(This week I’ll try to recount my experiences at Pubcon last week. Let’s start with getting there.)
I head to SFO to fly out to Vegas. My flight is on US Airways and I’ve only got carry-on luggage, so I walk to a self-serve kiosk. The kiosk won’t let me check in because I swiped a different credit card than the credit card that bought the ticket. So I move to the person-line, wait for a few minutes, and then the lady behind the counter motions me to a different kiosk. From a distance, the two kiosks look the same, but evidently this one is looser one (a slutty kiosk?) because it will accept any credit card.
As I’m checking in, I look over and there’s a piece of paper talking about an “Ammended Rule change” or something. I’m a big fan of John Walker’s Strike Out idea: I usually stop reading a document after the first misspelling. The first word on the page is misspelled–it should be “amended”–so I figure it’s not important and keep checking in. I request a receipt as I’m checking in (it makes filing an expense report easier) but the kiosk refuses to give me one. Oh well, I’ll get one on the way back from Vegas.
It turns out I should have paid attention to the misspelled document. I haven’t flown since some idiots decided to use liquids to blow up a plane, and I’ve forgotten that liquids are a no-no now. As I’m stripping off my shoes, pulling out my laptop, and pulling bits of metal out of my jeans (keys, cell phone, VPN card), a TSA agent asks if I packed any liquids. “I don’t think so,” I reply. Now I’m running through my suitcase inventory in my head as I’m walking through the metal detector. Could they mean toothpaste? Nah, I decide. Toothpaste is thixotropic, not a liquid.
A few seconds later, I find out that toothpaste is considered a potential terrorist tool, not a benign thixotropic gel. A TSA agent stares suspiciously at me and critiques the fact that I packed a 7 oz. tube of toothpaste. “This is too big,” she says. How am I supposed to reply? “Sorry, liquid terrorism completely slipped my mind until just this moment”? Maybe “it’s not completely full, so it’s probably only 3 oz. in total”? As she’s frowning at the offending toothpaste, 1 suicidal neuron starts to pipe up. You know, when you stand at the edge of a cliff or a tall building and there’s that one neuron that wants to jump? In this case, the crazy neuron wants to say “You know, there’s this HUGE security hole because you need to check both identification and boarding pass at the boarding gate…” but I zap that neuron and continue to smile sheepishly at the TSA agent.
I am saved by my sloppy packing. Whenever I pack hygiene items, I stuff them in baggies, so my suitcase has a couple quart baggies and a gallon baggie. That’s just how I roll. 🙂 The TSA agent tries the toothpaste with different baggie combinations until she’s sure that it will fit in the smallest baggie, and that the baggie will zip closed without folding or spindling the toothpaste tube. Satisfied, she drops the toothpaste into my suitcase. I thank her, but I’m nonplussed: the toothpaste used to be in a baggie, but now it’s sitting naked in my suitcase. Would it be a party foul to put it back in a plastic bag so it doesn’t get a chance to mess up my clothes? Unsure of the baggie etiquette, I leave it where it is for now and exit the security area. I place a mental sticky note on the inside of my skull to scold the bad toothpaste and throw it away before flying back.
The rest of the flight is rather uneventful. The flight is only an hour or so, but the speakers keep playing promotions for US Airways vacation packages for about 15 minutes after we’ve taken off and are in the air. Of course, the one item I forgot in packing is some headphones, so I try to ignore the commercial. It really reminds me of the commercials that you’re captive to in movie theaters, which makes me think about how I’ve stopped going to movie theaters as often.
By the way, was my flight back from Vegas delayed for over an hour with no real explanation why? Why yes, yes it was. On the bright side, I got to sample the free Wifi in the Las Vegas airport. Good on you for that, McCarran airport. It could have been worse. The gate next to mine had their flight cancelled, and it was the last one of the night. Dozens of frustrated travelers lined up to rebook their flight with two airline agents. I contented myself by thinking “Okay, I’ll just avoid US Airways/America West flights in the future.” A few hours later I learned that US Air and Delta (an airline that I enjoy and fly often) are proposing to merge. Sigh.