Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today Your Shoes, Tomorrow Your Undies - airport security for minors

Taking three children on a transatlantic flight may be adventure enough, but the most grueling portion of the trip is spent going through U.S. Security. Seasoned travelers know to avoid the belts and jewelry and above all, they know to travel in slip-on shoes.

Compared to our previous two hour long experiences, half an hour seemed a reasonable sacrifice in order to ensure our safety, though it seems an eternity to a child. Curious as she is, bored and confused as she was, my youngest began to wonder. Why are we to remove our shoes? What could possibly be wrong with her new Nike outlet acquisitions (the ones that make her spring off the pavement and run faster than a cheetah)? Would these people in uniform keep them?

I put her mind at ease and explained that she would have her shoes back once they had made it through the x-ray machine. Clearly her shoes were not broken! This process made no sense at all! She pummeled me with questions and peace would not be restored until she had a full explanation. Could you blame her?

This is where speaking a second language comes in handy! I certainly could not explain to my six year old that we remove our shoes because somebody once got on a plane with a bomb in his shoe – not in an airport, and not in English. So, I did it anyway, in an airport, but not in English.

The next time we went through security, she was content to follow the rules, and the topic never again resurfaced until months later over dinner. For whatever reason, she decided we must revisit this subject, and she let us know that she found it rather drole that due to one person's bad idea, the rest of us should have to remove shoes at airports for the rest of our lives. How can you argue with that kind of wisdom? A mother must agree! And so I did... only I took it a step further to pose the question:

“So, if someone boards a plane with a bomb in his shoes and we all have to take our shoes off for security, what happens when someone puts a bomb in his underwear? Will we have to remove that as well”?

Roaring laughter shook the table. Eye-rolling from the teenager, baffled looks from the tween, shock from daddy and from the young sage a response broke through her trills “Who would want to look in our underwear? That's gross! And who would be stupid enough to put a bomb in there”?

Sometimes, my children think I make up stories in order to illustrate a point. It worked to my advantage that a few weeks ago, Mr. Underwear Bomber was all over the news. Mommy didn't make that one up! They might be asking on our next trip whether body-scanners are not another way of sneaking into our undies.

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