Here’s my most recent discovery about TSA regulations: Peanut butter is a liquid. Is that obvious to everyone but me? It sure was obvious to the guy who took it away from me. He acted so surprised that anyone would be dumb enough to try to get through security with something so that so clearly violated the TSA’s precise and logical rules. I was publicly chastised for miscategorizing the viscosity of my jar of pulverized nuts and so I was the one holding up the security line, as annoying to my fellow travelers as the novice who doesn’t know to take her laptop out of her backpack. Not to mention having the substantive half of the only food I brought for my cross-country flight taken away. I was forced to buy an egg and cheese bagel for $7 that was, mysteriously, sweet.
I try not to complain so much about all the hoops we have to jump through to get on an airplane. I heard Louis CK talking, once, about how silly it is to complain about the minor inconveniences we have to “suffer” through so that we might sit in a chair in the sky and be transported, in a few short hours, across distances that used to take months and involve the certain death of a good part of the traveling party. Not to mention taking advantage of technologies that are incomprehensible to the vast majority of their users. I took that to heart and try to keep it with me whenever I’m in the airport.
But the peanut butter incident was hard. I realized, that morning, how much pride I take in the way I get through a security line. My shoes are easy to take off. My water bottle is empty. I’m not wearing a belt or jewelry. I scan in advance to see what the particular rules of an airport are, as they are all slightly different, though their enforcers assume universality. And then, suddenly, I was an ignorant rube, standing, in a public place with my shoes off, holding up other people’s travels as I argued with an unshakable authority, who had just taken my food away from me. My dignity slid away from me so easily. And, yes, I walked away just as easily, had plenty of money to buy more food and got to sit in my chair in the sky and be magically transported home, but, still, that sting was real.