She is the director of a major public organization, on assignment in a Canadian city, orchestrating a nationwide program when a snowstorm hit the airport.
Her name or that of her organization isn’t important.
What occurred is.
She was stuck. Two days in a small airport is no fun, especially when you have to line up hours for every flight only to be told it’s full or cancelled.
Air Canada (Air Hopeless, as it’s referred to by frequent fliers), has not yet learned travellers have bladders.
Long into the second day after the snow quit falling, a sympathetic agent diverted her into the queue for a chartered flight, where she waited for several more hours, her bladder near ruined by the interminable line-ups. The flight was also, eventually, cancelled.
She approached the sole remaining booking agent in a building full of angry, trapped travellers.
“I would like to speak to someone in management,” she said, undoubtedly with a little ice in her normally calm demeanor.
“OK,” the woman at the desk said, wearing one of those great iron-on smiles.
A few minutes later two burly police officers appeared. The lead officer, a kindly looking fellow, started speaking even before he reached her.
“You should know I’ve been instructed to put anyone who shows anger in this airport on the No Fly list. Then you will be walking home across Canada, so take that into account before you speak to me.”
This is what we call freedom today.
Welcome to the new world of flightless Canadians, many of whom will probably go the way of the dodo once they lose their travel-dependant jobs and can’t pay their mortgages. At least they will be safe from terrorists. Or will they?
I suspect Osama bin Laden won’t be flashing his passport at the Ottawa airport.
Meanwhile the government is massaging us into compliance by informing us only a tiny number of people will be affected.
Perhaps we should examine the No Fly policy of our neighbour, the USA, since it was the first to create this institution on a grand scale and our President (oops, Prime Minister) Harper has been so cravenly emulating the discredited policies of George W. Bush.
Six short years ago, 16 people were on the American list.
In 2005 more than 30,000 people complained about paying for flights they were later told they couldn’t take.
Today? It’s estimated 70,000 American citizens are designated by an arbitrary, invisible agency as too dangerous to board a plane.
Apparently, however, they are safe on ferries, cruise ships, freeways, in government offices, hospitals and walking down the street towards you.
So far this No Fly list has saved America from Cat Stevens, US Marines returning from Iraq, several eminent novelists, and Senator Ted Kennedy — which many neocons might consider a good thing.
However, it has also denied flights to Republican politicians as well as media people who have criticized the Bush administration, and it includes environmentalists, naturally (if you’ll forgive the pun).
It has also saved America from a number of children under the age of five. (It’s long been known the modern child is a dangerous weapon.)
And it has saved America from the Robert Johnsons and David Nelsons of the world.
Whoops, that dratted list of Irish terrorists from the ‘70s keeps popping up — including the dead ones.
But we can trust our governments, can’t we?
After all, trained experts are checking the names often, although that information doesn’t explain why 14 of the suicide bombers from 9/11 keep popping up on the American list.
There’s bound to be a few glitches.
If your life is ruined by lost business deals or your failure to meet your job’s travel obligations, be assured, your sacrifice is for the protection of your personal freedom.
Anything to protect the innocent, even if it means sacrificing a few innocents.
That’s why Canada’s program has the Orwellian name, Passenger Protect. More correctly, it should be called Passenger Punish.
This fits right in with Air Canada’s impressive ability to leave people stranded at airports — their luggage probably headed for Siberia.
And don’t even think about taking your poor dog when you move.
WestJet hardly needs to advertise these days, what with Air Canada bragging about how bad its service is.
The real joy of these No Fly lists is that nobody will tell you if you can fly when you buy your ticket.
They want to surprise you.
Yup, there’s going to be a lot of depressed terrorists wandering around airports with their bombs. It’s the new, clever psychological tactic to discourage terrorism.
Air Canada must love this.
You can keep buying tickets and then buy them again when your name is cleared by the select, invisible group of bureaucrats who know what’s good for Canada (let’s hope they aren’t survivors from the federal sponsorship program).
These lists could be real moneymakers.
For instance, the Americans keep importing the same bad information (then it sends that bad information to us), so after you’ve been cleared you can find yourself back on it the next time you fly.
Just ask Senator Kennedy and the Robert Johnsons of North America.
Forget about flight paranoia, our North American governments have made pre-flight paranoia into an art form.
Who would’ve ever thought that waiting in the interminable line to Cancun could become such a thrilling event?
According to the Oxford Dictionary the word terrorism is a: “a) Policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; b) the employment of methods of intimidation.”
That just about defines what our government is doing to us.
Once we had a rule of law — courts and juries to designate the guilty.
Now invisible bureaucrats are your judge, jury, and executioner.
And we know how much faith we have in them.
Terrorists don’t have to take away our freedom and democracy by force. Their threats can make us do it for them.