I Am Glad to Turn This Site Over to TSA Employees and Former TSA Employees for a While

Over the past year, I have received some interesting email from current and former TSA employees, expressing very real, legitimate, and non-“SSI”-divulging  concerns that the public has every right to know about, and which TSA screeners across the nation have every right to see being published. The thing is, most TSA employees are far too scared of retaliation from local management to express their concerns in the media, even though current federal employees do have First Amendment rights, as long as what they write or say falls under the category of public concern.

For the most part, the media is not interested in publishing non-sensational, relatively “banal” articles involving true, addressable organizational problems within the TSA (promotion system, cronyism/favoritism, the re-certification system etc). The media is only interested in eye-popping headlines. That is just reality, as I’ve found out. However, as a former TSA employee who is now in charge of an outlet that can provide substantial exposure, I am fully willing to give voice to TSA employees who wish to exercise their Constitutional, First Amendment rights as federal employees.

Even though I was once told that I “Can’t be doing things like writing letters to the New York Times” by a TSA manager (initials M.R., no longer employed) after a letter of mine was published in the New York Times (that manager’s advice to me definitely felt like a threat), I would like TSA employees around the nation to know that federal employees do have First Amendment rights, and are legally permitted to speak out, without being at risk of losing their jobs (per several federal court rulings), as long as their speech acts fall under the aegis of public concern.

Since the fourth branch of government is mostly uninterested and or unfamiliar with the day-to-day concerns of a Transportation Security Administration employee (since those concerns are usually deemed to not be “headline-worthy”), and since I, as a former TSA employee, am interested in those day-to-day concerns, and find them to be absolutely headline-worthy, I would like to make it known to TSA employees across the nation that this site, right here, Taking Sense Away, is a platform available to you from which you may exercise your First Amendment rights as federal employees, and have your opinions and concerns published for a substantial number of people to see, without having to overcome the unfairly high bar that most members of the sensational-headline-hungry media set as a requirement for access to publication.

The reason I am writing this is because I have recently talked to TSA employees with stories and legitimate complaints that are clearly in the realm of public concern, and who were, unfortunately (with a couple exceptions) unaware of the concept of public concern– in other words, they were under the impression that, as TSA employees, they had no First Amendment rights when it came to expressing their opinions in newspapers, or any public forums. Personally, as a TSA employee, I was never given any training modules making clear to me my First Amendment rights as a government employee when it came to expressing myself in the media. I was given training modules that informed me of my Whistleblowing Act powers, yes, assuming something was very wrong/corrupt in the TSA environment around me, and assuming that my immediate superiors weren’t addressing my concerns about what was wrong after I contacted them.

But as for my right to, say, read the New York Times, see a debate raging that was of national/public concern, and simply express my opinion on the issue so as to meaningfully add to the national/public debate, with the insight that comes with being a federal employee, I was told that “You can’t be doing that here at TSA.” And that was it.

I have approximately 6 great letters from 6 current and former TSA screeners that I am going to publish within the next 2 weeks. All of them express information that the public has every right to know, and which in no way divulge any sort of “SSI.”  If any other former or current TSA screeners have information regarding things they witnessed as TSA employees that fall under the category of public concern, I want you to know that this site is a place that you can turn to, and which will do its best to publish what you have to say.

The following is a direct quote from David Hudson, research attorney at the First Amendment Center (law degree from Vanderbilt University).”Disgruntled worker” is a tricky distinction in the following excerpt– but it seems like such a porous criterion that it may ultimately be all but irrelevant:

“Public employees can contribute greatly to civic debate. They are uniquely
situated to speak out on important issues of which the average citizen is unaware. When public employees speak as citizens rather than as disgruntled workers, courts must respect their free-speech interests.

Justice O’Connor recognized this point when she wrote that ‘government
employees are often in the best position to know what ails the agencies for which they work; public debate may gain much from their informed opinions.’

