No Cake!

Every organization tells a story, want to or not.

Two ways of thinking about flying yesterday.

Thousands of people descend on JetBlue. The JetBlue team decides to tell a story about confidence and empathy, about competence and kindness. They staff the security line with talented people, they plan a route through the terminal, they figure out what the TSA is going to want.

End result: fast lines, happy employees, loyal customers.

Just on the other side of the line are the bureaucrats at the TSA. They tell a story too, but it couldn’t be intentional.

"No Cake!" the screener yells. "No pie either!" and they make the person traveling to her family throw out her home-baked cake.

We got up to the line. I had an ounce of gel left in a five ounce bottle. They made me throw it out because the label said 5 ounces (though it was clearly more than half empty).

The story?

  • We don’t care. We don’t have to.
  • We don’t make judgment calls. We’re not allowed to and we don’t care that management treats us this way.
  • Don’t you dare say anything.
  • Be afraid.
  • Bothering everyone is smarter than hiring talented people to find the .0001% of the population that’s harmful.

No Cake!

Is this the sort of government we want? We deserve? We should pay for?

The easy thing for me to do is say nothing. It makes me seem like a whiner, after all. But to stand by while all of us spend billions of dollars a year chasing the wrong thing, doing it poorly and telling exactly the wrong story is far worse than that.

There are 583 ways to hurt yourself and your fellow passengers onboard an airplane. Gel (and cake) are exactly two of them. How many more are we going to protect ourselves against? If the best our bureaucracy can do is scare us with cries of "No Cake!" and "too much gel," then I think we need a new bureaucracy.

More important from a safety point of view, we need a new story. One that simulateously scares the bad guys without crippling the rest of us. Yes, the TSA’s failure is a marketing failure. If you work there, drop me a line and I’ll send you a book.