On a recent Saturday, my wife and I decided to take in an indoor lacrosse match. The Boston Blazers of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League were playing at Boston's Fleet Center. We'd been to the season opener and had a great time. We'd been thinking about buying season tickets for next year. It was fun and inexpensive - especially when compared to ticket prices for basketball and hockey. So when we found ourselves planning on being in Boston anyway a trip to the Fleet Center for a Blazers game seemed a natural.
We arrived about 20 minutes before the game and purchased tickets at the box office. As we queued up to enter the arena I was surprised at how slowly the line was moving. It was slower then our previous visit and even slower then much more better attended events like Celtics basketball. At the top of the escalator I found out why. Everyone entering was being searched after they turned in their ticket. I na´vely assumed that they were searching people who gave some indication that they were a risk of some kind. I honestly didn't expect to be searched. But I was. Frankly I was too surprised to react. My wife was not.
My wife announced that she would not be searched. Security insisted. My wife declined. We were told that we could not enter until we were both searched. At this point my wife asked for our money back. The guard said that he could not do that. Our position went quickly up that chain of command and our money was returned. But we are both still upset about this violation of our privacy and dignity.
A number of things about this event bother me.
That they wanted to search me
I'm an honest person. I behave myself responsibly. I follow the law and the rules of society. I find a request to search me to be insulting. It implies that I have done or am doing something wrong. The staff at the Fleet Center stated that they search everyone. The clear implication is that that makes it all right. They say they are not singling me out so I should not feel insulted. I disagree. Insulting everyone does not make the insult acceptable.
As I mentioned above, I've been to the Fleet Center before for both basketball and lacrosse. The security guard admitted that they did not search patrons of basketball or hockey games but claimed that they did search at all lacrosse games, wrestling matches and concerts. As I said, I'd been to lacrosse at the Fleet Center without being searched before. So saying that people were always searched at lacrosse games was at best a mistake indicating poor training. Beyond that there is the clear implication that people who attend basketball games or hockey games are OK. It's those people who attend concerts, wrestling or lacrosse one has to watch out for.. The idea that I turn from a responsible, trustworthy people into someone who needs to be searched just because I decide to attend a lacrosse game is absurd in the extreme. I'm still the same person.
That they were not honest about the reason for the search
No, they may be searching other people for my safety but they are not searching me for my safety. This is the same sort of ridiculous Orwellian newspeak that stores peddle when they claim they are searching your cart on the way out of the store to save you money. Stores check peoples carts on the way out because they don't trust people. Unfortunatly, they have good reason. But I'm offended to be searched when I have not done anything to make them think I am doing something wrong.
First off, the search was poor and I find it hard to believe they were really looking for weapons. They didn't search any of the common places for hiding weapons. No check of the small of the back or ankles for example. If they were really interested in finding weapons they should be using a metal detector. That would be a lot more efficient and a lot less obtrusive.Frankly, I think they were mostly interested in limiting what people were bringing in to drink. I did see that they were confiscating quite a bit of booze. I'd like to think they were worried about people getting drunk but they don't seem to do a lot to limit how much liquor people buy once inside.
My wife and I also felt that they should have given some warning that they were going to search us. If we had known in advance we would have stayed home and avoided all that trouble. But there was no sign at the box office. The ticket salesman did not tell us. There was no indication that we'd have to give up our privacy to gain admission to the game. This is unfair as it places a patron at a disadvantage. Having paid ones money, setting their expectations for a game, and handing in their ticket and then forcing them to make a decision to either give all that up or submit to a search. This doesn't fit my idea of fair and honest communication with a customer.
That everyone submitted so meekly
This may be my biggest disappointment. I remember growing up at a time (the late 60s early 70s) where people objected to any infringement on their rights. Students all over the country objected to the war, the draft, unfair school regulations, and anything else that seemed the least bit unfair. Yet here there were thousands of people, many young, meekly submitting to a body search. Not for a plane trip, not to enter a security tight government building, but to enter a sporting event. What is wrong with this picture? Have we as a culture become such sheep that we meekly give in to the demands of anyone in a uniform?
People today are very concerned about their safety. At the same time they seem, for the most part, unwilling to take any responsibility for their security. Rather, what people are willing to do is to give up some freedoms for the perception of security.
I believe it was Ben Franklin who said, "Those who would give up freedom for security are doomed to have neither." The state motto in New Hampshire, were I live, is "Live free or die." Another American patriot, Patrick Henry, said it another way "Give me liberty or give me death." Any way you want to say it, the basic idea is that taking some risk, possibly paying a price for it, but living the life of a free man (person) is the way to live life. I'd have to agree.
If others want to give up their freedoms that's fine. For them. They should at least allow me to keep mine. In the mean time, people who want to search me before letting me into their place of business are sending the clear message that they don't want my business. And they will not get it.
Copyright Alfred C Thompson II 2007