Fight terror with conveyor belts and longer tables

The Department of Homeland Security has done us a favor this summer travel season. It has issued a report we were never meant to see, proposing airport security upgrades that were obvious to anyone with the IQ of an aerosol container. The ideas look as if they were lifted straight out of "Homeland Security for Dummies."

My very favorite recommendation is that somehow, some way, airports figure out how to get those gray bins from the end of the security check line back to the beginning of the line automatically.

Isn't this something most high school cafeterias figured out a while ago?

Yo, security consultants! Ever seen the way lunch trays mysteriously disappear into the dishwashing room? It's called a conveyor belt. Sounds crazy, but it just might work!

Another security suggestion of rather stunning simplicity is this: Make the security-station tables longer! You know, the ones where we divest ourselves of our coats, shoes ... Longer tables would let more people divest in advance, meaning the X-ray machine wouldn't have to stand idle 30 percent of the time, as it often does now, waiting for the next guy in line to fish the last ball bearing out of his pants pocket. You know the old story: For want of a table, the plane was missed.

Now please don't think I'm blaming the security checkers themselves. It's not their fault they are charged with seizing our tweezers, just in case we were planning to attack the pilot, pluck him mercilessly, and leave him looking like Joan Crawford. No, most of the checkers I've encountered were both courteous and professional.

Still, knowing how many evil devices have been sneaked past them by journalists and other muckrakers intent on testing the system, I also endorse the study's call for more "puffers."

These machines - aka Explosive Trace Detection portals - spray air at passengers and then analyze it for trace elements of explosives. They are in 14 airports nationwide already. But we need them all over the country.

As for beyond our borders, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York just asked Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff to hurry up and implement one more wild-eyed idea: Rather than waiting until a plane has taken off to check its passenger list for terrorists, let's make the airlines check it beforehand.

That radical practice was supposed to have been implemented already. But it wasn't. So in just the past few months, two planes flying to the US had to be diverted midflight because they had do-not-fly passengers on board.

Not to mention awful in-flight movies.

So, with any luck, the homeland security folks will get on the stick and soon we will all be much happier flying. Unless we expected more than six pretzels for dinner.

But that's another story.

Lenore Skenazy is a columnist at The New York Daily News. ©2005 The New York Daily News. Distributed by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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