This same principle applies in retaliation and patronage cases. When a public employer retaliates against an employee simply because it dislikes the content of his or her speech, other employees are discouraged from making comments that could be interpreted as critical.” (Source)

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TSA All Surround Security Program

Over at the TSA News Blog, Lisa Simeone has details on the ASS program. It is an April Fool’s piece. I’m admitting that it’s an April Fool’s piece because it is now at least 9 P.M. wherever you are (for Americans), and you’ve probably already seen some April Fool’s Day activity going down, so by now your defenses are well-raised in regard to any April Foolery. There’s no point in even bothering to try to hit anyone with an April Fool’s Day surprise at this point in the day/night, the way that I see it. But it is an amusing piece from Lisa Simeone, here.

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1st Place Winner of the “Plots the TSA Imagines it Has Foiled” Contest: The Snow Globe Plot

THE SNOW GLOBE PLOT

Once again, the evil TSA prevented us from taking down planes filled with infidel stooges, which would have allowed us to overtake the USA and subjugate your morally corrupt population!

It took years of planning and research. We studied hormones, child behavior and reproduction. Our obedient women were bred to produce 60 men no taller than 4 feet. The correct hormone treatments eliminated whiskers and kept faces soft and feminine, like children. Our faithful martyrs endured hours of Shirley Temple movies and the Andy Griffith Show to perfect their behavior during TSA screening. Even worse, they endured hours of South Park and The Simpsons to succeed during phase two— distracting flight attendants. Careful clothing purchases at The Gap produced the intended sentimental and adorable child warriors. We were on our way to mission success.

On July 19th, 2012, 30 men were disguised as little girls, 30 as little boys and all spent the day at Disneyland in California with “Americanized” adults. Ha! It was brilliant. No one suspected these “families” knew one another or were anything other than stupid Americans wasting their money on silliness and fried food.

Adorned with Mickey Mouse ears, Tinkerbell wings and Cinderella crowns (extra virgins for those martyrs!) the families independently made their way to the John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. Wearing synchronized Donald Duck watches, they planned to board 5 separate East bound planes, all leaving late that afternoon.

The brilliance of this plan was the souvenirs carefully packed in carry-on bags and little pink backpacks. Stupid T.S.A agents with their rah rah red white and blue—how could they possibly think a Mary Poppins snow globe could be dangerous?! How could the T.S. A. heathens know that the afternoon sun magnified by a dozen snow globes could burn a hole in the cockpit door?! How could those miscreants imagine the effectiveness of a Cinderella magic wand wielded as a poker up the nose of a pilot?! Who in Allah’s name let it slip that a Pirates of the Caribbean plastic sword could render a man useless if applied between the legs at just the right angle?!

We practiced for years. Blocking the aisles with seemingly undisciplined children. Training junk food loaded bodies to vomit on cue to occupy flight attendants at just the right moment. Burning anything imaginable using just a snow globe and the sun. Picking locks with Little Mermaid pins. And best of all, using Woody’s Nerf gun Blaster. You really can poke out an eye! It was a magnificent plan with a twist of irony using beloved cultural icons. Not only would we take down airplanes but we would take down Disney! The American economy would not be able to withstand the collapse. Taking over the Western world would be so easy even your “Goofy” could do it.

Alas. What we did not know is the T.S.A. agent in charge of snacks that morning forgot to stop at Dippity Donuts. Not wanting to incur the wrath of his fellow agents, he stopped in Terminal B for pastries at Let Them Eat Cake.  Even the lowest ranking soldiers in Al-Qaeda know better than to eat anything from Let Them Eat Cake!

How could we possibly know that every single T.S.A. Agent that day would be even crabbier and more miserable than usual from eating tasteless, stale pastries? How could we know that the cheese pockets would give agents the trots?  How could we know they would confiscate every single snow globe, every single pirate sword and every single Nerf gun blaster without a second glance at the well-rehearsed crestfallen faces of our brave terrorist comrades? Only a single agent said a snow globe could go through in a “Ziploc quart-sized plastic bag” but she was quickly brought into line by her supervisor who knew the great danger of allowing a snow globe into the cabin.

Unbelievably, our exceptional plan was destroyed in a matter of minutes. Years of work. Years of planning. The T.S.A. proved once again to be too smart always, for us. Or as we like to say, TSA-FU.

—-

Fictional plot submitted by Rosemary.

