Civil Liberties

How Do I Loathe the TSA? Let Me Count the Ways.



Today is a travel day for me, which has it's advantages—chances to read a variety of work- and pleasure-related materials that have been accumulating on the to-do pile among them. But it also means I have to go through the security-theater gauntlet enforced by the Transportation Security Administration that is one of the factors now making travel such a pain in the ass. I have the hassles down to a minimum these days. I swap my straight razor for a disposable, baking soda for toothpaste, I leave my pocket knife and my Leatherman on my nightstand, and I abandon all liquids and gels so I don't have to go through the 3-1-1 nonsense that saves us all from the special dangers that toothpaste poses, as contrasted with totally unthreatening knitting needles.

Except that I can't, this time. I was at a dinner party on Saturday night, and while I was chopping kale for a salad, my thumb got in the way. No big deal. A friend at the party put three stitches into my wound, and then we opened a bottle of Booker's to take the edge off. The thumb is fine, but I have to smear the cut with antibiotic ointment, which is a gel, and so forbidden, unless announced and placed in a quart bag.

There's not a quart bag to be found in the house, and I haven't seen one at Sky Harbor airport in years. I could ask when I get there, but I'll probably just insist that it's a "medically necessary liquid" that doesn't have to go in a bag (the imaginary hazards that small amounts of liquid pose are apparently dispelled by invoking the magical word "medical.")

The fact that I know the above rules, and exceptions, annoys me almost as much as the fact that they exist. I don't begin to believe that my safety is enhanced by them, or by the fact that a portion of my brain has been occupied by this pointless data.

Admittedly, this is a petty nonsensical annoyance compared to the fact that I'll have to line up at a checkpoint to ask, "pretty please," to be allowed to board my flight. But those petty annoyances add up.

And so travel continues its own journey to becoming a bureaucratic ordeal.