Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Who do you trust?

The name of a former game show hosted for several years by Johnny Carson finds its way as the title of a post on Observations because of a perplexing situation facing air travelers.

My wife and I are about to venture south next week, celebrating our 25th anniversary in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We are looking forward to this trip. We both need some time away, and this is a pretty special observance, most would agree. We haven’t had more than a couple of days away for just the two of us for … well, a long time.

Watching The O’Reilly Factor tonight gives me reason for concern, however. In a segment of the show host Bill O'Reilly informed me and other viewers that it is not uncommon for items to “disappear” from luggage checked in at the airline you’re traveling on. Transportation Safety Administration regulations forbid passengers from locking their luggage, because locked luggage cannot be searched, and that is a problem for those seeking to protect passengers from innocent travelers like me and the missus. Thieves, however, can enter unlocked luggage, and that’s where trouble begins.

As it turns out the airlines apparently will reimburse only a small amount for “lost” items, assuming you can prove it was actually “lost.” Trying to get your money out of the federal government is, well, a federal case.

The major problem with items being stolen, however, is apparently not from personnel working for airline companies; it is from personnel working for the Transportation Safety Administration. The message from Bill: Don’t check anything valuable; carry it on.

Having heard this frightening message, I have begun researching what I can and cannot take on vacation with me, what I can take in my carry-on and what I can’t take, and what can and cannot be checked through in luggage.

For example, I like a good cigar occasionally. I can take cigars with me, but I can’t take my lighter. Well, actually I can take the lighter, but it ain't easy, and it ain't sensible. I can, oddly enough, take up to four packs of certain types of matches in my carry-on, so long as they are not “strike anywhere” matches, meaning “safety” matches. The TSA tells us the following:

*All lighters are prohibited as carry-on items. Lighters without fuel are permitted in checked baggage, but lighters with fuel are prohibited. If you are uncertain as to whether your lighter is prohibited, please refrain from bringing it to the airport.

** Up to 4 books of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches are permitted as carry-on items, but all matches are prohibited in checked baggage.

To read the entire list, go here.


However, elsewhere we are informed that lighter fluid is not permitted either in checked luggage or in carry-on luggage. So, it’s fine if you pack your lighter, empty of fuel, in your checked baggage, but you may not take fuel for your lighter to fill it when you reach your destination. Presumably you can buy lighter fluid when you reach your destination, but you may not bring home with you that lighter fluid that you did not use while on your trip, and you had better be sure the lighter is empty, totally empty, before checking your luggage for the return trip.

I suppose that, as a law-abiding, taxpaying American citizen who is not a terrorist, I should applaud the efforts of our government to thwart efforts of those who are terrorists to hijack or blow up airplanes. And I do.

I just wish we non-terrorists would not be put through this inane BS in the process.


Buffalo said...

What was it Ben Franklin said about trading freedom for safety?

JL Pagano said...

It’s a necessary evil. We should give the people who’s job it is to have the suspicion a break and direct our anger at those who caused the suspicion in the first place where it belongs.

Anonymous said...

We should also insist that sanity and common sense prevail.

If we give up our freedom for our safety, what have we gained?

Each senseless step we take toward greater safety and less freedom is a step backward.