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And Now for Something Completely Different: Hate Mail Part 3

We are, at the very least, on part 3 in terms of hate mail posts. I’ve actually probably received closer to 10 pieces of pure hate mail since starting this site, but the majority of those were short little “Fuck you traitor! Airport security is AMERICA and if you don’t like it git the fuck OUT MY ‘MERICA!!!!” It’s hard not to just completely forget those emails after giggling for a couple seconds.

This morning I received a piece of hate mail that pretty much just made me laugh, as well. I instantly just deleted it forever from my Gmail inbox and didn’t think much of it. I now greatly regret that.

The email was something along the lines of “Hey asshole….making jokes about the TSA doesn’t make you witty, or a good humor writer. It’s not hard to get humor out of TSA, anyone can do it. You are the worst thing I’ve ever seen on the internet. Bye.”

Or something along those lines. I started to write a response, beginning with “Hi there. Actually, I was publishing humor pieces, as well as non-humor pieces, for publications well before I ever wrote a single thing about the TSA…” but then I realized “Wait, why am I trying to be reasonable and civilized with some person who fires off emails to strangers along the lines of  ‘You fucking suck. That’s all I have to say. Bye.'” That was when I deleted the email forever.

But a little later, I realized that I shouldn’t have done that. I should have responded to him. I tried desperately to recover his email address, but it was too late. So now all I can hope is that my very special hate-mailer reads this. This is what I would write in response to you, if I hadn’t made the unfortunate decision to just delete you permanently:

Hi, Person Who Emailed Me This Morning to Call Me an Asshole and Tell me I’m the Worst Thing on the Entire Internet and Not at All Funny Because All I Do is Draw Humor from the TSA, Which is an Easy Target. I understand where you’re coming from with that. In fact, I already went over this with another reader/emailer right after I started my blog. He compared writing humorously about the TSA to poking a large, neurologically disabled bear with a stick. I told him that unfortunately, he was absolutely right.

First, Mr. Hate Mailer, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that not all of my posts are even trying to be humorous. Many of them are quite serious. Second, as to your claim that “Drawing humor from the TSA does not prove any sort of humor-writing talent at all; therefore, you have none,” I’d like to point you to the fact that I was drawing humor from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, failed Internet start-ups, Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman, Raymond Chandler and laptop repair guys, and many other topics, well before I published a single piece of TSA-themed humor.  McSweeney’s Internet Tendency has a withering rejection rate; so withering, in fact, that there are many staff-writers for The Onion who have most certainly experienced cold rejection after submitting to McSweeney’s. (And actually, every other current McSweeney’s contributor is an Onion staff writer or headline contributor anyway, for that matter. You’ll even get the occasional– well, actually, frequent– head writer for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart being published on McSweeney’s.) But fine. Since you know humor and wittiness so well, Mr. Hate Mailer Man, I will make you a deal.

Email me back, please, Mr. Hate Mailer Man, just so we can reestablish a connection. From there, I would like to make a gentlemanly wager: Since you know humor and wittiness so well, I hereby publicly declare that, if you can get one humor piece published by McSweeney’s, or any equivalent publication, at any time within the next year, I will pay you $2,000 via Pay Pal, and post a picture on this site in which I am wearing a bunny costume holding a sign that says “[Insert your name here] was right: I am the worst thing on the internet. He owns me for life.”An example of a near-equivalent to McSweeney’s would be the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs section. McSweeney’s is something like a 98-percent rejection rate. Shouts and Murmurs might be a 99-percent rejection rate, or so. They’re close. Numbers 2 and 1 as far as open-submission humor publications.

You ready to dance, Mr. Hate Mailer? You ready to take my $2,000 and make me show up on my own site in a bunny costume admitting absolute defeat, Oh arbiter of Internet humor and wit? You better be, Mr. Hate Mailer. Because now…

It’s on.

 

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Recent Speculation About New Risks of Death-by-Terrorist Attack Prompts Speculation About Death-by-Speculation

 [Originally published August 12, 2013]

terror-risk resized

The recent, widely publicized U.S. terror intelligence — which, among other things, speculated upon two new methods by which to potentially be killed by Al-Qaeda on an airplane, including a “Clothes Bomber” and “Frankenbomber” — has led to further speculation about the possibility of death being caused by the speculation itself.

