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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

The Latest Airport Security Apparatus Peers Under Your Clothes.

FORGET THE LOST LUGGAGE, lousy food and tight- leg rooms. We are all going to go through the whole- body imager to show our naked-bodies in public---thanks to Al Qaeda!

You read it right! The (TSA) Transportation Security Administration is going all-out with the introduction of( scanners)whole -body imaging machines---the kind that provide an image of the naked–body--- at airports across the States , so dress appropriately when you’re flying .

Airports’ check-ins procedures are going to get a lot tougher these days. Apart from the little inconveniences air travelers face like—delayed flights, declining services, crowded seats, small- leg rooms, lost- luggage , poor quality and quantity food and endless security procedures air -travelers have other headaches too. To board a flight these days one needs to be beltless, bottled-waterless, liquidless, shoeless, and everythingless.

As if all that harassment by the TSA is not stressful enough, now whole-body imaging scanners have been added to the twist to tighten-up aviation security and put our naked - body parts in public.

The TSA says plastic and ceramic weapons and explosives that evade conventional metal detectors are the biggest threat to aviation. And, the aviation experts believe that screeners at the airports miss a larger number of these things in their routine searches. Therefore, it’s believed that these new devices will spot concealed weapons and explosives on the planes.

The TSA-- a Homeland Security Administration’s outfit--, is in the process of introducing whole-body scanning machines at airports, across the U.S to virtually screen airline passengers---despite the concern that the machines create vivid images of people’s under clothing. In other words, these devices will reveal intimate body parts.

This is how it works: Passengers step into the 9-foot -tall glass-walled machine, that is supposedly bounces harmless millimeter waves off the people to create metallic-looking image that airport screeners’ view on a monitor in a closed room. When an object is seen on the screen that shaded differently from the body image, a screener radios a colleague at the check- point to search the passenger thoroughly. They claim faces will be blurred and the images will be deleted as soon as a passenger is cleared through a check –point.

But, the critics say the machines will slow down the boarding lines and that they are equivalent of “physically invasive strip search” .They also worry about the x-ray doses the machines will emit .They believe it is just the surface;because we’re going to see these machines at train stations, sport arenas, and office buildings across the nation. They believe that will throw the passengers’ privacy out the window because they are not sure what will be done to the images on the scan machines after passengers went through.

The proponents of the machines see it differently. They say the machines have proved to move people through the line at about the same rate as the metal detectors. And will secure aviation much better than the conventional metal detectors.

The metal detectors at the airports can be a pain in the joints. Undoubtedly, the only people who seem to be happy about the latest airport security development are those with joint replacements. At least, they won’t have to worry about triggering the metal detectors with their titanium knees, but they still have other things to worry about when they fly.

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Flying causes enough anxiety and stress without adding the TSA’s inconveniences, dehumanizing and embarrassment. However, take a chill pill, and go along with the program. In these day and age you have to go along with the new changes because if a little inconvenience with whole-body part images can make all of us get to our destinations safety ,so be it.

Thanks to Al Qaeda, air travel these days has taken a new radical image. So stay calm and get used to it. Do it as quickly as you can. Don’t talk about it or even spend much time thinking about it. Get through it as best as you can without having your head explode. It’s not going to change anytime soon. So go to the airport early so you won’t have to add to the stress. Tough luck!

Once we’re on the air travel, let’s talk about the airlines’ insidious proposed charges. Have you heard about their latest gimmicks? The airline industry has been battered by the recession and they are covertly trying to impose extra user fees on amenities and services we enjoy.

Yes, it’s not just check-in bags and in-flight pillows, but add-ons like extra row seats, priority seating, boarding, in-flight entertainment or Wi-Fi and on and on. Oh, did I tell you that they they’re thinking seriously to charge people for bathroom usage, by making passengers pay with credit cards?

With all that I think it’s advisable to use a bathroom right before you board your flight. Better yet, drink less fluid and eat less so you won’t have to use their bathrooms that often. With the recession sooner than later we will be required to pay for our seats according to our weights .That means large people will pay more than small -body frame people. It will go like this:”Step on the scale with your shoes off. B-e-e-p, you weigh 270-lbs.You‘ll pay $2,700.00 for your ticket to Ghana. Have a nice day!”

Welcome aboard, now you are going to deal with other passengers who don’t follow the travel rules. They walk down the aisle without putting their carry-on bags in front of them so they bang people in the head with their bags. As to the carry-on, they know they have over –size bags which won’t fit in the overhead compartment, but when they get on the plane they will start trying to figure -out how to make that big squish into that little bitty space.

Do you remember the seat-back tray in front of you is attached to the back of someone else’s seat? Please don’t pound on it, and don’t let your child pound on it either .In fact; keep your kids as quiet as possible because it’s a tight, uncomfortable space where noises are amplified.

Speaking of amplifying, why do some passengers have to talk so much to their loved ones on their cell phones right before the plan takes off? I had an awful experience on Delta flight from JFK, New York to Ghana. There was a middle-aged lady who started yakking on her cell phone as soon as she boarded the plane. She talked so loud that one could hear every word she said twenty-eight rows away. As part of her conversation, she asked the person she was speaking with whether she was going to be missed. Then describing all the good time she had the night before her trip. She kept talking till she was ordered by a flight attendant to turn it off, as the plane began to taxi.

Seatmate is one of the people on the plane you have to deal with. So how are you doing with your seatmate? Yes it’s ok to say hello and be friendly to your seatmate. But, find out if she/he really wants to talk. If she/he immediately buries her/his nose in a book or takes out a laptop, chances are she/he doesn’t want to be bothered. Flying is not a luxury adventure any more.

Please be aware that there are some people who don’t want to talk, period! They just don’t care about your travel problems because they’re dealing with their own. They really don’t want to know what you do for a living and surely are not going to tell you what the book they’re reading is about. It's not your business to know about the last time she/he went to Ghana. And, stop looking at the food your seat-mate has. It’s nothing better than what you have. It’s too small to fill you up anyway, and it tastes like plastic.

I travel a lot, but I hate flying, so I rarely chat with anyone during flight. I like my time in the air to be quiet and relaxing. I also use that time to plan and map out the purpose of my trip.

On the mechanical problems, Please take a chill pill. They are not the fault of the flight attendants. Bad Weather is not their fault either. They can’t get you there any faster. Plus they are on the same plane with you and their lives count as well. So be a little nice to them. I only hope they have enough chicken dinner to go around the next time I take Delta airline.

Fasten your seat belt because you’re about to experience some smooth and safe flight after you’ve endured all the hassle TSA has got coming up soon to reveal our under clothes secrets.

Have a safe flight and enjoy your flight!

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA