Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Observing observers.

Here's a little experiment in observation for you- the next time you are in an airport, watch the watchers.  If you haven't tried it before you are in for an education.  There are a few classes of "watchers" in most airports, I want to focus on three, starting with TSA employees.

Note: TSA bashing is always good fun, but that isn't the point here.  Well, maybe just a little.

When you are in line for the security theater checkpoints, watch the TSA agents as they observe the passengers.  Are they scanning the entire area occasionally, or are they focused on a narrow space?  Do they look around at all?  How do they look at people?  How do they observe the non-passengers (crew, staff, etc.) as they go through security?  What happens when they leave their posts, do they wander off aimlessly, or scan the crowds as they head off wherever they are going?

Next up, "real" law enforcement.  Not just any policeman or sheriff, but you'll know them when you see them.  They see everyone.  They check everyone's eyes, hands and waist- not in a forced, "I just learned this in a webinar" way, but in a fluid and practiced "I am not getting sucker-punched again" way.  You'll know it when someone triggers their interest- the police are generally discreet about it, but it is often clear when someone is getting a secondary (and more thorough) inspection.  They also walk the halls with one shoulder against a wall to reduce the area they need to cover, and to reduce their attack surface.  And they don't stop looking as long as they're in public.

Casa de Sunglasses FashionistaNow, finally, the last group.  The ennui-ridden would-be fashionistas working at the Casa de Sunglasses kiosks  (or whatever they're called).  Really.  Like the police, not all have the skill, but you'll know the ones I mean when you see them.  They see everyone, they see the eyes, the hands- and if not the waist, they are certainly checking out other areas of the bodies of passers-by.  Sure, some people get checked out a lot closer than others, but no one gets by without at least a cursory look.  (I feel like a piece of meat when they look at me like that.  OK, they do not look at me like that.  But a boy can dream).

That's it.  No grandiose conclusions from me- but if you think about it, you may have some new ideas about education, motivation, and observation.  And you might become a bit more observant yourself.