Flying the Unfriendly Skies

 Posted by on 25 October 2006 at 6:24 am  Uncategorized
Oct 252006

Returning from the awesome Jihad conference in Boston this last weekend, I had a brush with the brilliance of TSA and a testy Little Dictator who works for them.

I had heard that the current rules permitted carryon liquids only in containers of three ounces or less, so I transferred shampoo, gel, and so on from my slightly larger bottles to even smaller travel bottles. Not too big a deal: I’m able to play my little part in our nation’s ever-more-epic Security Theater (a term for wasting time, resources, and goodwill on things which make us feel more secure, but which in fact do little or nothing to actually make us more secure).

I guess I should have read my script a little closer. It turns out all of those containers must be carried in a clear, plastic, one-quart, Ziploc bag rather than the opaque, cloth, normal-zippered toiletries bag that I bought some time back for that purpose. But what kills me is that even retarded seventh-century barbarian Jihadists aren’t so stupid that they would be stopped by this: they could simply aggregate several bottles to have more than three ounces of whatever. And while the TSA won’t allow larger containers that are only holding three-or-fewer ounces (presumably to make such aggregation harder), the bad guys could still use something like the bag itself for that. And if the one-quart upper limit that the bag imposes is a problem for their nefarious ends, they could even borrow their buddies’ bags to put together more volume.

Feel safer yet? Yeah, bring on the security! But wait, there’s more because we haven’t gotten to the TSA employees who enforce those brilliant rules. The guy who screened me on the way out of Boise simply explained the one-quart-baggie hoop I should have jumped through, decided to cut me some slack, and sent me on my way — maybe he had a nice breakfast or something. Not so with the TSA employee on the way out of Boston. Damn, I’m thinking maybe someone pissed in her Cheerios.

Clearly testy at my not following these latest rules, she pulled my toiletries bag out of my suitcase while I explained that I didn’t know about the baggie thing until this trip. Picking out all my little bottles, she angrily observed that some didn’t have labels, so she didn’t know what was in them and she would have to test them. Struggling to stay neutral and maybe escape a little quicker for coffee, I decided not to mention that even with labels she still couldn’t know the contents without testing. And of course their being given to her in the requisite baggie instead of my toiletries bag would not have changed that fact, either. She tested all of them, including the labeled ones, and I was so pleased with my body soap not being deemed a munition that I shrugged off her inconsistency in testing the labeled bottles after her lecture.

Along the way she’d found the now-empty sandwich-sized baggie I used for vitamins, and at this point she told me that I got to keep only those bottles I could fit in it. It wasn’t an Official Quart-Sized Bag, so I’m guessing this was her version of being nice to the customer. Enjoying her generosity, I politely avoided mentioning how my being able to stuff these (tested) bottles into a sandwich baggie couldn’t possibly affect the safety of my flight. But then she stopped me while I was packing them all in there (it was going to be a tight fit), saying that I had to be able to seal the bag. Seriously, I could feel my brain shutting down with the silliness of it all, and it took genuine effort to repress the comment that allowing me to pick which ones to keep was a clear indication that she didn’t consider any of them a threat.

Instead, I selected my keepers and fled while she went to dispose of the threatening remainder. Paul also seemed to sense she wasn’t the dialoging type and said he was just waiting for me to give them an excuse to escalate to a body-cavity search.

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