“Heck, I don’t know if me or my family are going to be killed by an Un-American Apparel Bomber or Frankenbomber,” said William Bledsoe of Tullahoma, Tennessee, “But I do know that I laughed so danged hard when I heard that radio announcement that I nearly drove my truck off the road.”

Mr. Bledsoe, safely resting after hearing the warning about a possible Un-American Apparel Bomber.

Amid the flurry of satirical commentary on Twitter under the hashtags #Un-AmericanApparelBomber and #Frankenbomber have come very real concerns that such announcements by U.S. intelligence officials may be causing Americans to become distracted while partaking of actual, everyday dangerous activities, such as eating, walking, and pulling out of their driveways.

“I would say that last week’s announcement of intelligence on a potential Fashionbomber and Frankenbomber caused at least 3-6 people to veer off the road and die horrible deaths,” said David Milbrook, president of the American Traffic Safety Services Association.

29-year-old Amy Yu of Portland, Oregon claims that the ABC News recap of the possibility of a future Frankenbomber nearly led to her demise.

“My boyfriend and I were enjoying a nice dinner of braised balsamic chicken when the news report came on ABC News, about the terrorists who may be out there planning to dip their clothes in liquid explosives and let them dry, turning their outfits into fashion bombs and all. When the part about the possibility of a ‘Frankenbomber’ with a surgically-implanted bomb destroying an airplane came on, my boyfriend got up from the table and started doing a Frankenstein imitation, arms out, sort of stumbling around the living room.”

A possible depiction of a homegrown Frankenbomber

“He was all, ‘Urrgh, urrgh, look at me, I’m Khalid-Mohammed al-Frankenbomber, I’m going to kill you the next time you fly on an airplane, Amy.’ He looked really ridiculous, and it was funny, because you know, it’s not like I’m ever actually going to be killed by a Frankenbomber. But it made me laugh so hard that I choked on a piece of chicken, which almost did kill me. Luckily, my boyfriend knows the Heimlich maneuver,” said Yu.

The dish that was allegedly rendered deadly by U.S. intelligence

“Braised balsamic chicken is supposed to be really healthful, but when you add U.S. intelligence to it, it can turn into death chicken,” added Yu. “I just think people need to be aware of that.”

—-

If you’re on Twitter, so am I.

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A Black Woman’s Hair Becomes Target in TSA’s Security Theater

[Originally published August 10, 2013]

OK, so the original title of the story is “Black Women’s Hair Becomes Target of TSA’s Security Theater,” but I couldn’t find it within myself to reproduce that level of sensationalism. In short, MSNBC host and author Melissa Harris-Perry has discovered that the full body scanners put bounding boxes on her braids every time she goes through, necessitating an idiotic TSA “resolution inspection” of her braids. It’s not just black women’s braids that cause this; the shitty L3 scanners cause everyone with braids or similarly dense hairdos to receive such an inspection. Actually, the L3 scanners show head-area anomalies on about 1 out of every 8 passengers, for various mysterious reasons.

As a TSA screener, this was one of the things I hated most when working the body scanners. Inspections such as the hairdo check usually represent the quintessential example of security theater at the TSA in this, the current Body Scanner Era. Watch a TSA agent resolve a hairdo alarm, and you’ll see a hell of a piece of security theater in action, almost every time. What the agent will usually do is put on a show of looking at the passenger’s head from all angles (knowing that his or her supervisor may be watching, and that the performance is on-camera) maybe do a little theatrical pat-down of the hairdo, and then let the passenger go his or her way.

The ridiculous part of all this is that the hair is usually either A) Obviously just a case of braided or accessorized hair that anyone can instantly see is not concealing anything, and doesn’t actually require any more attention than a glance or B) A nearly impenetrable fortress of an elaborate hairdo that could not actually be cleared of containing a threat short of asking the passenger to pull apart the hairdo on the checkpoint.

An example of the above Type A hairdo is this:

Exhibit A

An example of the Type B hairdo is this:

Exhibit B. She’s taken. Sorry, guys.

Women on their way to or coming back from weddings or fancy events are the most common cases of hairdos that trigger an anomaly on the scanner that can’t actually be cleared of containing a threat, short of asking the woman to pull the hairdo apart. But the majority of TSA screeners want to avoid the appearance of being total assholes whenever possible, believe it or not, dear passengers, and so restrict themselves to putting on a little security theater show of looking at the hairdo with great concentration (presumably with Superman x-ray vision that trumps the full body scanner’s shitty x-ray vision) and then doing a gentle blue-gloved massage of the hair.

