Bridge

On the bridge of his cruise ship, the Captain glances out the windows. The ship is leaving port and part of departure protocol is to examine the hull to ensure the dock didn’t damage the ship. He grabs the bridge of his glasses to remove them and raises his pair of binoculars  and peers through them.

The first thing he sees through the lenses are a few old ladies playing Bridge on the deck. He shifts his gaze outward and examines the hull. He commands the Yeoman-Purser to record that he observed no damage to the ship from the dock.

The Captain lowers the binoculars and rubs the bridge of his nose to help alleviate the eye strain. He replaces them to sweep the area in front of his ship. He carefully examines a bridge his ship must sail under. He’d normally be looking for any sign of corrosion that could cause debris to fall as they pass. This time, he’s looking for something far more sinister… Protesters.

He recalled the last cruise and how one of his wealthier passengers had an accident while eating. Her bridges came loose while eating a jawbreaker and the dentures went down her windpipe. She had to be rushed to a local hospital to extract the foreign object from her esophagus.

The Captain had to bridge the conversation between the cruise-line’s legal department and the passenger’s family. He apologized for the inconvenience, but the ship cannot remain at the port while she recovers. They need to decide if all or part of the family will remain at port. The cruise line would be happy to assist them with finding lodging and passage back home.

Once they reached their destination, the bridge crew was surprised to see reporters and protesters were picketing the entrance to the port’s embarkation building. Apparently, the family was furious their vacation was ruined and posted on every social media platform about how the cruise line is marooning them in a foreign country.

After completing extra paperwork…

After performing the usual cruise checklists…

After conducting several interviews and pep-up meetings…

After 3 days at port, his ship is embarking on a new cruise.

The Captain snaps back to reality, and returns to the bridge of his ship. He feels a rush of shame for that brief distraction, and lowers the binoculars only to see the First Officer looking at him with concern. He was examining the bridge for the same hazard.

A knowing glance bridges their understanding of the situation. Speaking in unison, they both bark at the Communications Officer. They smile at each other and the Captain continues with his order to hail the port authority for confirmation that the bridge is clear of pedestrian traffic.

They stand on the bridge of the ship as it sails closer and closer to the bridge. The captain rubs the bridge of his nose before putting his glasses back on again. He’s about to order the engines to stop when the Port Authority radios back to guarantee the bridge is clear and being patrolled by local police.

The Captain tells the helms-woman, “steady as she goes.”

A relieved smile warms her face as she removes her hand from the lever controlling the ships speed. As she acknowledges his command, he walks to the front of the bridge and gazes out a window. The Captain looks down and sees his new passengers queue up to reenact the iconic “Titanic scene” at the bow of his ship.

He never tires of seeing this, and the innocent display refreshes him.

Smiling, he turns away and gazes at his bridge crew. He can see that all are glad to be leaving the last cruise behind. They are starting a new journey with fresh passengers who’re eager to be wowed at the ship’s exemplary service.

Travel Security

This article was inspired by a multi-pronged adventure I recently took. I flew out to Chicago, took a train ride to Seattle, and then flew back to Houston. I was shocked at the varying levels of security I had to go through for each leg of my journey, and I pondered the other journeys I’ve taken in the past. In essence, the security protocols and requirements are different for the various modes of transportation either by: plane, train, bus, ship… and car.

Plane

Air-travel requires the most extensive security out of all modes of travel. My first encounter with airport security was with a not-so-nice TSA agent who acted like I was a waste of his time for not knowing every single post-Covid security protocol.

Before Covid took over the planet, I considered myself a veteran traveler and was shocked when this agent chastised me for wearing my facemask in a crowded line. 

Can you believe that?!  

Actually, he needed to see my face to verify my identity and chastised me for not using a 3rd hand to take off my mask fast enough for him to keep his part of the line moving efficiently. Unfortunately, my first hand was giving him my ID and my second hand was placing my barcode on the reader. Naturally, I should have evolved that 3rd hand to pull my mask down to reveal my true identity. 

After you get through the ID guy, you need to get your luggage scanned. Not only that, but you need to take your shoes off to be scanned… thanks to Richard Reid (aka the “Shoe Bomber”). But that’s not all you need to put into a tray to get scanned, you must also take every electronic device out of your bags. That means: phone, Bluetooth keyboard, tablet/Kindle, Switch or other mobile devices[1].

