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Comments

marina

I can understand you remain mute about your suspicions. I did it myself a few times in the past flying from different places here in Europe with arabs and conspicuous individuals having strange behaviour. We always hope it is just our paranoic fears, or we are already used to live with the terror? I wonder...

Nancy Scola

But when do you ride on the New York City subway system, for example, and not see something a bit odd? We're supposed to "see something, say something" but having zero tolerance for suspicious behavior isn't really practical in most environments. So just how much and what kind of weird stuff are we supposed to let pass? We'd likely be better off arming the public with information on terrorist-related behaviors, based how they've been known to have acted in the past.

Rob

Wait, so the plane didn't explode?

Pascale Soleil

Symptoms of ongoing anxiety...: extra "L"s (war is L, isn't it?).

I guess at this point I'd rather be wrong and abjectly apologetic, than ignore a strong intuition.

No one wants to fly with me now, do they? :(

Mark Larson

Well, it never hurts to ask the attendant, "What just happened? Why is that lady leaving?" Perhaps even suggest outright, "I hope she didn't leave anything behind." I'd rather be the polite, affable, and slightly paranoid customer than to simply stew in my own panic. It is unfortunate, though, that our alarms more finely tuned to these sorts of odd situations.

Tristan Louis

I'm of two minds about this. Hiowever, I think that, for the sake of argument, I'm going to fall on the side of saying you actually SHOULD have pressed the attendant button, if for no other reason that to remind the flight attendants of their duty. Remember that their job is not just to serve drinks and do the security demo (which still bewilders me: a flotation device on cross country trip?) but also to ensure that passenger are safe and secure. Under the new model, that includes ensuring that scenarios like the one you witnessed are at least cursorily investigated.

In a way, this points to the wider problem with the US' approach to counter-terrorism: focus on cissors and nail clippers but be blind to abnormal behavior. John Tierney's column in Yesterday's NY Times (sitting behind the pay wall at http://select.nytimes.com/2006/08/15/opinion/15Tierney.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fColumnists%2fJohn%20Tierney ) talks about the TSA's approach to security and you might be interested in reading it as it mirrors, to some extent, your experience.

nickb

Well isn't the theory of airport security in this country to secure a whole area of the airport (called the sterile area) can move on and off airplanes without having to undergo individual security searches at each gate? Its a matter of efficiency and cost savings to secure the whole area.

vanderwal

I have been through this once in the last couple months with other people flying looking at each other, but somebody finally asked about the situation. At this point I think I am asking or bring it up to someone's attention. The kid wife thing ran through my head too.

Where did we get so concerned about manners and being polite that we forget about safety? Having lived in England during the times of IRA bombings (and being taken by airport security for being a wanted IRA bomber) has not greatly improve my ability to say some thing on an airline. I get off busses in the U.S. when a lunch box is left (sometimes telling the driver) and doing the same on Metro trains, mostly with others who have lived outside the U.S. in countries that have been volatile.

judson

I ask myself: "What are the odds?" And I am most often comforted.

Ben

Yes, that's right. Buy into the fear.

Mikeachim

I'm currently overcoming a relatively sudden fear of flying (been using planes for decades - have flown a 2-seater - suddenly, a few months ago, BAM, terrified), and this is exactly what I experience.
A string of little things that suddenly get together and propagate in my mind, and suddenly I've the imagination of Stephen King in there, overclocking, and my sense of calm is like a broken heat-sink.
And the correct approach is yours: the internal dialogue. I think mine is an internal shouting-match, but hey, if my brain goes deaf for a while, it might just help....

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    The Basics

    • I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of eight books, and co-founder of three web sites. We spend most of the year in Marin County, California though I'm on the road a lot giving talks. (You can see the full story here.) Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

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    • : Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

      Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
      An exploration of environments that lead to breakthrough innovation, in science, technology, business, and the arts. I conceived it as the closing book in a trilogy on innovative thinking, after Ghost Map and Invention. But in a way, it completes an investigation that runs through all the books. Sold more copies in hardcover than anything else I've written.

    • : The Invention of Air

      The Invention of Air
      The story of the British radical chemist Joseph Priestley, who ended up having a Zelig-like role in the American Revolution. My version of a founding fathers book, and a reminder that most of the Enlightenment was driven by open source ideals.

    • : The Ghost Map

      The Ghost Map
      The latest: the story of a terrifying outbreak of cholera in 1854 London 1854 that ended up changing the world. An idea book wrapped around a page-turner. I like to think of it as a sequel to Emergence if Emergence had been a disease thriller. You can see a trailer for the book here.

    • : Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

      Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
      The title says it all. This one sparked a slightly insane international conversation about the state of pop culture -- and particularly games. There were more than a few dissenters, but the response was more positive than I had expected. And it got me on The Daily Show, which made it all worthwhile.

    • : Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

      Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
      My first best-seller, and the only book I've written in which I appear as a recurring character, subjecting myself to a battery of humiliating brain scans. The last chapter on Freud and the neuroscientific model of the mind is one of my personal favorites.

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      Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
      The story of bottom-up intelligence, from slime mold to Slashdot. Probably the most critically well-received all my books, and the one that has influenced the most eclectic mix of fields: political campaigns, web business models, urban planning, the war on terror.

    • : Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

      Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
      My first. The book I wrote instead of finishing my dissertation. Still in print almost a decade later, and still relevant, I think. But I haven't read it in a while, so who knows what's in there!

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