Bouquets and Brickbats – holiday flyers beware of scope for arbitrary interpretations of rules

The past ten days have been a bit of a whirl up in the US, and flying is still as unpredicatable as ever – or should I say the rules for what you can carry and how things go or don’t go at checkin and security points seem arbitrarily different place to place. The TSA and your airline websites carry the latest rules re what you can actually take on board and that should be it. But that’s only the beginning, and things can go any way here.

A bouquet for the security company employee here who handled my hand luggage search at checking in Montevideo. I produced a very small collection of liquids – moisturiser, mascara, lippy, eye drops, nasal spray and toothpaste, all in containers of under 30 ml – small, very small – and the whole little group happened to be in a ziploc bag occupying the lower 1/4 of the bag which is some larger size, 2 pints? half gallon? nothing on the bag, but clearly was a very small collection of liquids pastes or gels. This guy said, “Ah, good to see you’ve done your homework” and waived me on my way after inspection.

The exact same, very small collection in the exact same bag, which is apparently twice the size it should have been, but had the gooods only occupying the lower 1/4 of it – sent a woman employee of a security company at Washington Dulles airport into some kind of frenzy about how my bag was too big and how it should have been a quart bag, I was in danger of having the whole lot confiscated, blah blahdey blah … I saw people with lots more stuff crammed into a quart bag go right on through while she ranted about the wrong size of my bag. (The plastic ziplocked bag is meant to be able to be photographed out flat, closed, with all items showing.) Brickbat to you lady ! She didn’t know it, but as a last resort I did have another small bag of the size she was focused on in my carry on bag, it had tablets in it, but it would have been easy to do a quick swap right there, while waiting to speak to her supervisor – but her bag of steam finally blew out, she huffed and let me through after all, and I felt sad that she seemed to be having a very bad day. Or still getting over the night before….

Still it does point to the arbitrariness of security inspections even as the rules are published, and even though overall I along with most flyers really appreciate the painstaking work these people do with often very trying or stupid customers. But, I’m grounded a while, post abdominal surgery, and all the family are heading this way for christmas new year. Travel Well!

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