I have always had my doubts about the TSA. I’ve read too many stories about poorly trained screeners, underpaid workers, long hours and a basic lack of understai8ng of real threats. However, as I don’t travel a lot I didn’t see my assumptions come to light until this week. I flew on a return journey from Denver to New York.
First, let’s start with a quick test. You don’t need to have any training in airline screening procedures or FBI terrorist knowledge. Simply rank the following objects, all of which I had with me in my carry-on or about my person, in order of potential danger to the flight and the people on board.
A - Cavity-destroying but harmless-to-humans Colgate toothpaste
B - The dangerously sexy JBL On Tour speaker system
C - The flesh-tearing, bone-chopping pocket knife
If you put the knife as the main threat, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong (ironic turn of phrase). Here’s what happened.
First, my toothpaste was taken from me and thrown in the trash. The reason – it was larger than 3oz. I didn’t really care, I had forgotten about the new rule and I could buy another tube when I arrived. So, that seriously potential danger is ranked number 1 by the TSA. After all, it could be minty-smelling C4 explosive. I didn't argue, the screener looked at me like I was a moron for even attempting to bring it on board.
Next, my JBL portable speaker system for my iPod. This caused incredible confusion. It was in my carry-on bag, and as it went through the x-ray machine I heard a flurry of activity from the TSA screeners. They all rushed to the screen, making strange faces and pointing fingers. I was asked to accompany my luggage to a screening station, where they dusted for explosive traces and asked me to identify the object. When I explained it was a speaker system, they pondered and then let me through the gate.
Finally, my super-sharp and very handy lock-knife keychain. I had put my keys in my coat pocket and completely forgot about the dangerous weapon attached. I was surprised then that this object was never considered a threat. My coat went through the x-ray machine with no issues, and I left the screening area to board the plane carrying a deadly weapon. Make no mistake, this knife could gut a deer carcass (which I would never do, but you get the point).
After my few days in New York, I made a decision. I would keep the knife on my keychain and see if the New York screeners would catch it. Once again, my JBL speaker system caused more commotion than I ever expected. I was once again asked to go to a screening station and identify this alien object. I even had to open the battery compartment.
In my coat, the deadly weapon. It once again passed through the x-ray machines without incident and I boarded my flight home carrying a seriously sharp knife in my pocket. Remember, this is during a time when nail clippers and nail files are looked upon as threats to national security.
What are we to make of all this? First, the TSA screeners really don’t know how to identify threats at all. If a knife can pass through and a tube of toothpaste can’t, what on Earth is going on? The mind boggles.
Second, and more importantly, the TSA is a façade. It’s there purely to give you the illusion of safety and security. In actuality, if a terrorist wanted to get something on a plane, he/she could very easily do it. And this whole toothpaste tube rule is crazy. What’s to stop someone putting several smaller tubes of C4 together? What a joke. And as I said earlier, not a funny one. Feel safe when you fly? I know I don’t!