BellaOnline Literary Review
Stairs by Albert Rollins


Safety or Security

Spencer Carvalho

Jack Dalton took a step forward in the line. He traveled a lot and always hated airport security. He knew what a sham it was and that it only created the illusion of safety. He was worried more about the people who work security. These were angry and overworked people with the power to cavity search.

“Sir, you may move forward,” said the TSA.

Jack stepped forward and stopped. He put his luggage on the conveyor belt and went to move forward but the TSA stopped him.

“Sir, you have been randomly chosen for a screening. If you would kindly move into the scanner it will be over briefly.”

Jack looked over the TSA. He was a young guy in his early twenties at least a decade younger than Jack.

“No way in hell am I getting into one of those things,” said Jack.

“Excuse me, sir?”

“You heard me. I’m not getting anywhere near your cancer box. If you have to check me, do a pat-down but get a female TSA to do it. It’s weird enough having a stranger fondle me; it doesn’t have to be gay too.”

“Sir, I am not authorized to do pat-downs and there is no one else available at this station.”

Jack leaned in to read his nametag. He saw the name Charlie written on the nametag but also noticed how Charlie’s uniform was made from cheap fabric, a big difference from Jack’s expensive suit.

“Well Charlie… I can wait.”

“I’ll get my manager.”

The people in line groaned. Jack turned around to see them. There was a pregnant woman who appeared to be traveling by herself. Behind her was a young guy around college age wearing an AC/DC t-shirt. Behind him was a couple in their seventies that Jack assumed were probably married. Jack was relieved to see that there weren’t any children within earshot of him. He didn’t want to have to worry about his language.

“What’s the big deal?” asked the married man.

“These things aren’t safe,” said Jack.

The young guy pulled out his camera phone and started recording. Jack looked directly at the camera phone and waved.

“When you put this on YouTube what are you going to title it? I want to know so I can check it out.”

“Uh… don’t know yet.”

“What’s your username?” Jack asked.

“Tyler Durden 66,” the kid responded.

“What, were the first 65 Tyler Durden’s taken?”

“Yes,” replied Tyler Durden 66.

Charlie came back with the manager. The manager was older than Charlie. He was closer in age to Jack himself but still wore a crappy uniform. The manager appeared to be frustrated.

“Sir, what seems to be the problem here?” asked the manager.

“As I told Charlie here, I’m not getting into your cancer box.”

“Sir, the scanner is perfectly safe,” said the manager.

“Patients in a hospital wear lead vests when they get an x-ray but yet a full body x-ray so powerful that you can tell how many inches I am is supposed to be safe. John Wayne made a movie in the desert where they did nuclear bomb tests back when no one worried about radiation because they thought it was safe. Then a few years later the Duke dies from cancer. No one had any idea that irradiated land caused cancer. They also thought that asbestos was safe and that cigarettes were good for you.”

“Sir, that was a long time ago.”

“Great, so it will only take ten years to find out these things cause cancer instead of fifty.”

“Sir, do you really think that we would allow people to use a machine that caused cancer?”

“Not you guys. Not the security personnel, but I do know that corporate thinking speeds up the testing process. People who are only worried about money sacrifice safety for speed. I’m not trusting my health to a CEO who uses a private jet.”

The crowd behind him cheered. Jack turned to them and smiled. He knew that he was just getting started.

“Sir, these machines are for your own safety.”

Jack took a step closer to the manager.

“There is a long history of safety measures making things more dangerous. Did you know that back in the fifties when people discovered the dangers of cigarettes that the tobacco companies came up with filtered cigarettes because they were supposed to be safer? In reality the tobacco companies just didn’t want to lose their customers. They didn’t really care about safety and the first filtered cigarettes used a “Micronite” filter. The problem was that “Micronite” filters contained asbestos. They contained crocidolite asbestos. Amosite and crocidolite are the two worst kinds of asbestos. That’s quite a safety feature.”

“Sir, are you an expert on these scanners?” asked the manager.

“No, but I am a bit of an expert on corporate thinking. I’m a lobbyist. I know how the system really works. Some people think that corporations are evil. They aren’t evil. They’re amoral. There’s a difference. An evil corporation would kill children for the fun of it. An amoral corporation would only kill children if it were profitable. It’s better than evil, but it still works out the same if you’re that child. That’s how they operate.”

Jack saw the concern on the faces in the crowd. He knew that he was winning them over. The manager showed no concern and appeared to be annoyed.

“People think that the government prevents unsafe things from getting out but I know personally how easy it is to manipulate politicians into allowing questionable technology to be used.”

Tyler Durden 66 moved up closer to get a better view.

“I mean just look at Tyler Durden 66 over there. The radiation from cell phones is so strong that keeping a cell phone in your pocket actually kills some of your sperm and yet he is holding it uncomfortably close to the pregnant woman’s stomach.”

Tyler Durden 66 looked at how close he was holding his camera phone to the pregnant ladies stomach and then moved farther away from her. She covered her belly with both her arms. The older couple looked concerned.

“Sir, these machines have been thoroughly tested. They are perfectly safe. There have been zero cases of cancer caused by these machines.”

“How long was it before people found out that cigarettes were bad for you? How long was asbestos in circulation? There is documented proof that the asbestos industry knew that asbestos was dangerous as far back as the thirties and covered it up so as not to hurt sales. It wasn’t until eighty-nine that the EPA issued the asbestos ban and started removing asbestos from products. Some of you might think that this is a back in the day kind of thing and that this doesn’t happen anymore but when the twin towers fell over one thousand tons of asbestos was released into the air. Many of the first responders are sick or have died from asbestos and other toxicants. It took over nine years for them to get proper medical care. Nine years! That doesn’t seem like the right way to treat a hero.”

The crowd cheered again. It was much louder than before.

“Hey! Quiet down! Ever since nine eleven you’ve been asking for more security. Well, here it is. In today’s world you can’t have privacy and security both. When you buy a ticket you forgo certain rights in the interest of national security. Flying is a privilege and you all should consider yourselves lucky that you can even afford a ticket in this economy. If you don’t like it, don’t fly.”

“That’s fine then. I won’t fly. I’ll take a train,” said Jack.

“Sir, once you’ve been chosen for a screening you have to proceed. Otherwise you face a civil suit and a fine of over ten thousand dollars.”

Jack moved in closer to the manager.

“I’m a lobbyist. Do you honestly think I don’t know some really good lawyers?”

A female TSA approached.

“Finally,” said Jack.

“We’re going to do a groin check. That means I’m going to place my hand on your hip and the other hand on your inner thigh. I’ll slowly go up, and then slide down. I’m going to do that two times in the front and two times in the back.”

“Sure, go ahead,” said Jack.

“You should buy him dinner first,” yelled Tyler Durden 66 who was holding his camera phone as far away from himself as he could.

Jack stuck out his arms and took a wide stance. The female TSA finished the check.

“So… am I a terrorist?” asked Jack.

The TSA ignored him and signaled for the next person in line to move forward. The pregnant lady stepped forward. Jack turned to the manager.

“Don’t you dare make the pregnant woman go through the scanner,” said Jack in a low and angry tone.

“I’ll tell you what, if you move along I won’t scan anyone else for the rest of the day.”

Jack looked to the crowd and then proceeded through the security station. He continued to the help booth. The lady stopped typing on her computer and looked up.

“Hello sir, how may I help you?” asked the lady.

“Yes. I would like to get a refund on my ticket. I’m going to travel by train instead.”

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Spring Equinox 2011 Table of Contents