Yesterday I flew home from New York through Newark. I’d forgotten I had a Zippo lighter in my bag. It had been there for a very long time; easy not to think about. So the TSA guy says he wants to search through my bag. No problem, whatever, I’m sort of behind schedule so just do what you think you need to do to make the world secure.
“This lighter is illegal. I’m going to have to confiscate it.”
“Excuse me, what are you talking about? It’s illegal?”
“As of April all lighters are not allowed on airplanes. I’m going to have to take this.”
Goddam what a fscked up thing American paranoia has become. This lighter was a gift from Mookee when I first moved out to San Francisco. Despite pushing the time limit for getting on my plane I wanted to at least keep the shell. “Look, it’s a Zippo, right? So the insides where the fuel and flint are come out. Take that out and let me keep the shell at least.”
“I’m sorry but I have to keep the whole thing.”
No way. “Is there someone I can talk to?”
At this point the agent, if you can call him anything, told me I could talk to the Inspector but that he would tell me the same thing. So as quickly as possible keeping in mind my plane left in 20 minute and would be finishing boarding soon I tied up my boots, stuffed crap in my pockets and went over the the Inspector to plead my case.
To his credit but probably not the book he was supposed to follow, the Inspector heard me out, kind of rolled his eyes, and asked where the lighter was now. Then he brought it back, asked me if it was indeed mine, pulled out the core and handed me the shell after turning his back on the agents at the gate. I thanked him and I hope he knew I really appreciated it.
This is the stupidest thing our government is doing. If I carried a full bottle of wine on the plane I could do more damage than any lighter could. I could break the bottle and cut people more effectively than any knife. I could have the bottle filled with gasoline and carry a flint and stick of metal to light a molotov cocktail. There are many things anyone with any creativity could do. It’s ridiculous for the TSA to think they can prevent someone determined from hijacking a plane or worse. This is well documented. All they are doing is pissing off us, the People.
Dear Congress, please pull your collective heads out of your asses and do something right for a change. Quit promoting a culture of fear and stupidity. We would greatly appreciate it!
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4 Responses to “My Encounter with the TSA”
- Mookee says (August 24th, 2005 at 11:42:07 )
Yes, the government is stupid.
I’ll not deny that you should have taken the thing out of the bag in the first place. I understand you didn’t know it was there, but the shit that is going on right now if amazing (as your story attests to).
What’s even more ludicrous about this story is this “no lighter policy” and “take your shoes off” policy are a result of the shoe bomber who didn’t even succeed in blowing anything up.
So…if you want to really screw with airport security, next time you’re on a plane, put some puddy, or some clay-doe (whatever that kid stuff is) in your hat, or the collar of your shirt, and stick a string in it…
…oooo this is isn’t a bad idea, it would force the security people to have every take their shirt off so it can go through the x-ray machine…topless chicks at the airport!!
but seriously, even if someone does have plastique in their shoe…doesn’t it just show up as non-exrayable, much like the sole of the shoe would anyway?
I agree, but it’s not fscking stupid, it’s fucking stupid.
- NHK says (August 24th, 2005 at 22:38:00 )
Yes, it *is* fucking stupid.
I’m glad they let you keep the lighter shell, though. The idiot who told you that you “could talk to the Inspector but that he would tell me the same thing” is a typically bitter TSA jackass. Having flown 150K+ miles since Fall 2001, I have to say I’m sick of having my shoes sniffed, my belongings rummaged, and on occasion, my ass grabbed by a group of people whom I doubt could (collectively) figure out how to flip a burger. Even more irksome is the USD5 per flight segment ‘security fee’ that I’m forced to pony up for each domestic segment. That has amounted to roughly USD350 for me to date…or, in other words, several decent bottles of scotch.
- Wade says (August 25th, 2005 at 23:32:36 )
Well, it could have been worse…
I’m flying more for work these days, so I completely sympathize on the idiocy of the policy. At least he did let you keep the shell, though I’m surprised he didn’t point out a nearby kiosk where you could mail the thing back to yourself…oh, wait, you can’t mail flammable materials. Sheesh…makes me wonder what they’d do if they found a book of matches in my luggage and I informed them that it was part of my religious materials.
- Wade says (August 25th, 2005 at 23:33:40 )
And by the way…
…next time you are on this coast, or particularly in D.C., let me know…it’d be nice to have coffee again. E-mail address updated, BTW.