So remember I said that they’d never lift the restrictions on liquids, gels and creams because it was just one more Kafka-esque way for bureaucrats to indulge their power trips? Well, I was wrong in the particulars (they did lift them) but not in principle (now there’s even more opportunity for petty obstruction!).

The current regulations state that the toiletries have to fit in a quart-size clear resealable plastic bag. OK, I thought, not only do mine fit in one, I actually carry them in one. It’s a handy bag that is a very heavy duty ziploc with an additional zippered mesh pouch sewn to one side. So no problem, I thought to myself.

So in the airport, the security guard at the pre-security toiletries checkpoint* said my bag would be fine. Then I got to the actual pre-security checkpoint point**, toiletries bag still in hand (they want you to keep it out when you go through actual security) and the guard wouldn’t accept it. So I went back to the pre-security toiletries checkpoint only to find the original guard had been replaced by a new one who looked like she’d been weaned on a pickle. No way, she said, all toiletries had to be in a Baggie™. No exceptions.

I tried pointing out that what I had was in essence a Baggie. I tried pointing out that the regulations did not in fact use the word “Baggie.”*** I tried appealing to a superior. I tried asking if they had any Approved Baggies™ available. No dice. After watching me get pinker and pinker and eventually admit defeat and take all the consumable contents out of my bag to throw them away, the guard finally told me that the airport store at the other end of the concourse would sell me an Approved Baggie™ for $0.25.

Out of all the possible responses to that, I said “Thank you” and went and got my $0.25 Approved Baggie™. I also did NOT say, upon my return, “Look! I’ve got my toothpaste in a terrorism-proof Baggie! We’re all safe now!” Don’t say I never learn.****

I’m glad to hear that better people than I have also had tribulations.***** What bothers me more than anything, though, is that on the way back I had absolutely no issues. Didn’t have to take out the $0.25 Approved Baggie™, nothing. It’s this inconsistency that really makes me think this is just an(other) excuse for a power trip.

Fortunately, the in-flight magazine contained a heart-warming story about a wise mother who solved her kids’ problems and smoothed over all family conflicts by making everyone play… Risk. I was snickering about that for the rest of the day and my mood improved immensely.

Random linkdom:

On Science Fiction - Damn, I like this guy’s writing. Think I’ll check out his books…
Very Cool Art - Wow. Wow wow wow. This really really really appeals to me.
The strangest news I’ve heard this week - William Gibson wrote documentaries.

* I’m not kidding.

** Still not kidding.

*** They don’t. A copy of the regulations was posted right at the table.

**** And in case you’re wondering about my attachment to a bunch of sample-size cosmetics, my concern was mainly for bottle of perfume that I wasn’t sure I could easily replace. And the principle of the thing.

***** Favourite quote from Mr. Adam’s blog: “one look in (the guard’s) eyes told me that thinking wasn’t his sport.”


  1. Suz said...

    You're right - that art is very very very cool!!  

  2. cenobyte said...

    I can see those fingers of red rage licking up your collar right now, and let me just say I have never been more afraid to be in the same room as another person as I was the day I thought you were going to a) have a stroke; b) give someone else a stroke using the POWER OF YOUR MIND (and rage); c) actually explode. Or at least spontaneously combust; d) fashion a shiv out of your fingernail and hate and commit grisly murder on those three boys in the third row who were making the red fingers of rage appear on your lovely neck.

    I think what's going on is that those security guards are so poorly paid that they have to steal toiletries from travellers to keep up their own personal hygeine regimens.  

  3. Terry said...

    You could perhaps use my patent pending method of handling this issue, successfully used on our trip to Vegas.

    Upon being told I was not allowed to bring a half litre of my favorite beverage on board, I asked the guard where he would like me to dispose of it. He pointed to the trashcan. I calmly walked over, made a motion, and smoothly replaced the liquid into the shoulder bag from which it had come. Returning to the guard, I asked him what had become of my shoes, retrieved and replaced those, and merrily went on my way.

    Now perhaps this might not have worked if my name was Abdullah, but the sad fact is that security is a joke. They certainly aren't the "best and brightest".  

  4. Amy said...

    cenobyte: I don't *think* I had the red fingers of rage going... at least, I'm sure I wasn't in near the same state of mind. I was just very exasperated, instead of incandescently angry. I'm honestly a lot calmer these days!

    Terry: Yeah, I should have just walked past the first checkpoint. But my first instinct, Gods help me, is to be law-abiding.

    I liked a comment from Scott Adam's blog, to the effect that it's not the thought of a plane blowing up that worries Those In Charge. It's the thought of being *held responsible* for a plane blowing up. A subtle difference, but an important one.

    And the really funny (to me) thing is that I had along my 2.0mm steel double-pointed knitting needles. No problem with those, but heaven forbid my toothpaste should be unrestrained by a Baggie!  

  5. xenophile said...

    The number of issues I (and friends of mine) have had with border crossing-guards in the past, back BEFORE 9-11, has made me too paranoid to ever drive over the American border again if I can help it. Nor will I subject myself to American airport security if I can help it.

    The border crossing guards are given complete and total authority to act as their whims suggest. They can flag you for the most trivial of reasons, and you will never be able to cross the border again. Just based on one person's decision. Now, in the wake of terrorist attacks, the same thing is happening with airport security guards, particularly in the tates. And ironically, those who get crushed beneath the wheels of the bureaucracy (like an Iranian couple I know, who were turned away from their connecting flight through the States for the simple crime of being Iranian, and had to fly back to Europe, over to England and across to St. John's in order to get back into the country) are considered the "acceptable cost" of what little freedom is left.  

  6. Zena said...

    I suspect that the US security people have been taking lessons in unhelpfulness and obstructionism from the staff of Cambridge University Library. Either that, or they tapped into the collective beaurocratic unconscious and arrived at the same infuriating result purely by chance.  


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