For a reasonable TSA screener working with an idiot of a TSA screener on the full body scanner, the most frustrating thing is when encountering the A type hair style– a case of hair that doesn’t even warrant more than a quick look. Watch the two TSA screeners working the full body scanners, and you may see one of them actually take a full 30 seconds to peer deeply into the mysterious, impenetrable abyss of potential smuggled terror that is this:

“Is there a gun in there? A tool kit? A stick of dynamite? What does that clever lil’ terrorist think she’s trying to get past this here full body scanner?” TSA Officer Fife, High Sheriff of Jackass City will think, wasting 30 seconds of everyone’s life by pausing the whole full body scanner operation to investigate the situation. (Sometimes, in all fairness, it’s a case of a recently hired TSA screener who doesn’t know any better, or who is scared that one of the idiotic managers or supervisors that he or she has to deal with is hovering nearby or watching the checkpoint on remote camera, waiting to write a screener up for not dancing a little theatrical routine around a girl such as the one in the above picture.)

The worst thing for a TSA screener who tries to use common sense is that some of the mentally challenged TSA screeners out there will actually run to the supervisor’s podium and lobby to get a screener written up for daring to let Little Miss Exhibit A pass without a serious looking-over and scalp massage. When this happens, a climate of fear reigns over the full body scanner operation, everything slows down, and the lines get longer, as even the TSA screeners who try to use common sense are dragged into putting on elaborate security theater shows, for the satisfaction of the lowest common denominator

But wait, there’s more. (I apologize, dear passengers, but working the full body scanner with an idiot of a co-worker was one of the things I hated most about working at the TSA toward the end of my time there. No, actually, it was the number one thing I hated about it.)

The absolute, number one, most idiotic example of security theater that anyone, absolutely anyone, can witness at nearly any time at a TSA checkpoint’s full body scanner is this: when a TSA screener investigates a passenger’s watch after the full body scanner indicated an anomaly on the passenger’s wrist. Want to know why it’s idiotic? Sure, I’ll tell you.

The best theoretical reason they’re fondling your watch is due to the possibility that it might be modified for use as a timer in an IED. Fair enough, I guess, sort of: Ramzi Yousef tried that in 1994 on PA Flight 434. So TSA screeners invariably put on a little show of sort of peeking under the watch when you come through the scanner, to make sure there’s no terror under there, and then, satisfied that your watch is terror-free, let you continue on as clear. But do you know what the one thing that the average Joe Shmoe airplane-obsessed terrorist isn’t going to need? That’s right, a timer. Want to know why? Because HIS FUCKING THUMB-AND-MENTAL-COUNTDOWN-TO-ETERNAL-MARTYRED-GLORY IS GOING TO BE THE TIMER.

And do you know what the one thing that a brilliant terrorist who figured out a way to use the watch that he’s wearing to double as a timer on an airplane-planted IED is going to have? A plain-looking watch that’s either imperceptibly modified, or that he’ll modify after passing through security. So do you know what you just cheerfully and confidently let pass through security with your diligent, theatrical, by-the-book inspection of a passenger’s watch, TSA screener Barney Fife? One of the components of a brilliant terrorist’s IED, because IT’S A FUCKING DIGITAL WATCH; IT CAN ONLY EVER BE SO “CLEAR” IN THE POWER SUPPLY+ INITIATOR+ EXPLOSIVES+ SWITCH/TIMER= AN IED EQUATION.

—-

To close out Kip Hawley week: As a fomer TSA employee, I can emphatically say that Hawley and the New York Times were definitely right about one thing: “TSA officers need to be encouraged to think on their own, not disciplined for it.”

—-

If you’re on Twitter, so am I.

Related TSA articles from my archives:

“I’ve Been a Current TSA Employee, Not a Former TSA Employee, All Along.”

“The Most Awkward Moment for a TSA Screener.”

