Thursday, November 08, 2007

Airport Safety for Dummies

(LaGuardia Airport, NYC) -- I am really annoyed.

The TSA clerk at security confiscated my favorite lotion from Target, a shimmery pink confection that couldn't be transformed into an explosive for all the science in the world.

Naturally, I should have thrown the bottle into my check-in luggage, but having just flown back from Berlin with the lotion in my carry-on, I hardly foresaw a problem. Nevertheless, the high school drop-out who screened my bag most certainly did, triumphantly removing it AND the carton of organic half and half that I had taken with me to improve the horrible in-flight coffee.

I am not being paranoid when I note that she did so cheerfully.

Most assuredly, one of the perks of her job is throwing out the expensive "dangerous" belongings of utterly innocent passengers. Who have interesting jobs and lives. Who are educated. Who travel. Who had a momentary lapse in packing judgement either because they were hurrying or had no problem transporting such goods on international flights or simply wanted the stuff with them.

So annoyed was I to see my lotion in the trash bin that I contemplated retrieving it. Foreseeing a Page One picture in the Daily News -- featuring me stoically clinging to the lotion bottle while being escorted out of the terminal by security police -- I returned to the reality at hand.

Besides, I didn't want to miss my flight.

Still, I tried to reason with the clerk even asking if I could transfer the contents of the lotion to a smaller container. She said that "the rules" were that I had to do this outside of the security checkpoint. I informed her that her "rules" were retarded. The elegant, grey-haired businessman next to me cracked up while tying the laces of his oxford shoes.

Eyeing my tossed lotion longingly, I trudged to the gate nevertheless, drawing the looks of fellow travelers, most likely due to the steam coming out of my ears and the dangerous gleam in my eyes.

At the gate, I questioned the US Airways personnel about recourse and was told that they had nothing to do with the (retarded) rules...but that I should approach a TSA supervisor. The flame of hope was rekindled in my heart! Swiftly, I envisioned a librarianish older woman, wise and seasoned, to whom I might present my case.

No such luck.

Arriving at the security check-in, I found the supervisor, a dumpy Hispanic woman sorely in need of braces. Again, she cited "the rules," shaking her head in a practiced, infuriating, mock-sympathetic way.

Rolling my eyes at her and informing her that both she and her staff had no idea what they were doing, I gave up and went to my gate, fuming. I love that lotion and really depended on it to enhance my already sallowing NYC skin in LaLa-Land, where I am headed for a music convention this weekend.

I am now at the gate, waiting to board my plane. Logging into, I see that the lead story is about a bomb scare at La Guardia on an incoming flight from Chicago. Even as we speak, the bomb-sniffing dogs are leaving the terminal, having successfully determined that there is no bomb. All incoming flights are being delayed.

The sad reality is that the TSA security drones have no skills other than rule-following and it is doubtful that they would catch any terrorists looking to blow up aircrafts unless these terrorists were transporting bottles of pink sparkly lotion.

I place my trust with the bomb-sniffing dogs and would like to borrow them to sniff out my lotion and return it to me.

And then, when they are done sniffing, I'd like to turn them on the TSA staff.

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