Mike Buchanan was thrilled with my presentation. It’s been only two days since we met at Camp David, and already the director of BATS (Board for Air Traffic Safety) was a big fan. “Your ideas will revolutionize modern travel for a long time to come, he said as we took a stroll around the golf course. In the distance, we could hear the string quartet still playing at the Aspen Lodge where everyone was gathered. Jimmy from Homeland Security, Scott from Midland Airways, David from the EU Aviation Committee and the beautiful Josefa from Portugal. Josefa is said to be the world’s top authority in hijacking and in-flight bombings. She came in a flowing, see-through gown that she promised would help speed up security checks around the world.
I don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but apparently a nasty group of terrorists were planning to bring down half the world’s passenger planes over the Atlantic, using hair gel, facial creams and off-the-shelf fizzy drinks.
Josefas’ approach to the problem was sweet and subtle. “I hear my colleagues talk about racial profiling and I can see their point. According to available statistics, four out of every five hijackers tend to be dark skinned and hairy of chest. I’m not sure, however, that I like the idea. We don’t want to look as if we’re out to get the Muslims. My plan is simple. Let every passenger, regardless of sex, age and creed dress in flimsy muslin like this (she stands and swirls around), and no one will be able to hide a bomb anywhere. If for reasons of faith or modesty passengers don’t wish to dress in this manner, let them hire their own planes. Let those dark-skinned people and their chador-clad women folk take charter flights. That’s not bias. That’s equality.
At first, I thought the middle-aged men around the table would be horrified, but they nodded in solemn approval. “How about dressing facilities at airports so we can all change into those gowns and put on a little makeup? Jimmy asked. Josefa looked puzzled. She hadn’t mentioned anything about makeup.
Then it was my turn to speak. “If we want to travel the skies without getting bombed by nasty people who envy our freedom, we’ll have to give up some of our freedom. Not only will this make us safer, it will give the nasty people less reason to envy us. We’ll kill two birds with one stone!
I then proceeded to offer my three-point plan. After getting their boarding cards, passengers would be blindfolded and escorted to the plane. Once on board, passengers would be gently handcuffed to the seat in front of them and given a small dose of sedative that would keep them barely conscious during the flight. For extra security, passengers could have their ears muffled to disconnect them from the outside world.
“Ear muffs would improve the quality of travel, as they reduce noise and one’s sense of air turbulence. At least this is what I hear from friends who took the long trip from Kabul to Cuba. Just a suggestion, I said.
“I was so timid before, Mike said. “Now my mind is racing. How about shipping people drugged and stretched out in boxes? It would give them more legroom, and we could stack the boxes on top of each other, which would save on space. Another idea: Why don’t we handcuff passengers together, three or four at a time? They’ll keep an eye on each other and some may even strike up lifelong friendships.
“I like the first idea better. People will need a little nap after the long check-in lines. Not everyone is interested in making new friends you know, I said.
“For the less socially-inclined, I am also thinking personal bullet-proof cubicles. This can be done only in first class, where there is plenty of room. Each cubicle will be individually air-conditioned and the martinis and shrimp cocktails will be slipped in from a little slot on the side.
“Would first-class passengers be allowed to smoke in their cubicles? I said, recalling other air travel inconveniences.
“I don’t see why not. The cubicles will be hermetically sealed.
“How about foot massages? I pushed my luck.
“It’s funny you should mention that. David and I were talking about that particular service only last night. Since all passengers would be traveling barefoot as a precaution against shoe bombs, many might appreciate a good foot massage. I was thinking that the right time for that would be at the airport, not during the flight. Our security personnel say that people who’ve just had a foot massage tend to be relaxed during the cavity search, which speeds up the whole process.