Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dear TSA: Your mother is a whore

Dear TSA,

Listen, I know you are just doing your job, trying to keep us all safe while we fly the friendly skies ("friendly" being a relative term). I appreciate your efforts, I really do. But I have to tell you - you've gone overboard.

On Tuesday, April 27th, my daughter and I were scheduled to depart from Reagan National Airport. We had been on vacation and were returning home. First, we stood in line at security where a TSA employee spent ten solid minutes studying a passenger's passport before finally calling a supervisor. Then they both studied it for a while. I don't know what the problem was, but eventually they pulled the passenger aside and proceeded to screen others who were waiting in line.

After showing proof of ID and boarding passes, my daughter and I moved to the screening area. We dutifully took off our shoes and laid them in the plastic bins, and then I shoved our carry-ons and my purse onto the belt. Then we each passed through the metal detector. My daughter (age four) has flown many times and has given up on asking me why she has to take off her shoes, in as much as I've never been able to provide a satisfactory explanation. I had an even harder time understanding it when my daughter was four months old and I had to pry off her baby booties, per the TSA agent's request. The "request" consisted of the woman shouting: "Ma'am! Take off the baby's shoes!" When I told my dad about it he said, "Yeah, she definitely looks like a baby who wants to blow herself up for Allah."

But, back to the present. My child and I passed through the metal detector at Reagan National Airport without incident and waited on the other side for our gear. I had a sinking feeling as I watched her Spongebob Squarepants duffel bag start to emerge from the x-ray machine only to have the TSA employee reverse the belt and suck it back in. Ugh. She did the same with my bag. Awesome.

A dour-faced TSA employee took me aside and told me that our bags would need additional screening. I slipped my shoes on and followed him to the other screening area. He pointed at my daughter's Spongebob bag. "Any sharp objects or weapons in here?" Seriously? I shook my head.

He dug through her bag and found her DVD player. "This has to be screened separately," he said. "You were supposed to take it out of the bag."

The signs posted in the security area explicitly state that laptops must be removed. Not DVD players. This is at least the sixth time we've flown with a DVD player in that bag. No one cared about it on the way out to DC, but now all of a sudden it's a threat to national security.

He took the DVD player back to the x-ray machine for screening. "Barbie and the Island Princesses" was inside the player - I certainly hope that didn't arouse any suspicion. When he returned, he began digging through my carry-on bag. Now, I think it would be worth mentioning that as this was transpiring, another passenger was being screened right next to us. The TSA agents found a knife in his backpack. I mean to tell you this thing was a full-on dagger in a leather sheath. THAT is why you are there, TSA. Clearly, this was a dangerous weapon that had no place on an airplane in flight. It was a no-brainer.The man said he had packed it for a motorcycle trip and reluctantly agreed to surrender it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Crabby pulled a small Smithsonian bag out of my carry-on. Inside that bag was a souvenir I had purchased for my daughter just an hour earlier at the Museum of Natural History. It was a plastic cup with blue liquid sealed in the bottom. Tiny plastic dinosaurs floated around in the liquid. He frowned. "You can't have this on the plane."

"But, I just bought it," I replied. "I am sure it's less than three ounces!"

He explained that since the cup was sealed and the liquid couldn't be poured out, I was prohibited from taking it on board. It seems to me that this is precisely why I SHOULD have been able to take it on board. I mean, what would I have used to smash the cup open? A claw hammer? I told him that I thought it was beyond ridiculous to take a child's souvenir away and asked how I could go about filing a complaint. He directed me to his supervisor, who came over and gave me the same schpiel.

"You can't have snow globes or anything with liquid inside it," he told me. The supervisor then offered that I could go back to the ticket counter and see if they would be willing to pull my suitcase and put the cup in there. And pass through security again?! I'd rather eat glass.

And so, I surrendered the dangerous weapon I had attempted to bring on board. Allow me to add that I am not a cantankerous flyer. I dutifully put my lotion and hairspray in a one-quart baggie. I generally do not ask the flight attendants for anything. I even make a half-assed attempt to pay attention to the safety demonstration. I just try to be as innocuous and inconspicuous as possible when I fly. But seriously, this liquid thing? It's crazy.

After passing through security (sans souvenir cup), we stopped at a souvenir stand just a few yards past the screening area. Would you like to guess what they sell there, TSA? Snow globes. And lots of them.

So, after surrendering the cup, I bought my daughter this:



Yes, it is full of liquid. And glitter.

You can suck it, TSA.

Sincerely,


A disgruntled passenger

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Once again, another great story.
So did you send this to them? I sure hope so. I am thinking the guy wanted the cup for his child. I mean seriously!!!

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Get over it. Didnt you say this is the first time it happened? Maybe these people were actually doing their job correctly, I would feel more safe going thru Reagan knowing that they are taking all the precautions than the other airports you've been through. Maybe if more people had done their job, the shoe bomber would not have gotten on the plane, one of the 9-11 flights would not have down. So yeah, I would rather waste 30 minutes of my life going through this crap than having someone take down the aircraft... so you "Disgruntled Passenger" can suck it! YOU'RE ALIVE BECAUSE OF THESE PEOPLE!!!!

Alabaster Mom said...

Oh Anonymous, I appreciate your comments, I really do. I enjoy a good debate, so thank you for posting.

I cannot really be convinced that taking away a small child's souvenir cup and then selling a similar object a few yards makes sense, though.

It's not a matter of not appreciating the TSA for the things that make sense (such a pulling the ginormous knife out of the other guy's bag and confiscating it).

radioactivegan said...

i totally don't get the TSA. I love that you can buy all kinds of contraband just past the gate. I mean, how do they get it in the stores? Is there a little glitter stick manufacturing facility inside the airport? sigh.

I wanted to let you know that I have bestowed on you the great honor of "Sunshine Award" :) You can check it out here, http://theradioactivegan.blogspot.com/2010/05/let-little-sunshine-in.html but it basically just means you're awesome! Thanks for some great blogging :)