The Puffer

Today I went to SFO on my way to Hawaii and was directed to step to the side. I thought they would pat me down (ooo those rubber gloves feel good) and then wave that magic wand all over me.
Instead, they directed me to a new gizmo. As I walked up, it looked like a new metal detector. But as I got closer, I noticed there were glass doors in the front. A TSA woman mumbled something super quick at me and said to step up and get into the booth/arch thing and just listen to the instructions. Then, I started thinking – this is weird – is this some X-ray machine I hadn’t heard about?
I step up the first shoe prints and wait for the machine to tell me to get inside. Then it speaks and I get inside. As I stand there, the lights turn red and POOF POOF POOF super strong air blasts blow at me and messes up my hair!
I realize then this is one of those new puffer explosive chemical detection machines. Neat! It tries to loosen up particles on me by the strong air streams and then sucks them in for detection.
About a minute later, the lights turn green and I walk out without trouble.
Very cool detection technologies out there now – I can only hope they make flying safer. But somehow I just don’t think they will be able to catch everything that is possible to create mayhem.
I am reminded of a cartoon that a friend told me about in Newsweek showing two naked people about to pass through security and they remark to the (dressed) people behind them in line, ‘it’s just easier this way’. It echoed my thoughts exactly.
We can keep putting more and more sophisticated detectors and we should, but clever people will continually find ways to circumvent them.
I applaud the British police forces for discovering the plot this last month and preventing them from getting onboard IN THE FIRST PLACE.
It just shows that prevention is the best medicine in the war on terrorism. Treating the symptoms only delays the inevitable, but treating the root cause is the best way.