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Friday, November 16, 2007


I used to work for TSA. Those guys in the white uniforms with the cheap ass clip on ties at the airport who take away your fingernail clippers. Not that I waned your fingernail clippers, or that I thought your fingernail clippers were a threat to an aircraft. But if your clippers had ANY sort of a blade - no matter how small or dull - I had to take them. It was not up to me to decide anything. I had to do what federal regulations required me to do. I did not have to agree with them, I just had to follow them. It was that easy.

There was a list of items that everyone knew about. It could be summarized like this - if it is sharp, pointy, explodes, shoots lead, or can be used to beat the shit out of someone - it could not pass the checkpoint.

Clearly, some things were obviously not going with you in your carry on bag. Like a gun for example. Or a big ass OJ style knife. But how about a desk flag thing? No go. It had a heavy marble base, the flagpole was solid brass or bronze, at least 7 inches in length, and as thick as a pencil. The tip of the flagpole came to a spear point. It was a paperweight - but it could also be used to shiv someone. So no, you can not carry that thing on. Sorry.

And then there was the incident where I found a cam shaft. The thing weighed at least 20 pounds and was solid steel. It was a car part. It could be used to beat the living shit out of someone. But it passed. It was in the bag of the co-pilot of a South American airline. Hey - this guy already had access to the flight controls. The supervisor agreed with it, but we told the guy that in the future he needed to check his car parts, because they could be taken away.

During the time I worked for TSA I found a lot of strange stuff. People fly with the craziest thing. For example, I worked as a checked bag screener and a passenger screener. While working baggage on the morning shift, we would get bags coming from South America and going somewhere else. For a week or two out of nowhere we started to get dried fish and cheese bags. Really. Bags full of dried fish and stinky cheese. I knew they originated from South America (Paraguay mostly) from the bag tags. And I could also see where the bags were going.

The cheese bags mostly went to Wisconsin. WTF?!??! Did the people going there know that Wisconsin is the cheese capitol of the USA? Do you have to bring your cheese there? No, you do not. You can get all the cheese you want once you get there.

The dried fish bags would go mostly to Boston. BOSTON! There are no seafood markets there. Hell no. It is impossible to get fish in Boston!

The dried fish and cheese bags would stink up the bag screening room. And you would stand there, praying to all that is holy that the machine did not say that any of the bags had to be opened.

And that is not all! Once I found a voodoo bag. It was either coming from Haiti and going somewhere else - or going to Haiti. I forgot. But it was a voodoo bag. More like a box really. I opened the box and packed on top of the voodoo item was all sorts of crap. The voodoo item itself was a large metal pot, filled with magical dirt and moss and rocks and shit. Stuck into the dirt was what looked like tiny deer antlers.

But these were one time finds. But everyday, I would find strange shit that people were flying with. Or trying to fly with. Like food processors. Do you need a food processor on your cruise? Really. What the hell are you going to do with it? Puree something? Maybe grate some of your stinky cheese? Mind you, these were people who spoke English with an American accent (not international arrivals) and going to DOMESTIC locations. So what the hell? Are you going to process food on your vacation? And if it is a gift, I am sure you can buy the same shit in LA.

I would also find irons. Now most hotels that are not 1/2 star establishments provide irons and ironing boards for guests that ask. Usually for no charge.

But that is not all. Sometimes you would find really strange things. Things that just made you wonder how sane the person was. Things that you could never imagine needing on a trip. And the people would insist that they just had to have the item. Without it, the trip was ruined.

Now what does this have to do with anything? My parents have to fly to Arizona today. There was a death in the family and so they have to fly out on an unplanned trip. So being the family aviation security expert, my dad was asking me all sorts of questions - about things I am not sure about. Such as "can I bring mouthwash or will they take it away"? Hell if I know. Policies change all the time according to possible new threats.

So I make a suggestion. I say "book a direct flight, or else do not check anything". But this is a crazy idea, according to my parents. Why they HAVE TO check bags. Fine - do not listen to me. Let the airline lose your shit. The more connections, the greater the chance of you missing a connection or the airline losing your shit. And if TSA is going to take your spray deodorant? But STICK deodorant! Leave the spray stuff at home.

But no, this is also crazy. My dad pointed out he needs to pack a suit, and it will get wrinkled. But I have a garment bag that could be used as carry on that would work. And I happen to know that high level people travel with suits all the time without checking them. Somehow they never seem to get wrinkled. So it is possible. Or you can use the hotel iron.

But no - this is all too complicated. He just has to bring everything from here. TSA takes away liquids if they are not in a 3 ounce bottle. OK fine. You only need one thing of cologne. Mouthwash is cheap. So here is my plan.

