Posts Tagged ‘security theatre’

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Security Theatre Theatre!

November 26, 2010

Yes, it’s another hilarious, yet slightly whiny, post about stupid people and the rules they love to make up.

So there I was, after work, cycling home past St Pancras Station in London, and I decided to stop and avail myself of one of the consumer outlets therein, in search of comestibles. I chained up my bike outside, thinking that with all the passengers and their luggage scurrying to and fro it would be the right thing to do. Why get in the way of all that activity with my bike when I don’t have to, and who wants a bike in their food shop, right?

A few minutes later I walk out the door, key in hand, ready to pedal off, and a man in some sort of vaguely uniform-ish clothing is poking at my ride. Maybe, I foolishly think to myself, he appreciates fine vintage cycles and was merely admiring it. Or preparing to steal my lights.

“Is this your bike?” he enquired as he saw me approach, key in hand, wearing cycling gloves and helmet. I said that it was.
“You can’t lock it up here.”
“Oh, I just did” I replied.
“If the police found that there they’d cut the lock off it and take it away”
“Um, why?” I asked. “Are they worried that it will expode?” (Note that my bike has no panniers, bags, or any other attachment where large quantities of nitrogen-based fertiliser, or C4 even, could be stored).
“Yes” he said. “They” (yes, the scary mysterious ‘they’) “pack the tubes with explosives.”

Um, how about ‘no “they” don’t’? I wish I could put “citation needed” in superscript on the foreheads of the idiots who say these things.

“So”, I asked him “where does one lock up a bike around here?”
He looked at me blankly.
“I’m supposed to take it inside with me?”
“Yes, that would be the best thing to do” he said, straight-faced.
“So I’m supposed to take my potentially exploding bike onto the main concourse, in the middle of all the people, and not leave it out here where if it exploded it might break a window or leave a hole in the pavement?”
“Yes” he said. “I know it sounds stupid” (I was beginning to suspect that if he actually was bright enough to know that it sounded stupid he wouldn’t try to enforce, it, or even say it).

I told him that what he was doing was not Security, but Security Theatre, but he turned away as his radio came to life.
“Yes, don’t worry, I tracked down the owner of the bike” he said into it. ‘Tracked me down’? Is there such a thing as ‘loitering someone down’? Far more appropriate description of his performance, I would have thought.
I heard the voice on the radio say “I hope you told him the error of his ways.”
“Yes!” I shouted at the radio. “I’m planning to join a theatre troupe!”

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Brussels – not always boring!

March 25, 2009

easily excited

I’m working, at the moment, at the arse-end of Evere, on the north-eastern fringe of Brussels, just shy of NATO headquarters, and halfway between the city and the airport.
At least the locals, Flemish, Walloon, Moroccan, Turkish, whatever, seem friendly enough. I visited a small pub with a cow orker, and it’s the only place I’ve ever been where everyone in the place bought a round for everyone else. There were only about 6 of us, but still…

And then there was the ‘manifestation.’ No, Belgium is not noticeably haunted – it’s apparently the word they use when Something Important is happening at NATO, just around the corner from where I’ve been working.

I noticed a lot of police activity in the morning, convoys of (mostly empty) police buses, but that happens. I thought nothing of it, until I tried to go to work. I unlocked the gate to the driveway – the building I work in is set in a largeish yard with lawn (kept tidy by bunnies) and trees and a car-park – and locked it behind me. Suddenly a small car with four un-uniformed but very efficient looking men pulled into the drive. They got out, and the driver came forward. “How did you get in there?” he asked. “I have a key,” I replied. I could see lots of heavy-duty equipment bristling under his jacket. This is where I learnt about the ‘manifestation.’ “Manifestation?” I asked, wondering if Belgium really took its ghostbusting that seriously. He explained briefly that it was a term that was used in the context of NATO ‘security,’ then asked me to prove that I actually let myself in with the key I had brandished. So I opened the gate, not having seen any form of ID from these fairly threatening-looking dudes, and a little voice in the back of my head said “this a the part where they rush the gate, kick the crap out of you and cut off your thumb for the biometric front door lock.” Luckily that little voice had been watching too many Hollywood movies. The men thanked me and went about their other business.
But this is the kind of security that, a couple of hours later, had 5 mounted (heavily armed) police come into the company’s premises because my colleague, who is a lightly-built blonde Kiwi girl (that day wearing a miniskirt, presumably that’s interpreted as terrorist chic here), wanted to go home. 100 metres around the corner. They came onto the company’s privaat eigendom (what they call private property in Belgium) and bailed her up against a hedge, and told her that she needed to go back inside – forbidding her to leave work, or indeed be on the streets at all!
Our manager was not pleased when he heard about it, but that was an hour later and the ‘manifestation’ was more or less all over by then, save for the constant drone of helicopters…

Note to self: stay the hell away from centres of bureaucracy, military or otherwise, and other hotbeds of security theatre. They do nothing to reinforce ones faith in humanity.