Monday, March 12, 2007

The Bag Of Shame

I have been traveling a lot this year and it doesn't look to be letting up anytime soon. Early in the year I had decided I would just buy certain products when I arrived in my city of choice and go from there. Specifically I thought that my hair product of choice came in a container that was just a wee bit too big.

I use products from American Crew whose website is here. One of my favorite products is their Fiber product which is like super glue for hair without the sheen. The container it comes in is 3.53 ounces which was something I wasn't clear on until today.

About a month or two ago I gave up the orchestrations I needed to deal with when I landed and just packed my very own bag of shame that I can carry with me dutifully while the beloved TSA keeps me safe. I rummaged through the pantry and grabbed a clear plastic bag and threw together the stuff I needed that seemed to be small enough. I though the American Crew stuff was just about in the zone and figured if they made me throw it away I would adjust my strategy.

Fast forward through several trips (actually I think 7 flights) and we arrive at today. My plastic bag has developed an interesting sheen that I can only imagine is the collective residue of toothpaste and shaving cream with some amount of evaporation from the left over water. After exiting the bus, I commented to Shawn how I had to make sure I fetched out my bag of shame that contains my various personal items. I told him that I thought it would be an interesting experiment to put in a variety of rubberized products that were either offensive or strange and see if it would elicit a response from the TSA. An idea we had tossed around was a 32 oz bottle that said 2 ounces on it in big bold letters.

We had many good laughs and I should have realized that I had just crossed the threshold of karmic balance in the universe that was bound to backfire on me. After going through the X-ray in my smelly socks with all my electronic gadgets and other metallic devices strewn across three plastic buckets, the TSA agent asked me if my bag of shame was in fact mine. I said, yeah, thinking that he was going to make fun of my over used razor blade. He pulled out my fiber container and looked very closely at the label which said 3.53 ounces. (refer to joke above about mislabeling...mental note...delete labels that document size).

"This container is too large sir, you can check your bags or surrender your fiber." I said, "Are you serious?"

"Regulations specify that you can only carry containers of a certain size sir." I contemplated telling him that I had been carrying that fiber in my bag of shame for many flights and he was the first one to actually read the label but decided this wouldn't help me. "Well, can you open the container so I can decide how much it is worth to me to check the baggage versus giving it to you." He didn't seem too pleased by this request as he might have thought it was a trick. He reluctantly opened the container to reveal that there was less than 10% of the product remaining. My math says that's about .35 ounces.

I was faced with two choices. I could ridicule him for his poor math skills, specifically as it related to measurement of volume, or I could tell him to throw it away calculating that there was about $2.00 worth of hair care product remaining. As the first course of action would probably only serve to get me on a list which would require extra checks in the future I told him that he could keep my fiber. He sort of sneered at me which I can only assume was based on the fact that HE wasn't going to keep my fiber and that he was going to throw it away.

Shawn started laughing hysterically which really underlined the absurdity of the whole process when the TSA agent told me, "Sir, by the way, your bag is a gallon bag and you can only carry a quart bag."

"Ahhh. Thanks. I was in need of replacing my bag so I will make sure I get right on that before my next trip."

Something Kafkaesque tells me that my unintentional civil disobedience, while personally very funny to me, doesn't really take into account the actual risks that are present. Hopefully this noise is an unfortunate byproduct of some really tight security and processes that are keeping the skies safe. One can only hope.

1 comment:

The Red Fantastic said...

I love American Crew products as well. They sell smaller containers (1.7 oz) of the Fiber if you really want to start conforming :)