It’s holiday season, dear passengers, and for once, recently, the TSA gave you what is hands down the most heart-warming gift I have ever seen it hand out, though you may not have noticed: as of this last September, snow globes ceased to be automatically confiscated on behalf of the ongoing airport-security-theater war on terror. Only snow globes “bigger than a tennis ball” will be confiscated from you now. Blogger Bob, my insufferably annoying, mediocrity-of-a-counterpart over at the official TSA blog, will probably trumpet this generous concession to the American people soon, if he hasn’t already.
The entire ban on snow globes was just another of the many intelligence-insulting rules that I was often forced to follow during my time at TSA. Imagine having to look, year after year, into the faces of innocent children and tell them and their parents that their Pretty-Princess-in-a-Blizzard snow globe has to go into the trash. “But why,” little Angie would ask, puppy dog pouting, tears trembling.
Because there are people out there trying to terrorize you, little Angie, and in order to counter that, I have to tear this pretty princess snow globe from your little hands and toss it in the trash.
The really ridiculous thing is that for most of the years that I was supposed to be confiscating snow globes from people, we actually had the means to test them right there on the checkpoint– multispectrum electromagnetic analyzers, for example– which are fully capable of testing the liquids inside a snow globe. In case you’re not following closely because TSA terminology bores you into a deep coma as it did to me for nearly 7 years:
Taxpayers had paid for advanced machines that were capable of testing liquids in containers such as those of snow globes, and at the same time, were having their snow globes tossed out without the common sense benefit of the very same machines that their money had purchased in order to test the public’s liquids.
Stupid-storms such as this, straight out of a Joseph Heller novel, are business-as-usual when you work as a TSA officer, let me tell you.
The TSA is still doing this, throwing out all sorts of liquids that could easily be tested with the machines your tax dollars bought. Now here’s the TSA’s comeback for that (trust me, I’ve heard it a million times):
“But if we tested every liquid, the wait times would be catastrophic. There’s no way we could guarantee safety from terror if we tried to test every liquid, and the lines would run out the door.”
Hey, TSA, did you ever think of this?:
You don’t have to test everything. There’s no way to guarantee freedom from El Terror in this world, and no policy of yours will much affect things one way or the other, ever. Adequate deterrence is all you need in order to counter this threat that is statistically nearly-non-existent for all intents and purposes, anyway. If a potential terrorist knows that there is even a 1 in 500 chance that their already-risky proposition of a homemade liquids-based bomb will be detected by a random liquids test, they’ll go ahead and hit a mall instead. You only need to randomly test the liquids. Lift the idiotic liquids restriction already.
Good God. Let people have their goddamned peanut butter and bottled water.
I apologize. You have no idea how much aggravation that imbecilic liquids rule caused me over the years, along with many others. Now that I’m worked up, here’s a confession:
Whenever possible, dear passengers, I was the TSA employee who allowed your snow globes to go through the checkpoint. I refused to comply with that idiotic rule. Oh, I sized each situation up, got a feel for the passenger, the proximity of any anal retentive supervisors supervisors— in other words, I used common sense—but whenever I felt the situation was appropriate, I slipped people’s snow globes back in their luggage and told them to be on their way.
Viva la resistance, I whispered to you, tucking your snow globe back into your kid’s backpack, right where God and Thomas Jefferson intended it.*
There have been many soul-destroyingly stupid rules at the TSA that I’ve disregarded, with common sense as my guide, most of which ended up being, or will end up being, discarded as rules by the TSA themselves (as you can see by looking at the history of their policies, the TSA always lags far behind on the common sense curve.)
In my time at TSA, I secretly refused to follow:
-The ban on printer cartridges. I was not going to force some lady from Yonkers to surrender her printer because one idiot in Yemen tossed out a half-assed plot to mess with commercial shipping.
-The directive, at first, to place everyone, including toddlers, into the full body radiation scanners. You should have seen it for the first couple years (you probably did see it), the most shameful period working at TSA for me, when 3 year olds were made to assume the position and take radiation doses in the name of freedom. It made me sick, sitting in our I.O. room (Image Operator room, where we viewed those images) having to analyze nude images of what were obviously toddlers. I mostly just instantly cleared those images, and when it came time for me to direct the kids into the backscatter machines, I almost always found a way to exempt them. (One young female officer I remember had an adamant zeal about making sure no one allowed toddlers to avoid being placed in the imagers. She went so far as to report officers to superiors if she witnessed any such slackening of the rules for toddlers. Remembering the fanatical glare in that female officer’s eyes as she insisted that the rules said that no one—not even toddlers—were exempt from the nude radiation scan still sends chills down my spine, and I will permit myself to make a comparison that I will rarely make on this blog now, that of what it must have felt like to work side-by-side with German officers in 1939, as someone who doubted the morality of the mission.)
-The rule that pilot’s Swiss army knives must be confiscated. As you may have noticed by now from my previous posts, this rule really got to me. It is an affront to the very ideals of the Enlightenment, to look the pilot of a commercial aircraft in the eyes, holding the tiny Swiss army knife that his grandfather had given him when he was a little boy, and which had passed through security countless times before, and explain to him that because the x-ray operator decided to call a bag check on it today, the knife has to go into the garbage, in the name of making the very airways he is about to navigate safer. If anything, you make it more likely that the pilot will turn the plane back around in a rage and take the entire airport out.
It exhausts me, thinking back on all the mind-meltingly dumb rules I had to follow, and— whenever possible, break— in the name of the common sense this great nation is so often lacking in these post 9/11 days, so I will leave it here, and say a prayer tonight for safe passage of that jar of homemade apple butter that your grandma slipped into your carry on unbeknownst to you.
*I have no proof of Thomas Jefferson’s position on the 3-1-1 rule, or on snow globes being allowed through airport checkpoints. But of God’s opinion on the matter, there can be no doubt.