Deviations From Baseline Behavior

There’s some controversy about "behavior detection," the practice of identifying airline passengers who seem suspicious and engaging them in conversation to evaluate them further.  It’s promoted as a proven and effective Israeli security tool and derided as ineffective and chillingly invasive.

I have to say, it seemed like a common-sense tactic to me. Until I read this USA Today story that said the TSA is looking for "deviations from baseline behavior."   

My whole life has been a deviation from baseline behavior. The husband and daughter tell me that I look constantly distracted, that I stare dully into the middle distance, that I utter disjointed thoughts and mutter obliquely. They frequently wave their hands in my face to get my attention or demand that I count the fingers they are holding up.

In airports and train stations, on city streets and other public places, strangers approach me to ask "what’s  wrong." Frequently they want to know if I’m lost.

Strangers also ask me where I’m from. A guy in Las Vegas suggested that I sounded Australian. A man in Newport asked if I was British. Apparently I talk funny, too.

The more nonchalant I try to appear, the more this seems to happen.

Now I have to wonder about anyone who talks to me in the airport. Just making conversation or evaluating a terrorist threat? Flirting or preparing to haul me off to the security office? And what happens when they realize I have an "accent?"

I hope I don’t ever have to find out. I hope the TSA knows that you don’t have to be normal to be harmless.


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