Most Unethical Joke of the Year

Rebecca Solomon,  a 22-year-old student at the University of Michigan,  was flying back to school after her holiday break. Shee arrived at Philadelphia International Airport 90 minutes before takeoff, to make sure  security screening  wouldn’t make her miss her Northwest Airlines flight into Detroit. She knew about the attempted Christmas bombing attack on the same airline on the way to the same city, and was understandably nervous.

After sending her carry-on items through the scanning machines, and walking through a detector, she saw a TSA worker beckoning her solemnly. As she walked over to him, he pulled a clear plastic bag from her bag. Inside the bag was fine, white powder.

“Where did you get it?,” he said, frowning.

Answer truthfully, the TSA worker told the shocked young woman, and everything will be OK. Then, as thoughts of being used as an unwitting drug mule, or having had explosive powder somehow slipped into her bag by a nearby terrorist, raced through Rebecca’s panicked brain, the man broke into a big smile.

“Just kidding!” he said. The bag was his own prop.

Unbelievable. If a passenger dares to make a joke about a security breach, he or she will be ushered off their flight and subjected to intense questioning. Everyone traveling by air these days is confused and nervous, and America’s crack airport security staff sees that as a perfect set-up for a “Candid Camera” moment? Laugh it up, boys; the last terrorist attempt to bring down a plane was foiled by a passenger after you let a potential bomber through. Newark’s airport was closed down for hours because another security worker took an unscheduled break that let a romantic fool breach a checkpoint. I’d say this is no time for levity by TSA workers. On the contrary, I think it is way past time for them to get serious.

I know the refrain: this is only one worker, who now, according to latest reports, is an ex-worker. the incident still raises questions about training, professionalism, and hiring at the Federal Security Administration. Have you heard about the nurse who told a patient, “I’m sorry; we found an inoperable brain tumor. KIDDING!!”? You haven’t, and that’s because no nurse would  make such a cruel and  irresponsible jest. How about the hilarious doctor who told an anxious father-to-be in the waiting room, “Sir? Your wife and child are dead. PUNK’D!!!”


The I.R.S. agent who sent out joke audit requests? The police officer who served a fake warrant, just to see the look on the homeowner’s face?  How about the fireman who ran into a crowded theater and told everyone to file out quietly, just for giggles. You don’t hear about any of those things because they don’t happen. They would be egregious abuses of power, not jokes, and properly trained professionals in sensitive positions know that without having to think twice.

The fact that even one TSA worker would do something like this indicates that something may be very wrong in our domestic security system, beginning with the calibre of the personnel on the front lines.

And that’s no joke.

2 thoughts on “Most Unethical Joke of the Year

  1. Why? It’s not even funny.
    As one of my favorite teachers used to say, “It’s not a joke if you’re the only one laughing.”

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