While your stuff is getting scanned, you need to get scanned too. You now need to step into a booth and place your feet onto yellow foot prints, while trying not to think about catching a foot fungus as you raise your hands above your head.

You somehow manage to get through the security checkpoint and are putting your shoes on, when you see an armored officer walk a drug/bomb-sniffing dog. That dog is the last part of ground-based airport security, but there’s a couple more layers of security to keep in mind while you’re up in the air. While you’re in the plane and flying over the country, the pilot is safely locked behind a bulletproof bulkhead, and there’s a possibility a Sky Marshal may be flying with you to thwart any pesky touristic-terrorist. 

That’s 6 layers of security at our airports. Airports must truly be the safest and most secure locations on the planet.

Let’s see how other modes of transportation match up.

Train

The last couple times I took the train, there was literally NO security at the train major stations I’ve boarded the train on. Your luggage does not get scanned at all. Amtrak reserves the right to randomly search your bags, but I’ve never seen it happen. 

Most often there’s no security either. Some of the major stations will have a drug-sniffing dog run through randomly. Other than that, it’s up to the maintenance people to kick out homeless or violent people[2]

So basically, you may get a K-9 unit and a janitor as your security guard… and the janitor is definitely not getting paid enough to double-duty as security (so be thankful). 

Do you truly need more security while traveling on a train? Meh… I guess not because you can’t fly a train into a building. But consider how anyone can easily sneak a weapon on a train. I mean, the worst that can happen is a mass gunman kills a bunch of people while the train moves 65 MPH on the track, out in the middle of nowhere.

Nice knowing you, Grandma.

Bus

Traveling by bus is no different than by train. If there’s security present at the station, it’s at the stations where crime is high and homeless are swarming the streets around it (like the walking dead). 

Greyhound is the largest passenger bus service provider in the country. They do not inspect your luggage unless asked to do so by another passenger, and sometimes not even then. 

You are more likely to get your luggage “inspected” if the employee thinks there’s something of value in there. If there are valuables in your luggage, and you don’t keep your eyes on your bags at all times, expect those valuables to be confiscated for security purposes… or maybe a homeless person managed to sneak in and steal your stuff. 

Ship

Going on a cruise is the only other method of travel which requires passengers to go through pre-boarding security. While boarding, passengers must show an ID or passport, and walk through a metal detector while your bag gets x-rayed.

That’s surprisingly robust security for something which is limited to water and that barely travels 20 MPH, but there’s a reason for this, because security is responsible for managing the safety of about 2,000-3,000 passengers[3], [4]… unarmed.

That’s the size of a village or small town!

It’s in the cruise line’s best interest to remove lethal weapons from the equation before all those people set sail and become drunken sailors.

Too bad security can’t keep passengers from getting each other sick.

Car

Can you truly trust yourself… or your family? Perhaps you should pat down that baby carrier for something other than a stink-bomb. 

When you drive, you are your own security and everyone else’s worst nightmare. 

If you’re not careful, you can be the cause of one of the average 18,500 crashes each day. If you’re a terrible driver, or are criminal enough to drive drunk, or are so old you should have been medically barred from driving years ago… you may contribute to the 3,700 fatal crashes that happen each day[5]

Needless to say, this last part is mostly a joke.

***

In closing, there’s a dramatic difference between security at the airport and every other method of travel in the country. The country’s leaders are so worried about being held accountable by the next jet-powered civilian missile, they don’t care if your poor ol’ granny gets mugged or killed on a train or bus. 


[1] Electronics: And is the TSA going to replace any of this equipment if it’s damaged or stolen while in their custody (on the conveyor belt)? 

Nope! Most claims are denied.

[2] Train Stations: Most tourists get on stations at major cities, but I’m not mentioning the various rural stations trains service daily, which have absolutely no security beyond the ticket checker. Rural areas are where most of the domestic religious fanatics live, so we should be very concerned about this… but, we aren’t.

[3] Security: Shipboard security not owned by the government. The staff is privately owned by either the cruise-line or a third-party contractor

[4] Passenger Size: 2,000-3,000 passengers is the average guest population of cruise ships before Covid-19.

[5] Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2019). Motor Vehicle Safety Data. Retrieved from U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: https://www.bts.gov/content/motor-vehicle-safety-data