April 1, 2008, - 4:44 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
No, this is not an April Fools Day joke, though it should be. But every day is April Fools Day at the falsely-named Transportation Security Administration.
After years of letting testers with decoy bombs and explosive materials through security, after making me dump my tube of lip gloss (and also failing to catch that many times, too), and after frisking grannies but not Mohammeds and Shahidas, TSA finally has its priorities right and is spending personnel, time, energy, and funds on what’s most important in national transportation security:
As Catherine Lillie was designing a futuristic airport checkpoint that would calm stressed passengers, she faced a crucial decision: classical music or New Age?
Listening to soundtracks in a warehouse at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Lillie’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) team debated which tunes cast a more serene aura.
“We ran a couple of classical music tracks at one point that were simply too musical,” Lillie said. “They take over, and you start focusing on the music.”
The New Age instrumentals were “spa-like and soothing” – perfect to make passengers relax as they line up at a metal detector. “It’s like aural wallpaper,” Lillie said.
Nine months [DS:???????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!] of Lillie’s handiwork will be tested starting in May at Baltimore/Washington International Airport and could be adopted at airports around the country. . . .
The road to relaxation draws heavily on industrial psychology. Lillie studied how banks align furniture to deter robbers and how restaurants use color schemes to stimulate eating.
“Research shows that the cooler ends of the spectrum, blues and greens, have a calming effect,” Lillie said. Her checkpoint line is bathed in the glow of mauve lights.
“This is the first significant change to the checkpoint since the 1970s,” TSA chief Kip Hawley said. [DS: I repeat, ???????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!]
The checkpoint to be tested in May at one terminal in Baltimore is based on a simple premise: serenity adds security. Mauve lights glow softly, soothing music hums, and smiling employees offer quiet greetings and assistance.
“A chaotic, noisy, congested checkpoint is a security nightmare. Chaos gives camouflage,” Hawley said. “A chaotic environment puts subtle pressure on (screeners) to rush the job.”
Hawley has sought to “calm the passenger” as he has focused the TSA on intercepting terrorists before they get to checkpoints, where they could slip plastic explosives past X-ray machines. . . .
That task is easier if passengers are relaxed. “Calm allows things to stand out more,” Hawley said. “It creates a better environment to observe hostile intent.”
TSA planners have been tinkering for months in a warehouse at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, testing music, lighting and displays. “You can actually influence some behavior subliminally through color,” said Catherine Lillie, head of the checkpoint-testing team.
Priorities, shmiorities. At the TSA, it’s all about New Age.
This absurdity is just the latest attempt by the TSA to avoid what they need to do but won’t: profile Muslim, Arab, and Middle Eastern passengers. So, instead, the TSA thinks that calming people in line will enable them to spot the anxious terrorists. Anyone ever see photos of Mohammed Atta? Did he seem anxious to you . . . or cold and calculating, regardless of John Tesh and Yanni muzak?
Yup, Minnie Riperton could’ve prevented 9/11, didn’t you know?
Somehow, I doubt listening to this would have stopped anything, but you should plan to hear it soon at a TSA security checkpoint near you:
Tags: Baltimore, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Catherine Lillie, chief, Debbie Schlussel, energy, head, head of the checkpoint-testing team, John Tesh, Kip Hawley, metal detector, Minnie Riperton, Mohammed Atta, National Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington, The New Age, Transportation Security Administration, TSA security checkpoint, x-ray, Yanni