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Irrelevant Disruptions

This week, I spent an hour and a half at a gate waiting area in Oakland International Airport, waiting for a flight to Seattle. The public address system there plays a series of recorded messages, each one replayed every 15 minutes or so. Here's the text of one:

The Transportation Security Administration has limited the size and quantity of items that may be carried through the security checkpoint. Please contact your air carrier or a TSA representative for further information.
Keep in mind that these messages are loud -- loud enough to disrupt mobile phone conversations. And with multiple messages, the disruptions are frequent. But the worst part is that in this case, the message is absolutely irrelevant, because the passengers hearing it are already beyond the security checkpoint.

I don't mean to pick on Oakland's airport. They're by no means alone. What they're doing is a variant of a growing problem: warning pollution. I'll come back to this later.

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