Friday, December 8, 2006

Vinegar and the TSA, or “computer says no.”

I was away for a few days staying in a house in Florida with a few work colleagues, and I had brought small jars of my pickled carrots, relish, and cranberry chutney with me to complement some of our home-cooking. We had a lot of food and ingredients left over, so I shipped most of my clothes back to New York, and packed the leftover food, including a half-used jar of cider vinegar, in my suitcase, which I had planned to check. For reasons not entirely within my control, I was a bit late to the airport. I returned the rental car at about 3:45, and got to the Delta ticket counter at around 4:05. My flight was to leave at 5 pm, but since I’d changed my ticket that morning from a 12:30 pm flight to this one, I wasn’t able to access it at the kiosk. So I stood in a very long line, nervously checking the time and watching the two Delta counter people help what seemed like endless streams of clueless families with too much luggage.

I was finally called to the counter at 4:17, and the man told me that I was too late to check my baggage. I said I was only TWO MINUTES late, and he looked at me helplessly and said, “The computer won’t let me do it.” Any of you familiar with the British comedy show Little Britain will recognize this normally hilarious, but this time infuriating, response. So I had to carry on my suitcase. He told me I would have to throw away any liquids in my carry-on, or fly out the next morning.

There was absolutely NO WAY I was staying in Oakland, Florida for one minute longer (too many creepy Mickey Mouse faces everywhere!) so I just ran to security to get to my gate. I figured, let these jokers earn their paycheck and ferret out all the liquid in my suitcase. In fact,, I thought, this will be a good test for this crazy TSA.

I dutifully removed my shoes, bracelets, and sweatshirt, and placed my laptop, handbag, and suitcase on the conveyor belt. When I went through the metal detector, a TSA guy was standing with his rubbed gloved hands on my suitcase. I nodded and said that’s mine. I tied my sneaker laces and watched as he opened it. My travel toiletry bag was on top, so easy I bet he thought, and he started to throw things in the bin for disposal: about $35 worth of stuff! I zipped up my suitcase and got to the gate with 10 minutes to spare.

I hate being such a conspiracy theorist, but it has just GOT to be the case that the feds have some kind of a deal with the cosmetics company. Tons and tons of money will be spent replacing stuff like this. I’m trying to temper my frustration with Delta (One, why weren’t there more counter people; and two, why wasn’t there someone there herding people who were running late through the line like American Airlines does?) because it’s in bankruptcy and the employees own the airline. Does anyone think that the TSA will change with the Dems in power?

And finally, how lazy can these TSA people be? They looked in the most obvious place and found what they were looking for. It was almost with sadistic joy that this guy pulled my stuff out and threw it away. But just underneath the toiletries bag were four jars of very suspicious-looking liquids—my leftover pickled carrots, chutney, relish, and a half a bottle of vinegar! How safe does THAT make you feel?

1 comment:

Amy said...

Right after 9-11 my husband and I were flying almost every weekend (we were in college and competing on the national debate circuit). One trip, he realized that he forgot to take his pocket knife out of his pocket. It was almost 4 inches long. He didn't want to throw it away because it had been a gift from his parents and was engraved with his name.

He tossed it in the bottom of his backpack. He got hand-searched twice once at security and once at the gate and no one found the knife.