Cell phone yakkers, nekkid bods, airline security, and comparative risks


Two stories I’ve been reading about seem a bit interrelated:
Cell Phones on Planes worry US Law Enforcement
Airport Screeners could see X-rated X-rays

Tying these stories together, we’re reminded of the following:
– People are annoyingly addicted to their cell phones.
– We’re a ridiculously puritanistic society.

First of all, I’d like to see airplanes remain cell-phone-free zones. The last thing I’d like to encounter on a flight is some twit next to me: “Yes, hun, I’m over Denver right now. Food? Well, it was pretty bad today… something with beef, I think…”

Personally, I like the existence of the overpriced in-flight phones. If there’s an urgent business need to chat, then one’s company can pick up the tab. Hopefully, few people will pay $2/minute to engage in idle (and typically annoying) chit-chat with their spouse.

* * *

“But… what about SECURITY, Adam?” I can hear some folks protesting. “What if there’s another 9/11!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!1”

Considering you have more of a chance being run over by an angry 300 pound chimpanzee or being struck by lightning twice than being on a hijacked plane… the whole “it’s for the kids!” “it’s for our security” argument is a bunch of bovine excrement. 9/11 yadda yadda… if we REALLY wanted to save lives, we’d invest in better port screenings and also pay airline screeners more than McDonald’s wages. But hey, it’s all about politics and Americans’ perversely bad sense of comparative risks, isn’t it?

And speaking of Americans and perversity… am I the only one who doesn’t give a person’s ass about some TSA folks seeing my bodacious butt or my whopping willy via these allegedly hugely-privacy-invading superpower x-ray machines? If (and, I’d argue) *IF* this new x-ray thingamabob enables security folks to do a better job screening for Bad Stuff(tm), then it sounds hunkydory to me. As others have sanely argued, it sure beats the annoyances currently associated with going through airport security (with the screeners stealing my friggin’ tweezers and other generally innocuous objects, making me remove my shoes, belts, coins, nipple rings, er… you get the point).

* * *

So how do I square my cyncicism about the (un)likelihood of future airline attacks with my willingness to be subjected to a full-body scan? Easily and logically:

A (death by plane hijacking):
– [statistical likelihood] X [severity of result of event happening]

B (having a TSA scanner kinda sorta see me nekkid)
– [statistical likelihood] X [severity of this happening]

In my case, at least, A — though extremely small, due to the tiny tiny likelihood — is still larger than B: high likelihood times a severity (to me) of about zero. Therefore, B’s “risk” is smaller, and it wins out (assuming that the x-rays are even moderately helpful in either deterring or preventing terrorism aboard planes).

* * *

Back to the idea of cell phones on planes. Well, given the “march of progress” and demanding angsty teens and business people with inflated egos, I guess it’s inevitable.

So — like the smoking / non-smoking cabins of yore — let’s encourage the airplanes to have “Quiet” and “Non-quiet” sections. In the latter would be not only cell-phoners, but also families with babies, the easily frightened “Oh my God oh my God oh my God… this is soooooooo bumpy!” and so on. In the former would be the rest of us, eager to enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet.

And speaking of peace and quiet… I wish both the rabid conservatives (“You don’t like security at airports? Screw you, you unpatriotic American…!”) and radical hippies (“Any airport security is an abridgement of MY FUNDAMENTAL LIBERTIES!!!”) would both shut up and allow the rest of us to have some rational, if admittedly somewhat snarky debates about national security, cell phone usage, and nekkidness 🙂

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