Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Security Please

While in Las Vegas last Saturday, my husband and I went to the Mirage Casino to see Jay Leno's live show. It was a 10:30 pm show and the casino was totally packed. In addition to the usual gamblers and diners, there were people leaving the early Cirque du Soleil and Danny Gans shows as well as people arriving for the later Cirque du Soleil show and Jay Leno. We had pretty good seats right in the middle of the theater. As we sat there before the show, I noticed that there was a single empty seat between the woman to my right and me. A minute after that a young man of about 15 years of age and of potentially Middle Eastern descent showed up to occupy that seat. He was wearing a black DC hat and sneakers and long baggy black shorts that made his crotch appear to be much closer to his knees than nature had intended. He also had a medium-sized black backpack which he set down between his feet. I really wouldn't have thought that anything strange was going on with him except that he acted very nervously and fidgeted a lot with the backpack and his hat. He didn't look comfortable at all.

It was then that I realized that the security in place at those casinos was insufficient to meet our current needs. The eyes in the skies in those places weren't going to protect against a kid with a bomb in his backpack. Neither were the two air-headed women that checked tickets - they could barely handle line management.

I knew that the odds were stacked in favor of him just being a kid that wanted to see Jay Leno's show. That didn't comfort me much at the time, however. He kept fidgeting. The lady on his right was oblivious to anything and everything besides the color of her date's eyes. I decided that I would engage in small talk with him and that afterward I could make a better assessment of the situation. Turned out the kid was in Vegas with his family and opted to see Leno while the rest of his family saw Lance Burton. Seemed like a perfectly normal kid from San Diego County. I joked around with him for a while and he settled down. He was actually a pretty nice kid. Part of me felt bad for even suspecting that something sinister was going on with him. But most of me was glad that I did and that I did something about it. That's what I would expect of anyone else in my position.

I have traveled to other countries in which security is stationed at every entrance of the large hotels and shopping malls. They screen everyone that walks in the door and place all bags through X-Ray machines. A lot of checkpoints had K-9 units as well. I've been to places that stationed armed guards at the entrances to fast food restaurants. Can you imagine an armed guard at every door of your local McDonald's or Starbuck's? There are places on this planet where that is standard practice. In those places, however, labor is not very expensive. We can't say that about our country. I, for one, wouldn't want armed guards everywhere in the USA anyway. We live in a free society and not a quasi-police state. However, I think that for large hotels, casinos, shopping malls and other large gatherings like concerts and plays, the case is easily made in this day and age for enhanced security. I can definitely say that I slept easier in my bed at the Shangri-La Hotel in Manila where you are greeted by a security checkpoint at the entrance than I did that Saturday night in my bed at the Wynn.

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