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Increasing security with singing sinks

In light of the recently foiled terrorist plot and heightened security at airports around the country, you may be relieved to know that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has implemented a number of measures designed to make air travel safer, such as singing sinks.

No, seriously. The sinks in the men's restrooms at Hartsfield-Jackson now sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" while patrons wash their hands. Personally, I would have chosen "Splish, Splash I Was Taking a Bath," but nobody asked me.

At first, this struck me as rather odd. Then I remembered all those old World War II movies I used to watch on TV when I was a kid, where American GIs employed pop culture trivia as passwords.

You know, they'd ask an unfamiliar soldier they encountered a question like, "Who won the World Series?" And if the stranger answered, "The Atlanta Braves," our boys would fill him full of lead, unless they were laughing so hard they couldn't shoot straight.

So anyway, it occurred to me that this new form of bathroom entertainment could actually be a deviously clever security measure based on the same concept. After all, what popular song is more quintessentially American than "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"? Nearly every guy who came out of the restroom was humming that tune under his breath - and I became immediately suspicious of anyone who wasn't.

You see, someone who doesn't know that song can hardly consider himself an American. And if he's not an American, then there's a chance he could be a terrorist, plotting to blow up a plane with a tube of exploding hair gel.

If all this sounds ridiculously complicated, you must understand that such arcane measures are necessitated by the fact that we can't simply examine certain people more closely as they pass through security just because they're, say, of Middle Eastern descent. We have to treat everyone the same, whether the person is a Pakistani "student" or a 78-year-old grandmother from Cleveland.

This is true despite the fact that, of the last 52 people who have either tried to blow up an airplane or have succeeded in doing so, not one has been a grandmother or from Cleveland. In fact, nearly all have been young men of Middle Eastern descent.

But since it would be wrong to engage in racial profiling, we're forced to come up with other, less obvious means of protecting ourselves from terrorists.

So, we might see who recognizes the tune to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" - and wonder if that might not be a safer way to get from New York to London.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.