“No, You Don’t Know What It Is”

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Behavior Detection Gets Slammed in the New York Times

The SPOT program– the program that has agents walking around airports looking at your body language, facial expressions, and behavior so as to try to identify terrorists– is mostly just an enormous waste of money, is the article’s conclusion, as everyone seems to conclude again and again.

This program is such a well-documented case of wasted taxpayer dollars that I can’t believe it’s still alive.

I would say that I feel sort of bad for all the perfectly nice “Behavior Detection Officers” out there who will eventually see their program cut (plus the average BDO is a little sharper than the average TSO, in my experience) but it’s not like they’ll be laid off or anything; they’ll just be reassigned in some manner, most likely. But then again, looking at this program’s history, it may very well turn out that it will continue to exist year after year despite a constant barrage of scientific studies pointing to its inefficacy.

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Quick Message to Fellow WordPress Bloggers

I am going to follow all of you back, soon. Please understand that I am in a unique situation which had me acquiring 300 new WordPress followers in the span of a couple weeks. I’m in grad school, plus doing other writing for publications, plus trying to run this blog, plus other things. I am going to set aside a couple hours soon so as to follow back approximately 300 bloggers, one by one.

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Plots the TSA Imagines it Protected Us From: Third-Place Contest Winner– “The April Fool’s Plot”

It was set to take place mid-afternoon on March 31, 2012, on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. The team was broken up to take upon themselves various elements of the task at hand.

“Down With Freedom,” we chanted during the meeting the night before.  The cry was deafening, but the message imparted. Before going to sleep, we ran through the plan one more time.

-Tango was to bring aboard orange juice of content purest.
-Sierra was to manage bringing fire to the sky.
-Alpha the underage, was to get a glass container of sand finest.
-Uniform, of name stupidest, was to bring tape of duct.
-Charlie to bring as much flammable material as possible.
-Kilo was to bring a kilo of purest soil.
-And I, Tasucks, would bring the dry ice.

The plan was therefore to be successful upon my own command. Together these materials would help us accomplish our mission.

As we arrived the next day Sierra came up to me shaking with fear. She needed, more than anything, to get all of her things through security. Sky fire is central to inducing fear in people and therefore was a critical element of the plan.

I told her, “No random screening is truly random.” I instructed the operatives to look as though they were going on vacation from their day-to-day, highly paid lives and to therefore look joyous or excited.

She gave me a cautious nod, not really believing me, and we went on ahead.

Smiles covered our faces as we lined up but this became difficult to maintain as the line stretched around the next bend for many an hour. Time stretched on as the line zombie-crawled forward. We peered around the corner and saw the slow pace was caused by a child being given a full pat-down and chemical screening, his father waiting for him and watching cautiously. Needless to say, he saw us all peering around the corner, smiling at his child in this situation and soon after the head of security came to us, frowning poignantly.

“Excuse me, I received a complaint that you people were smiling at a child being patted down. This is not tolerated! Happiness, under any circumstances, is not tolerated within these facilities…”

“I am truly sorry, Sir, I…”

“…because security, national security, does not ever take a break. We as a nation must be ever vigilant in ensuring our security and your happiness, is not allowing this. So please, stay in line, and take your safety seriously.”

Stunned silence faced the team as the lined stared at us with depressed frowns. I was first in line, willing to be searched, so I showcased a smile to dazzle the world. I was then called up to the counter and had my boarding pass scanned.

“Mr. Ta-shucks…”

“Tas-ucks”

“Bless you. You are travelling to New York, yes?”

“Why yes, thank you, Miss. I am actua…”

“PLEASE remove any liquids and place them on the tray along with your laptop and any metallic items and proceed through the gate… NEXT!”

I placed my clearly labeled box of dry-ice onto the conveyor and it went through. Security personnel glared at me. I was patted-down and swabbed. While I was expecting this to be unpleasant, Uniform had it worse:

His bags were searched and his plastic comb removed due to a potential safety threat caused by the pointed handle. Still smiling more than a child in a candy store, he was subjected to the full-body scan, which detected his shoes contained pointed composite supports. He was detained and questioned.

-Alpha passed through without any complications.

-Tango had the sealed juice container taken away and was made an example of by the head of security . “NO LIQUIDS ARE ALLOWED!” Soon after he went and bought a container of apple juice at the store across from security. Bloody pricey, but it was needed.

