Just Ask Greg! The Lowdown on Airport Security

Recently back from the airport, this week our satirist-in-chief answers questions at the Kensington Retirement Center about the new restrictions in place for flying. Living in the London has its perks for Greg, but after the terrorist plot was foiled last month, flying in an out of Heathrow Airport certainly isn’t at the top of his list — or maybe it is. We never can tell.

What is the significance of a Code Orange security alert?
—Marge, 87

Thank you, Marge, and it’s great to see you up and around. I love the paper hat. To your question: When a threat level is a Code Orange, that means “high,” and includes a ban on all liquids and gels. And, mind you, not simply “orange” liquids, but also purples, wild cherry, lemon-lime and things that are generally attractive to preteens. The Code Orange alert also requires that you still remove your shoes, which is in my mind racial profiling, for exempt from this rule of course, are those without feet. People Without Feet (or PWF) have yet to respond to such rulings, but my feeling is, come November, they will be voting with their stumps.

And what does that have to do with throwing away my apple juice?
—Frazier, 85

Frazier, as you probably know, apple juice comes from apples. Apples are a natural, living thing. In a sense what you’re drinking is the product of murder, and that makes you a terrorist.

During the Code Orange phase, you can bring on small doses of liquid medications. In my head, that almost always means bourbon. A small dose is roughly the size of one of those mini-bar, or “airplane”-sized bottles. So it seems to me this entire exercise is no more than a plan for the airports to make money selling mini bottles of booze.

This also leads me to my next question: Where do the confiscated liquids and gels go once there are removed from passengers? My sources at Heathrow Airport have explained to me that they all go to a “center,” where they are “destroyed.”

I find this hard to believe. I talked with some other employees who work in baggage, and they informed me (off the record), that most employees divvy up what’s been collected, and take it home. One man informed me that he has more than 5,200 tubes of Prell in his possession. “You never know,” he says, although I have it on good word that he’s entirely bald (head to toe). Another man who works for the TSA has the world’s largest collection of toe nail clippers, an achievement that was all but impossible for him to reach until the so-called terrorist plot was revealed a little less than a month ago.

This is not the first time I have suggested that the terrorist arrest/plot was nothing more than a concoction to control the gel/liquid market at airport entry points. Back in 1997, I wrote a piece for Harpers on the very same subject. In it, I said, “I would not be surprised if someone concocts a terrorist arrest/plot in an effort to control the gel/liquid market at airport entry points.”

What about low blood sugar treatments being permitted for diabetics?
—Agnes, 99

Thank you, Agnes. I am not diabetic, so I sense this is yet another example of racial profiling. How can you escape being identified as diabetic, when you must declare that you are carrying medications for low blood sugar? Why not just wear a sign that reads, “Hey everyone, I’m diabetic! Taunt me with Rollos!”

Under a Code Orange security alert, however, such signs are probably illegal. Although, ironically the situation that would lead to wearing such a sign is not only permitted, but wildly encouraged. You can paint it any color you want: red, orange, yellow, blue or green — it’s all the same color to me: and that color is bigotry. There may be no “me” in bigotry,” but there is a “try,” and we should all “try” to fight bigots whenever possible, unless of course the bigot is carrying solid lipstick — then it’s perfectly allright.

What advice do you have for flying?

—Alan, age 84

Morgan Fairchild

Alan, I have a lot of advice, but why don’t we wait until you’ve put your pants on? There, that’s better. OK, originally I was a proponent for racial profiling, but then I realized it’s exactly what the terrorists wanted. See, the terrorists reject the notion that they are nothing more than dark, swarthy bearded men. However, they cannot, by religious decree, change their appearance. Racial profiling, by forcing security to locate and focus on such appearances, also cause terrorists to adopt a more subtle, western look to blend in. I believe that in a few years time, the common terrorist will come to look like Morgan Fairchild. Or the great, late Ron Ely.

Remember that the security alerts are not simply for travelers and airline employees, but also for those who are contemplating acts of terrorism. When the announcement is made, it is a warning that if you are contemplating terrorism, the least you can do is modify your appearance, so in our last throes of passenger panic, we will be comforted by your moderate attractiveness.

When I fly, I tend to take two Ambien and two glasses of vodka. That way, I am not only incapable of hijacking a plane, but too wasted to care if someone else does.

And this has been my solution all along for travelers. If airlines simply doled out powerful sedatives, along with some of the finer brandies, all passengers would sleep like babies until their destination. We would then be carted off, shipped to our respective hotels, and everyone would be none for the worse of wear. By the way, I do not advise mixing Ambien with valium and red wine. It led to an accident on a flight that I still have to live down. If it had occurred in a club somewhere in Chelsea, I would have been paid $140 for the same activity.

People still have to take off their shoes during security checks, but isn’t having all those unsightly, stinky feet exposed a threat in itself?
—Clark, 92

Clark, I think this is a good thing, because if it gets people to wash their feet more frequently, then we’re all the better for it. I, for one, have increased my pedi-hygeine, and that’s not even a word. By the way, I have delightful feet. They are childlike in their simplicity. Smooth, almost hairless. And they smell like dough.

Baby food is allowed on planes, but if you were a terrorist — wouldn’t that be the first place you’d hide your exploding bomb?
—Grace, 76

This is a great question, Grace, and thank you for drawing. The resemblance to me is uncanny, although I am not sure about the tail. The answer to the question: babies should not be allowed to fly on major planes. How many times have you been kept awake on a red-eye flight by the incessant wails of a child deep in the throes of incurable colic? That, in many ways, is its own form of terrorism. Domestic terrorism perhaps, but it’s still terrorism. Ban babies, and you ban baby food. And that already takes care of the issue. Unless you’re Susan Sarandon. She cannot eat solid food.

What is the government going to take away next? Cell phones? iPods?
—Bart, 92

Well, Bart, I don’t think the government has taken away enough of our belongings. I hate people with iPods, only because they like to talk about what’s on their iPod, when secretly they rarely listen to it at all. Instead they simply scan through the songs over and over, and wonder how they lost their love for music. The iPod has turned music into a banal encyclopedia of familiar but empty sounds — one you peruse to remind yourself they still exist and your tastes are valid — but not to provide any enjoyment whatsoever. I have an iPod, filled with a few thousand songs — songs I used to love but now leave me feeling unfulfilled and even violently angry. An iPod, in effect, bans the love of music by its own existence.

As for cell phones — we don’t need them, and we never did. I have one, a Sidekick, and it’s ruining my life. It is strange how this little thing triggers a desire to speak to people you really don’t want to speak to — a tug on your attention, perhaps because you need to remind yourself that you’re still among the living, and that people still care where you are. It is why drunks love cell phones more than anyone else. You need to supplement your empty world with outside voices, so your world can actually exist.

Interesting side point: in England they are not called cell phones. They are called mobiles — a funny thing since they all but render you immobile. You actually do less with a cell phone than you did without one. Before, you relied on yourself to buy the groceries, to pick up a movie, or to make any decision. The journey home was filled with surprise. Now the cell phone removes all imagination from life. You are checking, and then rechecking whether the decisions you have made are the right ones. And with a cell phone, they never are. I hate my cell phone, because it fools me into thinking I’ve made progress — the fantastic ideas I come up with and promise to everyone that I will do — well, they never ever happen. Without this advent of communication — rather than talking about action, you just acted. Cell phones have placed us in our little cells, our mobiles have rendered us immobile. I now wonder what my life would be like if I never called anyone and just did what I thought was right. The answer is that I would be in jail for killing stage and screen star Ralph Fiennes.