Nancy Reagan is credited with the catchy slogan just say no. How adorable and how useless. This was an attempt to stop drug abuse. See how it hasn’t worked.
Slogans usually don’t work. We’ve all been taught endlessly that we can help to avert terrorism with another catchy slogan if you see something say something. Doesn’t it depend on to whom you say something and how willing and reliable and responsible that person is?
A few years ago one of our granddaughters here in New Jersey was flying to England as an unaccompanied minor. The rules for someone with that status are very clear. The individual entrusted with seeing the unaccompanied minor to the gate must remain at the gate until the plane has pulled away. Just boarding does not suffice. Being a law abider (at least usually) I waited at the gate. The move from the gate was delayed and I read my book, hoping to soon get on with my life. There was one other person at this gate, an airline employee doing some sort of reconciliation that required all of her powers of concentration. Eventually someone else appeared, with luggage. He plopped down his luggage and then left. I assumed he was off to the men’s room. He certainly looked harmless. But, some twenty minutes later, I decided to report the luggage minus owner to the airline person. She rebuffed me. She was busy. She had work to do. She was sure it was okay. I took my seat and the suitcase guy eventually returned. End of anecdote. Except that I saw something and said something and it could actually have been something.
Last year at Ben Gurion Airport I returned my rental car and, en route to Terminal 3, passed a group of lockers. One of them had a suitcase and the locker door was wide open. I was surprised, and I still am, that BGA actually rents lockers. Seems sort of counterintuitive but seeing the unaccompanied unsecure piece of luggage prompted me to say something. Suffice to say I spoke with three uniformed airport employees and all concluded that my observation was not worth checking. Not one volunteered to see what I had seen. Each had his very own job to do. Checking out an errant suitcase was obviously not part of their job descriptions. I saw something and said something and it could have actually been something.
Years ago I was struck by another instance of incompetent security. This time it was over diligence. That meant just not following the rules that are taught to Israelis in the cradle. Don’t open strange packages. Don’t pick them up. Report them. In other words, if you see something say something. These people knew better though. They could check things out for themselves.
This happened in the old supermarket that was in the basement of Hamashbir, on the corner of King George and Ben Yehuda in Jerusalem. I had done some shopping and was almost back to my car when I remembered the book I had purchased at Steimatzky. It was a gift, nicely wrapped and I had put it in the front seat (the baby seat) of the agala in the market.When I realized what I had inadvertantly done I ran back to the market to reclaim the package. Three employees of the market, the manager and two others, were gathered around my book, fearful it might have been a bomb. But, rather than call the sappers, they unwrapped it themselves, only to discover it was nothing dangerous at all. But, what if it had been? The unwrapping could have triggered whatever they feared it might be.
I doubt that these incidents are unique to me. They happened over a 30 year period, during which terrorism has become a worldwide nightmare. We are all supposed to be alert and remember the adage if you see something say something.
But if you see something and say something and no one listens? What then? I don’t know.
Now the United States has decided that, planes from certain countries, must place passenger laptop computers into the bellies of their planes. Passengers may not bring those laptops aboard with them. Huh? They can’t bring them into the passenger cabin but they can pack them as luggage. What am I missing? If a bomb blows up in the hold of the plane that’s safer than if it blows up in the passenger compartment? Really?
Well, folks, if you see something say something.I see that we are putting a ridiculous new restriction on airplane flying and I say it’s absurd! If there’s some conclusive proof that laptops are dangerous then they should not be allowed on any commercial flights. Period.
As to me, I don’t want any of us to be blown up by terrorists. But I am willing to take my chances. Life is always a gamble and I know for sure that the most dangerous thing most of us do every day is get into our cars……..or worse……..be the pedestrian that the driving texter forgets to look out for. Life is inherently dangerous. We can be careful but it’s more important to be lucky.