Tuesday, July 12, 2011

postcard from washington dc

"The mind boggles at how much terrorism has been avoided since 2001, when companies started introducing a $4 tax on it."

Checking out of a youth hostel in Washington DC, I ask to put my backpack in their storage room until my coach leaves later that day. A fairly standard request. They explain that it's $4 per day for a locker, or for each time you enter the locker.

Mild extortion, but I agree to it.

In the storage room there's a sign warning people not to leave bags unattended, as "this is Washington DC, and people tend to be pretty paranoid about these things".

Now then. I know I'm nearly ten years late with this observation, but the terrorism America has seen over the last decade hasn't really been based on unattended packages, has it?

That's what we're constantly being told, "Please be aware of unattended packages". Any unattended package, be it outside the White House or outside Gateshead Plumbing School, may be the next step in Al-Quieda's deadly campaign of terror.

If I was a one of today's young aspiring terrorists, I'd be quite insulted by this misunderstanding of my craft.

And let's hope they don't come up with the idea of just putting their explosive inside one of lockers. I reckon 2011's sharp-minded terrorist might deem their 'destruction of western civilisation' cause worthy of a $4 outlay.

And what a time to insult them! "Hello young terrorist, I know you were thinking of blowing this youth hostel sky-high, but we're assuming you're too tight-fisted to pay for the privilege." If there's one time you don't want to be throwing around insults, surely just as they're making final preparations to blow up a building is that exact time?


TERRORIST: Well I was having momentary doubts about my cause, about everything I've been taught, and about whether my beliefs are worth turning a six storey building to rubble for. But then I read that I had to pay $4 first? As some sort of barrier to entry for terrorism? Well from that moment I was convinced. And I didn't bother phoning in a warning either.

The mind boggles at how much terrorism has been avoided since 2001, when companies started introducing a $4 tax on it. Given the immeasurable success, it's perhaps time to extend the policy to other problem areas. Waging an unwinnable war on drugs? A £3 tax on drug trafficking should fix things. Depressed about iIllegal immigration? A £5 tax on war refugees will do the trick. And I seem to spend more money checking my Vodafone voicemail than I do on lunch, which is exactly why I've never entertained thoughts of hacking the voicemails of murder victims.