Yesterday was my wife and my first anniversary, and we did a bit of celebrating this weekend. The celebrating included a trip into NYC yesterday (being as we are now “bridge and tunnel people” – which absolutely pains me to say) for some lunch and an art/antique show that was on the West Side Piers (around Piers 88, 90 and 92). For those of you who are not familiar with NYC or those particular piers, the link above gives you some information, but it is off the West Side Highway around 47th Street, and is the “New York Cruise Terminal”. This will be a bit more important in a moment.
Apparently, back in November 2002, this was one of a number of “designated areas” that were deemed to be “safety and security zones”. I have no clue what that means or if it is still the same meaning as it was back in 2002. Or, for that matter, if any applicable or required procedures are being followed.
These Piers are all connected, and there may have been a couple of cruise ships docked there when we pulled into the roof parking lot of Pier 92 to park the car (around 3ish), and after we drove at least ¼ mile along the side of the piers on the main road, passing the passenger drop off area one level up, and then winding up a couple of ramps (two more levels), past another parking lot (pier 88), through the booth where we had to pay to park (pier 90), past one more docked cruise ship and finally to our lot.
Where we were suddenly met by 2 NYPD officers, one with a huge black dog who asked me to open my trunk.
I should mention that throughout this entire time (maybe 5 minutes or so of driving), we did not pass one officer, security personnel, or anyone else for that matter as we drove the length of the three piers twice and were no more than 50 feet from buildings, ships or parking lots (full, I might add) at any time.
“Um...” was the first thing that came to mind, even though I knew I had no drugs, firearms, Cuban cigars or illegal immigrants in my car.
I was finally able to say “Sure, but why, if I can ask?”. At this point, the missus knew that I wasn’t going to keep my mouth shut and was in full eye roll mode.
“We need to check your trunk”, said the cop-with-big-dog, and my reply was “for what?”
“Explosives” cop-with-dog-said – in a tone that was reeking of “well, duh!!!”
As I sighed loudly opening my trunk (since I knew that we were not NOT going into this art fair), I hear the thud of the dog jumping into the trunk and a sarcastic “why, do you have a problem with this?”
I said, “well, its just that I don’t understand why you would be searching my car for explosives” – thinking to myself that if I did have explosives in my car and really wanted to blow up the piers, why wouldn’t I have done it at any of the other 3,000 points that I just passed...
And the slippery-slope argument that I should have expected all along came out, and I could probably have recited it along with him:
”well if someone wanted to blow up a ship [pointing to ship nearby], then they could just drive up and blow it up. And we have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Forget the fact that anyone could have strapped explosives to themselves, walked along the piers, gotten on or close enough to the ship and done some damage. Or that there anyone could have waltzed into the antique show without being given a second look. Or parked a car at any of the dozens of other places that I passed. And yes, I understand the “logic” behind the argument to violate my fourth amendment rights on such a stupidly arbitrary basis.
So of course, I said the first thing that came to mind, which was “yes, I’m well aware of the PATRIOT Act and having my rights violated as you see fit to search me for no reason” as I drove off to find a spot.
Now, I understand the “someone may blow up a boat in NYC” argument, but, on a Sunday afternoon at 3PM – on such a slow news day? And, as I said to my wife, why search the cars here and barely search any cargo or shipping containers coming into these ports on a busy weekday? Or, why not search everyone who boards a bus? Or a train? Or the subway? Or that three ounces of liquid explosives at airport security is ok but a four ounce bottle of mouthwash results in a two hour holdup? Where does it end?
The real kick in the ass here is that, not even two hours later (just after 5PM), as we left the show to go back to our car, there was nobody to be found in the still-busy and crowded buildings and parking lot. No cops. No dogs. No security guards. I guess when “quittin’ time” comes around, then keeping ‘Murka safer takes a back seat.
And as we got to the car, my wife smiled and asked me where my “cop buddy” was. To which I just shrugged and said “I guess the boats don’t need to be protected after 5PM...”