW help lines, Roommate is using my big Roadside Assistance Tool Kit to fiddle around with wires and plugs under the hood.

Finally, after three different calls to three different Volkswagen entities, a kind woman at the roadside assistance center informed me that, essentially, Jalopy has a “cheat code” to bypass whatever weird virus is causing his refusal to shift out of park. (Why is my car like an xBox game??) After two tries, Jalopy concedes, and we hit the road around an hour or so after I’d arrived at SDF.

I’m not complaining, necessarily; in my fragile, annoyed, and panicky state the last thing I needed was to be harassed by the Airport Fuzz. At Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans, even before 9/11, if you so much as shifted your car into park while you were waiting for an arriving passenger, you’d be visited by airport security and treated to a rap on the window and the admonition to “move along.”

A Louisville International? Bupkus.

Should it concern me that in the hour or so that the Jalopy vs. Lou & Roommate war raged on in the arrivals lane, a casual observer would have noted:

  • A visibly disturbed woman behaving erratically.

  • Aforementioned visibly disturbed woman speaking with animated frustration on her cell phone.

  • The accomplice to the woman removing a black box from the trunk of the car; a box, that when opened, revealed a tangle of wires and tools.

  • The accomplice tinkering around under the hood of the car and sparks flying on one occasion.

Methinks yes. It should concern me.

For all you VW Bug drivers, the cheat code is: Press the break 5 times, and on the fifth time hold it down. Turn the key ¼ turn and drag the gear shift to some phantom place between Neutral and Drive (this is hard to do). Then turn the key all the way and shift immediately into Drive. It works. It’s just hard.

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