Some courtesy, please

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2001

I am well into seven digits in cumulative Alaska Airlines miles, and I have always felt pretty safe in the extortionary skies. Other than some, oh, so Yuppie, Anchorage-to-Seattle flights, I have always contented myself with the obvious fact that the general run of passengers was far more dangerous than any wannabe terrorist. That said, I am now afraid.

I am still unafraid on the plane; the Alaska Moose Murderer has not changed since 9/11, but the airport is just plain damn scary. When I think of physical courage, airline employees are not the first people who come to mind. When I think of perception and insight, security guards do not come to mind quickly either. But, man, in the brave new post-9/11 world, do they wear authority with confidence!

I do not much mind being pushed around a bit in furtherance of the illusion of security. I have a passport that was not bought on the black market. My family was in America before it was America, so I am not worried about my bona fides. So, all I ask is that they be nice. Even if I wear a turban - unless I am wearing a "Death to America" placard around my neck - I am entitled to the quiet enjoyment of my life and the presumption of innocence. If I get the dread "S" on my ticket, you can search my stuff, if you can stand the boredom, but say "please" and "thank you" and apologize for the inconvenience; I'll understand. If I wanted to snap to orders, I'd join the Marines; not that they'd have me. Being ordered around by people who aren't my archetype of confidence builders, whose green cards I might want to question, or whose GED I might want to inspect just doesn't sit well.

It is hard for an American to accept papers being demanded. We all have an immediate, visceral reaction that associates that Gestapo officer walking down the aisle of the train demanding "Papers, papers." These are hard times, and we are making difficult concessions. Those in positions of putative authority should at least make some attempt at courtesy.

Art Chance


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