That time an article on TSA security protocol featured me (I’m pretty sure)

When I fly home tomorrow (later today, I guess — I should really get to sleep), I have a brand new TSA security regime to look forward to. I’ll still have to take off my shoes, leave my shampoo in the shower, and extract my laptop from an overly-stuffed carry-on, but at least I won’t have any problem carrying on a knife:

Flyers reacted with shrugs but largely agreed with a new policy announced by the Transportation Security Administration that airline passengers will be able to carry small knives and previously forbidden sports equipment on planes.

“It’s common sense,” said Pat O’Brien, who stood at Los Angeles International Airport after arriving from Durango, Colo. “You can make anything into a knife so I don’t have a problem with it at all. You can sharpen a credit card to make a sharp implement.”

Aviation security consultant John L. Sullivan agreed with O’Brien, saying a pen or toothbrush can be sharpened like the “shivs” inmates sometimes make in prison.

Genius, guys — keep giving the terrorists free ideas, like Tom Clancy.

All chastisement aside — mostly because I’m sure the terrorists already thought of it in this post-9/11 world — could there be any more potent anti-Western anti-capitalist anti-consumerist anti-Christian statement than hijacking an airplane with a credit card? Just saying.

Anyway, the timing of the potential rules changes — March 5 — could not have come about as total happenstance. Indeed, that Tuesday was only the second workday after Congress handed down the sequester, which prompted the TSA to threaten mandatory furloughs and a Maginot-like frontline of defense in the war on terror as a consequence.

Whatever the reason for the revised guidelines, it’s nice to see the government slowly easing travel restrictions. Next time you fly — hopefully with a small knife in your pocket — I can’t imagine you’ll find yourself nostalgic for the experience of flying circa 2009:

Liquid explosives still pose a threat, so the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is getting more specific about what types of items can’t be taken through security checkpoints in carry-ons.

“Pies are permitted through the security checkpoint,” TSA says. But other holiday food items — such as salsas, cranberry sauce, jams, jellies, vinegars — need to go in checked luggage or be shipped ahead unless they’re packed in containers of 3.4 ounces or less and fit into one quart-sized plastic bag.

Security agents have had to ask passengers to throw away tubs of gravy, even snow globes. The liquid sloshing around inside a snow globe might be less than 3.4 ounces, but TSA says it can’t be accurately measured.

OK, so at least as far as liquids go, you don’t really need nostalgia to recall what it was like back in 2009.

I once actually accompanied someone trying to get a snow globe past security and would be happy share more about that debacle upon request, but the point of this post is to share my actual first-hand experience with a different item that received honorable mention in that same 2009 article:

Government inspectors have gotten more specific on the list of what’s prohibited in checked bags as well (a complete list is at www.tsa.gov). Swords, ice picks and billy clubs are OK. Gas torches, blasting caps and fireworks are out.

“We literally see the kitchen sink,” said Baird, recalling an instance when someone tried to pack along a chain saw.

A chain saw? What kind of crazy person… oh right, that would be me.

I’ll admit — all I have is circumstantial evidence, but consider the following: The article was written just before the 2009 holiday season. It appeared in the Seattle Times. It was written by a Seattle Times travel writer. And just three months before it was published, I had walked right into the SEATAC security line with this stuffed into my carry-on:

saw blade

As you can clearly see, it’s less a chain saw and more an artistic saw blade. But that’s not quite how it showed up in the X-Ray machine — and, as it turns out, TSA agents are slightly more alert than Jerry Seinfeld ever gave them credit for.

It naively hadn’t occurred to me that there might be a problem with what I was packing — ironically, I’d put it in my backpack to prevent it from being damaged — but as I emerged on the other side, I was greeted by an agent and the familiar words: “Is this your bag?” When I nodded in the affirmative, he continued, “Would you please open this bag?” And before I even had a chance to wonder what it was this time, he could no longer contain himself: “Are you trying to board a plane carrying a chain saw?”

Whoops.

When I finally did manage to wrestle my bag open and pull the saw blade out, well, I’ve never seen a TSA agent laugh harder — laugh at all, as a matter of fact — than he did.

My favorite part of the whole episode is how the agent relayed the story to the Seattle Times as though whoever tried to pack along that chain saw was totally out of his mind. Maybe true, but — lucky for me — the chainsaw wasn’t made out of liquid.

He let me through.

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