Traveling this winter break brought to my attention a curious yet sensical state of affairs. I am referring to the variance in transportation security precautions taken by various airports around the globe. I was, last week, in Cartagena, Colombia. Upon leaving the country I was allowed to walk through the metal detectors with shoes and carrying a bottle of water that I had procured outside of the airport. My bag was filled with various liquids, and colloids such as contact-lens solution and toothpaste. I had far exceeded the US regulations, but the security detail paid no heed. The Colombian equivalent of TSA, however, did something that a US TSA worker would never even considered doing. They poked holes in all of my suitcases.
The security official took what looked like a long pointy shish-kebab skewer, and repetitively stuck my bag and licked the end of the stick. It dawned on me later that I was being checked for cocaine possession (and smuggling), an issue far more ubiquitous for those leaving Colombia than for anywhere in the United States. The bizarre experience of having my bag made more breathable and less water-proof reminded me of other traveling experiences where I noticed the different airport-security practices than I was used to.
Last year when I was coming home from Egypt, I recalled something particularly peculiar. I had set off the metal detector altogether. Absent-mindedly I had forgotten to take my wallet out of my back pocket. I was not searched, or wanded, or questioned, but rather just sent through to my gate as if nothing had happened. In Israel, the security line is pretty painless. Hats, sweaters and shoes can be worn; the line tends to move very quickly. In Israel, however there is an added component to the security procedure—questioning. Did you pack your bags? Were they with you the whole time? Did you receive a gift? Do you realize the potential threat of a bomb? (They actually use the word bomb in the airport to make sure that everyone is on the same page!)
Different countries deal with their own security issues and therefore have different security procedures to keep people safe. I nevertheless see the huge variation in security measures as interesting and worth noting.
Posted by Daily Princetonian Web Staff
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