WTF, TSA?

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Frequently Asked Questions at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Website.

Q: Tell me again why we can’t bring bottled water through airport security?
A: Two reasons. One, because we have no way of knowing it’s just plain water and not something that could be used to make a bomb. Two, because we said so.

Q: “Because we said so”?
A: Yeah. I mean, what are you going to do about it? We could make it a rule that you can’t bring ANYTHING on an airplane, that you have to check all your luggage and board the plane buck naked, and you’d have no choice but to go along with it. Anyone who complained that their civil rights were being eroded would be labeled a terrorist sympathizer.

Q: How could a bottle of clear liquid be used to make a bomb?
A: Our scientists tell us that the right combination of liquids, even liquids that are harmless by themselves, can be deadly.

Q: Really?
A: No, not really. We pulled that one out of our butts. It sounds awesome, though, doesn’t it? We think it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood makes a film where a terrorist uses harmless liquids to make a bomb on an plane.

Q: How come the official TSA regulations have been updated to allow up to 3.4 ounces of liquid through security checkpoints, yet the TSA’s own website still has it at 3 ounces?
A: We’re hedging our bets. We want to reserve the right to harass you if you have more than 3 ounces. We’ll enforce whatever the nearest sign says, or whatever rule we happen to make up on the spot. There’s also a good chance we’ll ignore this rule altogether and let an entire bottle of shampoo go by while we’re talking to our co-workers.

Q: Why are all your airport screeners such idiots?
A: On the contrary, the TSA prides itself on selecting only the finest, most qualified high school dropouts and GED-takers to work at its airport security checkpoints.

Q: Why are they so stubborn and belligerent? They’re worse than highway patrolmen.
A: For many of our screeners, this is the first time in their lives that they have had power over anyone. We admit that sometimes it goes to their heads. If you believe a TSA screener has treated you with disrespect, please ask to see a supervisor. The supervisor will listen carefully to your complaints, decide that you’re wrong and the TSA screener is right, and then subject you to a lengthy strip-search and interrogation. Now who’s stubborn and belligerent, eh, smart guy?

Q: This whole thing where you have to put all your liquids in a Ziploc bag — the Ziploc company bribed you to create that rule in order to increase their sales, right?
A: You caught us.

Q: Why do you confiscate bottled water?
A: We already answered this. It’s because we have no way of knowing, just by looking at it, that it’s only water. It could be hazardous.

Q: Then how come when you confiscate it, you just throw it in a garbage can? Shouldn’t it go into a biohazard bin or something?
A: Don’t be silly. It’s only a bottle of water!

Q: So I can’t bring it through security because it might be dangerous, but you throw it in a regular garbage can because you know it’s not dangerous.
A: Correct. Sometimes we go ahead and drink it ourselves.

Q: A few weeks ago, you forced a woman to remove her nipple ring with a pair of pliers before she could be permitted to pass through security. Your spokesman, Christopher White, defended this action, saying, “Incidents of female terrorists hiding explosives in sensitive areas are on the rise all over the world. This scenario must be addressed at our nation’s airports.” You do see the difference between hiding a bomb in your bra and having a small ring in your nipple, don’t you?
A: No.

Q: I’m sorry, I just can’t get past this water thing. Current TSA regulations let passengers bring screwdrivers, scissors, and cigarette lighters through security — but not a bottle of water. Tell me again how a bottle of water is more dangerous than a pair of scissors?
A: We didn’t want to confuse you with a lot of science, but since you’re so persistent, here goes. Water is actually made up of two different chemical elements, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen has been used to make such dangerous weapons as the hydrogen bomb. Oxygen is an accelerant — neutral on its own, but if you light a match near it, it will make the fire burn faster and hotter. Knowing this, would you want to sit next to someone on a plane who had a whole bottle full of such volatile chemicals? We didn’t think so.

Q: Doesn’t it suck to work at a job where all day long you have to enforce arbitrary, illogical rules that someone else made up, all the while pretending that they actually make sense?
A: You have no idea.

Why, yes, I did recently have a run-in with airport security! How did you know? It was my own fault, really -- I forgot I had the water bottle in my bag -- but actually discussing it with a TSA employee made all the ludicrous aspects of the whole thing come together in my mind.

The TSA's actual limit on liquids and gels is 100 milliliters, which translates to approximately 3.4 ounces. Yet for some reason their own website says 3 ounces, apparently because the idea of milliliters or fractions of ounces would confuse people. But it's an important distinction, because many lotions, perfumes, and gels come in 3.4-ounce bottles -- acceptable under the actual rule, but too heavy under the more commonly known 3-ounce rule. As ever, the best option is to simply remain in your house and never go anywhere.

SnideCast intro and outro: "Come Fly with Me," by Michael Buble.

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