TSA = Take Stuff Away

I was traveling from Portland, Oregon to Las Vegas for a conference, and wanted to travel light and fast–but what works in the mountains doesn’t work at the airport.

True, I didn’t have to check a bag, but I did have to run the safety gauntlet. In the midst of taking off my shoes and belt and generally abasing myself for the rent-a-security known as the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration), I forgot about the “6 ounces of goo” rule.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, they have no signs that say you have to take off your shoes. But if you don’t, they tell you to. If you point out that there are no signs, well … they don’t like that. (As someone who works in communications, I find this absolutely retarded. If you’re going to treat me like cattle, why not tell me how to behave?)

It was quiet at the airport; the ratio of TSA to humans had to be 1:1. But the grandmother whose important job was to tell me when to walk through the metal detector had to make me wait. Why? HellifIknow.

So, in an attempt to be as accomadatingly bovine as possible, I waited. Then, somewhat peeved with me, she waved me through in an attitude of “Don’t you know anything?”

(Note the needle on the temper-ometer now pointing to yellow.)
Now back to the goo. I’d forgotten about this ridiculous rule, which the intercom calls the 3-1-1 rule, though there aren’t signs to spell it out. (And speaking of ridiculous, the first page I found when I Googled it is only links. Apparently they’re using those same screeners to write web pages.)

But the low-wage dorks in epaulettes didn’t forget about the goo. First I had to further abase myself and my toiletry bag by spilling its contents so they could examine it. Then they gleefully donned the blue latex gloves to show me my tube of lip balm and my toothpaste, and after struggling over the mental gymnastics required to add two numerals on two tubes, concluded that I had MORE THAN 6 OUNCES OF GOO. I half expected them to announce this on a bullhorn, to shame me with my mugshot on a website, “Too much goo.” Unimaginable shame, I’d never brush in this town again, etc.

Triumphantly, they gave me a Sophie’s Choice: lip balm or toothpaste confiscated.

I snatched away my lip stuff and stormed off.

From behind, the voice of some passive-aggressive jerk of an employee: “Have a nice flight.”

Minutes later, while the tea kettle that was my temper had stopped whistling, it occurred to me I should have argued with them.

1) The goo containers aren’t full. You’re adding only the volume of full containers, etc. (The point of such an argument is not to win, of course. Just to be a pain in the ass.)

The next morning I also discovered they’d taken my whole razor–even though the handle and the blades are separate.

(On the way back I went through the same sequence in Las Vegas, but there they have video screens with witty short segments explaining what to do. They even enlisted the help of the Blue Man Group for one. I find authority is SO much more palatable when done tongue in cheek.)


3 thoughts on “TSA = Take Stuff Away

  1. I thought the 3:1:1 rule meant liquids and gels had to be less then 3oz each and contained in a one quart ziploc bag plus one bag per person. You should be able to fit 7 or 8 items in a one quart bag!

  2. It does. But the PDX airport hasn’t bothered to make that clear. So harried travelers like myself get all the way into mid-xray before they realize they’re not properly baggied.

  3. If they make it clear, then the terrorists have won! Jeez… But seriously, I got hassled by them for almost the same thing except my crime was using too large of a ziplock bag and putting too many things in it. And, they confiscated my regular sized toothpaste tube, which was actually wise since I was hiding a bazooka and a platoon of tiny islamic suicide bombers inside. Those little bastards had the nicest smiles this side of faluja…

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