March 11, 1999

Sometimes when you travel the things that make the greatest impression are not the landmarks (which always seem to be smaller than you imagined) or the food (overpriced) but the little differences in day-to-day life.

For example, when I was in England and Europe last year I'd often find myself waiting in train stations. Often, I'd get a coffee or a snack and then would start wandering around looking for a garbage bin and I was dammed if I could find one. The same thing would occur in the London Underground - no garbage cans. I carried my trash all over.

There are no garbage bins because garbage bins are a security risk. They are a perfect place to plant a bomb - in an area full of people and hidden out of sight.

Anti-terrorism measures have other consequences. I was in London, England during the Christmas season and found out that the London Underground would sometimes face lengthy delays due to folks accidentally leaving behind one of their bags of Christmas shopping in the subway car. This would be read as a potential bomb threat and the car would have to be evacuated as the package would be investigated and the whole subway system would then back up. There were constant messages over the PA system to make sure you had all your belongings with you.

So remember folks, when you see a garbage bin in a public place, you know you are living in a country with a good degree of freedom from terrorism.