through St. Louis not long ago, I saw a billboard along the side of the highway
that said, “Childhood Obesity is a growing concert” (no argument there). There was a number posted that you could
call, etc. Flanking this billboard was
another one (literally, right next to it) that showed two young children
frolicking into a McDonald’s play area saying, “I needs to get my burger on!” I had to laugh. Irony is my favorite kind of humor and this
was rich. The only thing that would have
made it funnier is if there would have been a billboard for “literacy” nearby
as well. “Does your child have trouble
with verb tenses and sentence structure?”
Minneapolis airport experienced its own irony yesterday, and I’m actually still
laughing about it, 22 hours later! If
you’ve taken only one trip in the last 10 years, you’ve heard this
announcement, “Please do not leave your baggage unattended. Unattended baggage will be confiscated. Please report any unattended or suspicious
looking bags to the nearest security attendant.” I’ve heard that announcement so often that I’m
afraid to put my gym bag down in my own house without asking my wife to watch
it for me. I’ve grown paranoid about
unattended bags. As a diligent traveler
who is ever eager to thwart terrorism, I do keep an eye out for unattended,
suspicious looking bags.
Now, let me
give you a test. If you’re the airport
commissioner and you’re holding a meeting regarding the proper procdedural use
of your airport’s baggage routing and reclamation system, what would your
answer be to the following question?
Keep in mind, we’re under a yellow terrorism alert and suspicious
unattended bags are a legitimate cause for alarm:
we do to alert travelers who are waiting for their checked baggage by the
luggage carousel, that the last bag from a particular flight has now been sent
down the chute?”
on the “No more baggage” indicator light.
a dead skunk down the chute.
off the carousel so people will realize that no more bags from that flight will
the sweet new HD tv that sits above the carousel to blink the words “No More
Bags” next to the flight that is already listed there.
a 25 year old suspicious looking unattended bag down the chute with a paper
sign taped on it that says, “Last Bag”
All of these
are effective solutions with the single exception of option “E” and yet, that’s
the right answer if you’re the director of all things luggage related at the
MSP airport! They actually sent a pink
Samsonite suitcase down the chute with a paper sign taped to it that said “Last
Bag.” Naturally, the sign was torn off
during the bag’s journey on the conveyor belt, so what people saw as they
walked by was a beaten up lonely bag, slowly spinning around and around the
carousel. OF COURSE someone thought it
was suspicious, OF COURSE they called security, and OF COURSE the TSA came with
their “Terrorist Bag Alert Handbook.”
Can you guess what step 1 from that handbook says? Yep, it says, “Shut down the airport for at
least two hours.”
exactly what they did. The MSP airport,
one of the top 7 busiest airports in the nation, was shut down for more than
two hours because they violated their own “suspicious bag” policy. You can’t make it up.
What can we
do? Simple. We can use some common sense. When you see a “lonely” bag, look around for
a potential owner. Look for a tag,
terrorists rarely put their names on their luggage. Ask around, “Is that your bag?” I’m not saying that there aren’t any bags to
be suspicious of, I’m just saying that we should try to avoid the same
knee-jerk reaction that our government has whenever they see a nail clipper or
a butter knife in the security line.
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken
regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send an email! Your questions
will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the
Expert podcast show.