Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Beware the Gallon Sized Baggie

I should be home asleep in my bed. Instead I am sitting in the Dallas Airport waiting for a flight to Nashville. I had been in Florida to do a little teaching and to visit my parents. My dad turned 84 on February 1st, and my mom passed out two days earlier, fell, and broke three ribs.

I left my parent’s home, maneuvered my way down the parking lot that passes for a highway in South Florida, and flew west to Dallas to catch a plane that would fly me back east to Nashville. Gotta love the hub idea. My plane was delayed almost forty minutes. The cause of the delay was due to American Airlines’ policy of charging people $30 each way for checked baggage, thus incentivizing me and my fellow travelers to cram as much luggage into the overhead compartments as possible. This meant that storage space disappeared after the first 20 people got on board, leaving the next 100 passengers to wander up and down the aisle in a vain search for a place to park their bags for free. By the time we left Miami, arriving in Dallas in time to catch my connecting flight was a slim possibility.

Slim isn’t the same as none, however, and having received Gate Number and instructions on how to minimize the time racing to the gate, I ran off to catch my next flight. I got to Gate 22 in search of Gate 23, only to find there is no Gate 23. At Gate 27 a friendly American Airlines agent saw me coming (I was literally the only person in the terminal) and thought about holding the plane to Nashville for the two minutes it would take me to get from Gate 22 to Gate 27. Unfortunately for me I was looking for Gate 23. I turned back to Gate 22 to ask for help, and my friendly agent decided I have decided not to fly to Nashville after all. She closed the door and my flight departed without me.

Feeling sorry (guilty?) my friendly agent booked me into a hotel. I arrived at the hotel around 11PM and left again six hours later. Few Texans travel that early in the morning and I should have passed through security without having to wait in line. I was the line. And the line stalled.

As it turns out the people who booked my flight had used my Hebrew name, “Rami,” rather than my Christian Name, “Richard.” This didn’t upset the TSA as long as I was flying from Nashville to Miami, and from Miami to Dallas, but as soon as I had to fly from Dallas to Nashville some security threshold must have been crossed. “Richard” is a potential lionhearted king, “Rami” is a potential security risk, so the good people of TSA wouldn’t let me pass.

After speaking with a supervisor, however, and assessing the risk, I was allowed to go through bag check. Well, not through bag check exactly. It seems that while all my toiletries fell well within the “impossible to be used to bring down an aircraft” size, the clear plastic bag I used to haul them in was not. I had used a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, and that is enough to make me a card-carrying (“Rami” not “Richard”) member of Al Qaeda. I had to be quizzed and my bag unpacked and rescreened simply because of the size of my plastic bag.

I have yet to board the plane, and cannot predict what other adventures await me as I try to return to Music City. But I can be fairly certain that as long as airline agents are friendly, and TSA agents are focused on the size of our plastic baggies, we Americans have nothing to fear from terrorists. In fact the only things that scare me when I fly are friendly airline agents and baggie-obsessed TSA agents.

8 comments:

Derek said...

Airlines charging for checked baggage should be considered a security risk, as it has done nothing but make more people haul more and bigger bags through security. Oh! That and make money for the airlines. Next time take the train. Oh! That's right, can't get there from here. Move to Europe?

Eruesso said...

Maybe it's because they only allow Quart-sized bags.

http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm

Also you might want to look at their prohibited items page.

http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm

You can bring your screwdriver and wrench in your carry-on but not liquid bleach. So how do they expect us to get the stains out our clothes when we spill our airline food on ourselves during turbulence?

And I was looking forward to class today. See you on Thursday...hopefully.

Avi Baron said...

I've been stopped for accidentally bringing my toiletries as a carry-on, my razor (complete with 5 different razor heads, each with 4 blades on them) was allowed. My Shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, and conditioner; however, needed to be confiscated so the friendly TSA agents could enjoy fresh-scented hair.

On my next trip, I remembered what had happened and figured I should remedy this issue by simply checking my bag.
After having my bag lost in transit both ways, upon my return, I had realized that it would have been cheaper to just buy new toiletries and ditch them before my return flight.

The Airlines: just one more step to total consumer America.

Ellen said...

Pretty soon all reservations will have to match the photo ID you're going to use when you travel. So if your passport has your preferred name, you might end up using it for both domestic and international flights.

Phoenix000033 said...

As a nurse, I generally have all sorts of things in my purse such as bandage scissors, a kelly clamp, etc. I once passed through security, my bag scanned mind you, and not one person said anything to me. I forgot they were in my purse and was shocked when I found them there later. Clearly, whatever it is we're focusing on, it is the wrong thing and there is a total lack of consistency to the process.

Raksha said...

Re >>I had used a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, and that is enough to make me a card-carrying (“Rami” not “Richard”) member of Al Qaeda.<<

I can see where "Rami" might sound a bit exotic (in the wrong way) to the TSA, but don't they realize that "Shapiro" isn't an Arabic name? I guess not, and they probably wouldn't believe you if you tried to enlighten them on that score either.

. said...

Bemikreh spelt backwards = Hashem rakam. My English / Goyishe name is also Richard...I ditched it for my Hebrew name, Immanuel, around age 18 when I was in yeshiva in Yerushalayim. In Apartheid South Africa, where I grew up, official government forms always asked you for your "Christian name" (i.e. you first name.) In about 1992, as the apartheid era was drawing to a close, I inherited some guns from my grandfather, and applied for a gun license. When filling in the forms, I crossed out "Christian name" and wrote "first name...Immanuel." I remember the Afrikaans police woman looking at me suspiciously after that, but at least I'd registered my protest at the assumption that everyone in South Africa was "Christian" ....when I left SA in 2008, I made the guns unusable and handed them in at the police station - the policeman again looked at me suspiciously - why had I destroyed two quaint weapons - a second world war vintage Mauser pistol I supect my Uncle Sid brough back from North Africa where he fought, and a Baby Browning.22 - when the police might have resold these to somebody, rather than destroying them as they're supposed to do (South Africa is awash with illegal guns) ....but unwittingly when I immigrated to Australia I did bring in a single 5.56 Galil bullet from the Israeli army and some old.22 rifle cartridges from a winchester semi-automatic rifle my grandpa had and which I got rid of as soon as I could in 1992...they sit in a safe in my flat until I can decide what to do with them... so those came through with our container undetected, and they could just as well have been grenades - everything is permeable - and indeed we must rely on The Merciful One to protect our soft shelled bodies until it is no longer necessary.

. said...

As a postscript to my previous comment, I recall now I actually crossed out Christian Name and wrote Jewish Name: Immanuel - despite my fear of oficialdom and the atavistic fear it is always wanting to turn me into matress stuffing, lampshades and soap