Buy the shit that TSA would take away over there. Arizona has Listerine. And toothpaste. It is cheap. So you get there, buy small bottles of whatever you need, and if you do not use it all - leave it in the hotel room. This way you do not need to check anything, your shit does not get lost, and everyone is happy.

And then it gets better. My dad asks me if he can bring fruits. Of course you can bring fruit! You are flying domestic. USDA only checks fruits that are arriving to the USA from outside the Country. I figure he wants to take a snack along to munch on while waiting for the connecting flight in the DFW airport.

Not so. He wants to bring an ass load of avocados. Granted, these are Florida avocados, tree ripened and stuff. Probably much higher quality than anything you would find in the produce isle. Actually, you would never find these avocados in the supermarket, because they do not ship well. They are VERY soft and mushy. They bruise easy.

And he is going to FLY with them? He thinks that they will not be mush after the baggage chuckers toss them around, run them over with the luggage tug, drop them out of the aircraft, and so on? Or is he going to carry on the fruit?

It gets better. While snooping around in the freezer I apple pie! A frozen apple pie. There is a sign on it saying "do not eat". Who the hell is going to eat a FROZEN apple pie? So I closed the freezer and did not ask any questions. Better that I not know he plans to pack a frozen apple pie on a cross country flight.

And while over there, I also saw the bags they are packing. You would think they are going to be going to Europe for 2 weeks - not Arizona for 5 days. Three days really, Friday and Tuesday are travel days. Whatever you wear to the airport Friday morning is what you wear Friday. By the time they fly in to Phoenix, rent the car, drive to Prescott, check into the hotel, unpack all the shit they are bringing (two LARGE bags, two smaller carry on size bags full of pies and fruit and whatever else, then two more boxes of stuff - the maximum amount of shit the airline will allow with an additional fee) there will not be a whole lot of time for anything more than a quick visit. Saturday is the memorial service. Sunday and Monday will be hang out days. Tuesday it is time to go home.

So now I know who packs strange shit with them. My parents. They pack strange shit. Pies???!?! I do not think I ever saw anyone trying to fly anywhere with a pie. But knowing my dad, he will figure out how to pack it so not even Continental Airlines can destroy it. Even if they try very hard. Now why he can not just buy a pie from a bakery in Arizona shall forever remain a mystery.

The sheer amount of shit they are bringing - for such a short trip - astounds me. What would they bring if they were going on a 2 week vacation? I do not even want to know. Nor do I want to know what wacky things my dad would pack. He is the king of wanting to bring everything with him whenever he goes anywhere.

By contrast, when I go somewhere I try to bring the least amount of shit possible. I do not want to check anything. If I can not carry it on, do I really need it? Probably not. On an international flight - I really do not want to check anything. Waiting for your bags to clear customs sucks.

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Blogger Laughing Boy said...

you don't think they were smuggling crack in that pie & avocados ???

Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Once upon a time, I was traveling between California and Arizona when at the border there was a check station. When I pulled up they asked me if I had any fruit. WTF I thought. Who cares? Evidently they cared. I had to take a single bite out of five apples to prove that they were for consumption and not planting.

So yes, the domestical traveler still has to wonder about fruit though airplanes seem to be immune to this as I have flown over that checkpoint many times and never questioned regarding my fruit plans.

Blogger Scarlet W. Blue said...

That's hilarious. I want to know more weird things people take on airplanes.

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Laughing - if they were then nobody would find it. Airport checkpoint security is set up to look for guns, bombs, knives, and so on. Not really drugs.

Ed - that is strange. I can buy California produce here in FL. It arrives by truck.

Scarlet - people bring all sorts of strange things on planes.

Blogger M@ said...

Funny as hell. In the '70s, it was not unusual for people to smuggle exotic animals aboard planes, like the aye-aye of Madagascar.

I heard that a Chinese airline once was studying the concept of selling standing room only tickets on airplanes.

Bring all of your chickens, too.

Blogger Cheesemeister said...

One wouldn't think it would strike someone with glee to see their dildo ex boyfriend who sexually assaulted them while they were too drunk to fight back. But glee-struck I was when I saw the jag because he had always claimed he was going to get this great high paying job in some computer company because he was taking computer classes and he was such a genius. And there he was, working airport security. I went through a different line, the jerk didn't see me. I was on my way to my grandmother's funeral, so I really didn't feel up to laughing in his face. But I did feel vindicated. I knew what a step down it was for him to be doing that. The only thing that could possibly have made me feel better is to find out that the fool he'd hornswoggled into marrying him had dumped him--for a really well hung stud.
The TSA's literally did take away my father's nail clippers. Because obviously a 66 year old man is going to hijack an airplane using nail clippers. Very dangerous situation there!


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