-Sierra passed through no problem. He hid the flammable alcohol in the travel Listerine and brought on a gas stove sparker easily enough, concealed in his book. The scanner operator didn’t bother flipping through the settings, just sent things through.

-Charlie brought a small cache of musical instruments, all of which were maimed in some way: The ukulele had to have its strings removed, as they could be a lethal weapon. The banjo was taken outright, and the toy guitar taken as it could be used to injure a passenger and take up too much space. Not a total loss; we had enough wood to proceed with the string-less uku.

-Kilo had brought a tree, therein the soil which we required. The tree died passing through the scanner, leaving a trail of strewn pine needles, but no one cared.

Unfortunately we missed our flight, because all passengers MUST go through this single line of security and we had to wait for Uniform anyway, so we opted to take a later flight. When he was finally allowed to fly, we were taking the red-eye to New York. Easy enough.

As the plane flew over North Carolina, we gathered at the back of the plane and began to gather our materials. This is where the plan went awry:

The dry ice mixed with the apple juice, causing an abundant and overwhelming odor. In response, Kilo threw his soil onto the mixture, causing the smell to intensify as the scent of manure filled the cabin. The passengers didn’t care about the odor; they were not willing to make a fuss and instead opted to dig their faces in their shirts for protection. This is when the flight attendants came by and asked what was going on. Alpha used the glass container and knocked her out with a fell swoop. I then took the alcohol and poured in onto the dry-ice and tried to light it with the sparker. The carbon dioxide prevented the alcohol from lighting, and the extremely low freezing temperature of the alcohol caused the dry ice to evaporate faster, causing an immense apple-and-manure-scented fog to disperse throughout the cabin, only to be spread further by the air system.

Unfortunately we then passed out and awoke surrounded by police officers in the hospital. The plane made an emergency landing in Delaware, much to the passengers’ overwhelming and ecstatic approval. We didn’t even know Delaware had an airport.

The TSA gave the announcement that the “April Fools Plot” was a bust due to their advanced screening system. Because of their constant and persistent vigilance they were able to prevent the banjo from being allowed on the flight, thereby preventing its metal casing to be used as a broadcasting dish. They claimed that, coupled with cell phone signals, the banjo had the potential to disrupt the angular momentum of the trailing aileron edge which would have resulted in a failure of software intelligence within the manifold.

Lives saved, nation! Lives saved!

Fictional plot submitted by Alex from Calgary.

(Note from the author: “The character Alpha is based on my experiences travelling out of Chicago when I was 19. Yes, I was searched. Yes, they found the empty glass bottle of Jack Daniels. Yes, they let me take it. No questions about why I had the bottle or even about my age. I was just a nervous Canadian wanting to go home.”)

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Letter from a Passenger : “Every Time I Fly, I Have to Explain My Private Medical Condition to a Perfect Stranger.”

Here’s a letter from a blogger named Matthew Grant McDaniel. He has an ostomy bag due to the fact that he had to have his large intestine removed as a result of Ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s disease. This letter and article from Matthew is redolent of my post “The Most Awkward Moment for a TSA Screener” (I have a strange feeling that post is going to become one of the top 5 most popular of all time on this blog fairly soon). As with “The Most Awkward Moment for a TSA Screener,” I can only imagine how awkward and humiliating this routine experience is for Matthew and other passengers in similar situations. I would now like to add that the number 2 awkward moment for me as a TSA screener involved this…

Hi. My name is Matthew Grant McDaniel. 

I’m writing because I wrote something a while back that may or may not be useful to you. I’m sure during your time with the TSA you occasionally came across passengers who had ostomy/colostomy bags. I, myself, unfortunately had to have my entire large intestine surgically removed because of Ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s disease a few years ago (when I was just 26 years old). Most folks with an ostomy are survivors of very rough diseases and conditions (the majority of them either UC/Crohn’s or colon cancer). As a way to provide a service to these people, and after a particularly jarring experience, I wrote something on my blog, which is still among my most popular. I’ve met a few people who were in the same situation. They found my blog because they, too, have an ostomy and were scared shitless (pun definitely intended) about getting through TSA screening without being humiliated.

-Matthew Grant McDaniel
twitter: @mgmcdaniel
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