Thursday, April 26, 2007

Family vacation: a few thoughts on security

photo of stone lion at the resort where we stayedOne of the jokes from last year's family vacation emerged from my riding down to Myrtle Beach with my parents and my niece Mary.

Mary had book of road games for children to play. One of the games was a page on which there were many things that people might say in the car while travelling; she was to cross them off when she heard them, and see how long it took for the list to be complete. One of the sayings was "Was that a police car?" When out on the highway we could be pretty sure we would be able to say that fairly often.

But on this vacation I flew down, and met up with the whole group at the resort. At one point I started to kid with Mary about statements on the list from the game. I started to become aware of the fact that I had not seen a police car since arriving. I checked it out with Mary at various times during the week, and she had not seen any either.

In fact, the first police car I saw in Myrtle Beach was on the last full day we were there, when my parents and I took a trip up to North Myrtle Beach.

One of the obvious reasons I found myself thinking about the visibility of the police probably had to do with the shootings at Virginia Tech at the beginning of the week. We live in a world where terrible things can happen quickly. And if these disasters cannot be prevented, it is comforting to know that there is someone available who would be able to intervene, call in other resources, and otherwise deal with the problem.

So in the middle of the vacation when I was looking for some other information about the resort where we were staying, I was a bit jarred to read the following statements in the welcoming and orientation material:
A security guard is posted in the office from 11pm - 7am. If you need assistance after 11 pm, please come to the front desk. The security guard has been instructed not to answer the phone and all calls will be forwarded to voicemail.
photo of paragraph in letter

The policy was probably intended to address the typical "emergencies" guests might have, like the guests who need more towels or want to complain about a noisy neighbor. But in my mind I was picturing a situation where a bad person might want to break into my room to hurt me. And you're telling me that my call for help would go to voicemail????

From the time that I read that paragraph I became acutely aware of the invisibility of police and security people. On my flight home while I stood at the gate for the last leg of my trip, the airport's public address system gave the message I had heard so many times before about not accepting items from strangers, being alert for suspicious behavior, and reporting things to the nearest security personnel. When the announcement finished the people standing next to me asked each other whether they saw any security personnel anywhere in the area.

I looked around and could not see any.

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