Yesterday, while walking by the vast cattle pens that serve as security at New York Road Runners’ major races these days, I watched a guy simply hop through where two of the fences met. Anyone who knows me knows how I like to tweet and Facebook everything, especially if it involves an entitled, self-important twat — likely a cyclist from Manhattan, he just had the look — breaking the rules.
I didn’t. Because he wasn’t carrying anything other than his bad attitude. Also, I figured if I did, and someone at NYPD or NYRR saw the tweet, they’d shut the whole thing down — 25,000 people out of a race due to one douche.
But Runner McDouche hopping through the fence just goes to show how ludicrous these security measures are. It’s security theater — a lot of money and effort spent to make it appear people are safe, when in fact they’re no safer than before and in fact may be in more danger.
I’d call it simple Cover Your Ass, but I’m going to give NYRR the benefit of the doubt on this one. They actually think they’re doing something good. But they aren’t. I’m not bitching because of the lines or the wait. Yes, those are annoyances to be sure. But NYRR went out of its way to explain to people they had to be there early and blah blah blah. And with a race this size, it’s amazing how smoothly the whole thing is run these days. 25,587 finishers. For a half marathon.
That’s a big crowd.
And that’s why the metal detectors at the start are pointless. The clear bags for checking, the extra police presence, the “secure” perimeters, I get. But metal detectors? Over 25,000 people showing up at once with iPhones and GPS watches and safety pins and — somebody call the TSA! — water bottles bigger than four ounces! They’re funneled into fenced in areas, into choke points. See the above photo.
Any idiot could sneak anything into the fenced-in area in a running belt. And any team of idiots could sneak in a bit more. Those aren’t scanned.
Not that it matters. Because at some point at this race — and at the equally crowded New York City Half earlier this year — the screeners just give up and start waving people through.
Also, any idiot could walk into and up to that choke point and do something. (Or anywhere along the crowded first few miles of the course.)
And let me raise another question: If I’m in a fenced-in area with 25,000 people and two exits and something happens, setting off a panic, then what?
The fact is, you can’t guarantee safety. No one can. And if you want to claim “the terrorists haven’t won,” setting up massive and — again — useless safety theater, seems to contradict that.
But we must keep up appearances, right? We must make people feel safe. Screw common sense and reality. Maybe all of this is meant to act as a deterrent. Maybe the thinking is that metal detectors will scare off bad guys?
My humble suggestion? Keep the clear plastic bags; keep the police; hell keep the fences. But get rid of the metal detectors.
And if you absolutely must have some sort of weird bad-guy deterrent and a way to monitor who’s getting into the secure perimeter, just set up actual bib scanners. We’ve all got bar codes on the bibs, we’re all used to showing up a damn hour before the damn race and marching through lines and, I’d venture, the cops can actually keep an eye on happily nervous runners showing up for a race rather than being distracted by the bags and belts and other crap of agitated runners being forced through a useless metal detector.