I travel a lot. I fly often. In my experience, I have witnessed the degeneration of pre-911 airport malaise, where it was difficult to find, much less catch the attention of, a transit official (see Security Guard), into what is now a virtual colonoscopy at the security checkpoint.
Despite lamentations over the loss of personal liberties, I think I have handled the increased scrutiny with dignity. I shan’t credit my inherent patience, as I haven’t any, rather:
(A) I commonly travel for pleasure, so I am graced with a prevalent, if fleeting, calmness
(B) I understand no one working the checkpoint has any control over the severity—ridiculousness—of the security restrictions they are compelled to enforce, and
(C) not dying in a flaming mass of exploding airplane is far worth the slight irritation of removing my shoes and waiting while a stranger with a badge examines my underwear, confiscates my contact solution and sends my deodorant off to be lab-tested.
So, in the name of public safety, I don’t mind a little governmentally-sponsored inconvenience. Today, however, I have been thrust beyond even my own lofty tolerance-ceiling. Today, the TSA and their heightened security measures have cut into my drinking.
There is a 3-ounce limit on carrying liquids onto an airplane. This is not a tremendously new institution, and I have flown several times, and lost several bottles of $6-airport Aquafina since (the fluid restriction is not well posted in the gift shop). But this is the first time since that I have flown to Las Vegas. The significance is multifaceted:
• Flying to Las Vegas often involves cutting it close. An interesting phenomenon; no matter how many times you nearly miss a flight to Vegas, you just can’t seem to cure yourself of it. Southwest Airlines may be to blame for shaping a subculture of travelers who simply expect to get a Class-C boarding pass (see Bad Seat), thus feel no sense of urgency to either hurry, or start getting to the airport in a timely fashion. Any delay in the airport, then, greatly jeopardizes one’s chances of getting a drink before one’s flight.
• Being in Vegas invariably involves loads of sun, heat, and passing out. Everyone in line, then, is packing water, sunscreen, and insulin, and 3-ounces, as a measure, is hardly intuitive. Ensuring a noteworthy bottleneck at the checkpoint is how we of the 3-ounces of brain also endeavor to bootleg 12-ounce cans of fermented medication and bottles of contraband vodka through the terminal.
• Flying to Vegas religiously involves drinking. Any delay whatsoever means less time doing that, national security and the preservation of human life be damned.
Enter the ethical dilemma – is protecting life more important than being not-sober in Las Vegas? Clear thinking humanitarians will tell you there is nothing more precious than human life. A moot point, as clear thinking humanitarians are not, by definition, tremendous drinkers or gamblers. The dedicated Vegas traveler, then, will tell you exactly what you can do with humanitarianism, and will happily throw their carryon luggage, shoes, 3.1-ounces of mouthwash and everyone in line to the wolves if it means additional cocktails in the lounge.
Since its inception, the 3 fl. ounce restriction has shocked a great number of people. Neither the threatening postings as you approach security (past the point of being able to return your $6 Aquafina, as you have already opened it), nor the disquieting murmur passing through line seem to prepare the indignant for the tremendous injustice of having their aloe vera confiscated. Perhaps we think the rules don’t apply to us, our shampoo, or our venti latte. We appear to have a tremendous sense of denial.
The fabulous irony is how the experienced traveler, who is aware of the rules, who has put all liquids into the approved government-issue sandwich bag, must wait as everyone else is taken completely by surprise, and thus inclined to yell at the hapless, though not tremendously understanding or accommodating TSA-official while their toiletries are filched.
What makes today such a tragedy, I am one of these experienced individuals, and I am within sight of the bar, weeping, resolutely bivouacked in an unmoving security line, close enough to smell cashews and Bloody Mary mix, as the final boarding announcement for my flight is made.