Thursday, January 6, 2011

In the name of security

Yesterday I had a new experience.  I had just finished a meeting at Tel Aviv University with the Director of one of the Masters programs - Conflict Resolution and Negotiation (rather appropriate for the region, right?)  Upon return to my car, it wouldn't start.  Now, on the one hand, you could say that this shouldn't have surprised me, as it was the third time.  But on the other hand, it should have, as I had run it for over an hour, just an hour before I left for my meeting (to jump it). 

And it's a new car!  What's the problem?  Here's the deal.  Car dealers here in Israel are mandated to add safety and security features - I have a key that looks like a space alien, I have to punch in a 4 digit code within seconds of entry to avoid the alarm, and a hands-free cell phone receiver is installed.  These aftermarket gadgets are installed to avoid break-ins and car jackings (common in areas close to the West Bank), and to keep both hands on the wheel (important when driving with these maniacs.)  Much to my despair, they drain my battery if I leave the car sitting in the garage for a couple weeks.    This happened a couple months ago and it happened this week.  Dan helped me jump it before I headed out, and I ran it for over an hour.  So why wouldn't it start up again an hour later (mechanical engineering friends, step in any time here)?

It got me thinking about the stupid things we do in the name of security (in the US as much as Israel).  When has a car alarm ever deterred a robber?  I wasn't once asked if the car was mine during the half hour that it was going off every 2 minutes at the University.  It's surprising how used to security checks I have become at entrances.  Israel is a lot like New York City was after 9/11.  I used to get all kinds of security checks and clearances when visiting Executives there on behalf of the American Heart Association.  New York City has relaxed quite a bit in the five years since I started there, but this is a steady state situation in Israel. 

Unfortunately I will be testing the Israeli security system at the airport next month as well.  My current B1 Visa expires February 1st.  I had an appointment to renew scheduled for January 30th, but with my sister's early delivery of my new nephew, Ernest, I am leaving for Washington State next week.  Our legal council says that getting the new appointment end of February shouldn't be a problem, and they will provide me with documentation to bring with me upon my return, but it's likely to raise some eyebrows and create a circus of questions anyway.  As unfair as it feels to say this, thank goodness that I don't fit the threat profile in any way. 

If you don't see any blog posts after February 21st, I've been swallowed by the system.  Ha!

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