Thursday, June 21, 2007

Running the airport gauntlet

I'm about to pack up my wife and son and head to the airport for a long-awaited vacation with my extended family, so posting will be sparse, at best, for the next week.

As always happens whenever I travel by air, my anxiety level is creeping up. It's not just the prospect of slogging through an airport with a toddler in tow, then keeping him occupied for five-plus hours in the air. Yes, that's daunting, but wasn't Benadryl invented to allow us to sedate our offspring into some semblance of compliance?

What really gets me is the what's-legal-now game that comes into play as I sort toiletries, medicines and widgets into separate piles for checked luggage and carry-on. Leatherman tool, pocket knife and straight razor (yes, I shave with a straight razor)? Those are all verboten on aircraft, so they go in the suitcase. Reading material? Well, Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor might not be considered airport-friendly, what with its front-cover illustration of a plunging jetliner, so, just to be on the safe side, that goes in the suitcase too. I'll carry the new Dean Koontz novel instead. Medications and my dear wife's cosmetics ... What's the rule again? Liquids can't be in containers larger than three ounces, but semi-solid stuff like lipstick is OK? Is that right? Is my wife's selection of face goop liquid or solid or some previously unknown intermediate category?

And--crap--we're out of see-through freezer bags for storing the three-ounce liquid containers for convenient groping by TSA drones anyway.

Speaking of groping ... A few months after 9/11, my wife and I passed through an airport on the way to some destination that escapes me now and that I would probably have preferred skipping anyway. At the gate, the security guards pulled a pretty teenage girl aside for some obviously excessive extra attention. My wife and I hung back from the boarding line to keep an eye on the guards and the girl they were fondling. We weren't subtle either. The guards let the girl board after a few minutes of attention and a couple of glances in our direction.

I haven't seen anything so egregious since then, but the intrusive and pointless security procedures always grate on my nerves. My wife knows when to take a tight grip on my arm to forestall an eruption when we're being herded like cattle through the metal detectors. I've mellowed over the years, however, and there's little chance of me staging a pointless confrontation with some TSA goon unless I suddenly develop a hankering for a body-cavity search.

It could be worse, I keep telling myself. Security at Phoenix's Sky Harbor is relatively polite. Still intrusive and ridiculous, but polite. That's a far cry from the third-world pawing I've encountered at Newark, or at the D.C.-area airports.

Of course, I'm flying into the D.C. area tomorrow.

Maybe I'll save some of my son's Benadryl for me. I'll wash it down with a little bourbon.


Blogger William said...

Last time I flew with my wife, she was stopped because her "stuff" was in a 1.5 quart freezer bag instead of a 1.0 quart bag. duh!

June 21, 2007 5:39 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Have you been through the x-ray screen at Sky Harbor yet? I think it's only in one terminal so far.

June 23, 2007 12:30 PM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

X-ray screen? Nope -- I haven't experienced it yet. I'm sure we'll all have the pleasure someday soon...

June 26, 2007 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only taken one trip that involved flying since 9/11, a trip to Peru and Panama that I won in a contest. My sister's luggage got opened up and searched after being scanned. And what was the item that aroused suspicion? A block of chocolate! We were able to laugh about that even then, but reading about all the new regulations added in the last 6 years, I can see why some say, "I'd rather take an ass kicking than fly".

June 27, 2007 11:52 AM  

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