Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Friday, January 02, 2009

Stop The World. I Really Want To Get Off The Flight.

From an early age many of us are warned about finding ourselves in a mental asylum, and we have embedded in our minds the tragedy that would befall us if we were inmates in a mental home. Yet, we live life each day in what must be the biggest nuthouse that exists. I have not had the chance to really escape to outer space and another planet with no people to see if it is really better to be away from 'them all'. I have had times when I found myself totally alone, in the mountains, or in a place with no other humans nearby, but always knowing that I had to go back to 'the ward' called "Civilization".

I have no problem imagining that I am like Robinson Crusoe as I sometimes sit and look across a beach toward an horizon that is totally empty. I hope to see no ship passing by, and I would begin to have an uncontrollable fear if I saw another human's footprint or overheard what I thought was another person's voice. The footprints of animals and birds would not bother me, unless they were like that of an elephant--not because I am afraid of large animals, but because I know that elephants do not live on any desert islands, so must have been dropped there or brought there by some 'invader'.

We are a mere two days into the new year and the madness is already in full flight. I read today the story about a bunch of passengers who--perhaps rightly aware that 'loose lips cost lives'--reported some Muslim passengers' 'suspicious conversation' and this bunch of would-be terrorists were hoisted off their New Year's Day AirTran flight from Washington DC to Orlando (where they were going to a religious retreat--smart people), along with everyone else and rescreened and the plane rescreened (see NY Times report). At least some aspect of the suffering was shared, though the possible anguish of the Muslim passengers may last for some time to come. People who have never been profiled or told that they 'fit the description' wont ever understand what it means to feel under constant suspicion.

The explanations of the AirTran official are interesting as yet another example of group thinking and almost smack of a child saying "he told me to do it": a 'misunderstanding' he agreed, but validated by the action of two Federal air marshals on the flight "who had learned of the incident and reported it to airport police" (Chicken Little and the sky is falling...). Lesson for 2009 for travel anywhere near the USA: try to look like a non-Muslim (whatever that means); once on board, do not speak, close your eyes and try to sleep in a non-threatening manner until you reach another sane country. If it's a domestic flight, what can I suggest? I guess I will have to accept that this will only get worse in the run-up to the Inauguration. We hope for vigilance, but must beware vigilantes.

AirTran seem to have more than their share of "we do it our way incidents" over the past few years, including turfing off a family and their tantrum-ing three year old (see MSNBC report).
AirTran fired a pilot in 2005 for allegedly showed up for work in Las Vegas smelling of alcohol and carrying a government-issued firearm in a lockbox (he had been trained in a TSA program to arm pilots; the pilot was named Oliver Paul Reason (see Washington Post report).

Maybe I should be grateful that I only read about this wacky carrier and that I do not need to travel with them. Why can't LIAT give us a bit of excitement like this instead of just losing our luggage and constantly delaying our travel for simple mechanical reasons?

1 comment:

Living in Barbados said...

A reader pointed out to me that the charges against Mr. Reason were dropped. The story I found on Associated Press (April 15, 2005) was as follows:

(AP) Criminal charges are being dropped against an airline pilot arrested on a plane at McCarran International Airport and accused of being intoxicated. Clark County District Attorney David Roger says prosecutors wouldn't be able to prove AirTran pilot Oliver Paul Reason Junior was operating an aircraft while intoxicated.

The plane was still on the ground, and Reason was arrested in the aircraft galley -- not at the controls. Prosecutors say a breath test put Reason's blood-alcohol percentage above the point-zero-eight limit for driving in the state.

But only the results of a blood test taken four hours later would have been admissible in court. That test put Reason's blood-alcohol content well below the limit.

Reason's 38. He was fired by AirTran shortly after his arrest. The Federal Aviation Administration could still suspend or revoke his pilot's license.