Take cover, she has a purse!

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by TSA News Blog, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. TSA News Blog

    TSA News Blog News Feed

    Recognize this?​
    To a fashionista it’s a “knuckle-clasp clutch.” To the TSA it’s a potential weapon.
    I got a lesson in handbags on Friday evening from an out-of-town visitor who had flown into Philadelphia that morning. The traveler relayed her story to me at a local watering hole not far from the federal building where her passport application was being processed. She had had quite a day.
    Well dressed, articulate, and a resident of a decidedly upscale neighborhood north of Pittsburgh, she had discovered the night before that her passport had expired, which was a problem since her family was to leave for a Caribbean vacation the next day. She explained that she rearranged her flight to include a stop in Philly, the closest city where she could get rush processing on a new one.
    Anyone who has had to make last-minute travel plans can imagine the anxiety: a pre-planned vacation in jeopardy, necessitating a rush to the local print shop for new photos just before closing time on Thursday evening; the search for a place to get an expedited passport (through a private service, for an additional fee); and the nightmare of desperately trying to find new flights for the next morning (only one seat available, in First Class), as well as a hotel for the night since the flight didn’t leave until Saturday morning. No wonder she needed a drink.
    Having overcome innumerable obstacles to save her vacation, she was feeling pretty good when she arrived at the airport in Pittsburgh with her family on Friday morning. They were headed off on holiday, and she would join them after a quick stop in Philadelphia. She had sent her luggage ahead with her husband and was traveling with just a small carry-on, with the purse inside. A sharp-eyed screener saw the purse on the x-ray, the bag was opened, and the challenges began:
    “What’s this?!
    “Uh, it’s a purse.”
    “It could be used as a weapon!”
    “I mostly use it to carry lipstick.”
    Okay, I can’t be sure of the exact dialogue, and quite rightly anyone who makes last-minute changes to an international flight should probably trigger some additional scrutiny. But the TSA didn’t notice that. They zeroed in on her purse.
    Now, institutional idiocy is nothing new. From the DMV to the PTA, a three-letter acronym often seems synonymous with dumb rules enforced by petty bureaucrats. What makes the TSA unique is how the discussion ended. Taking a final potshot, the female screener, in TSA blue with a shiny silver badge, told the traveler, “You’re lucky we aren’t involving the police.”
    That’ll get your attention.
    I wasn’t able to inspect the offending clutch, as the traveler had decided to mail it home to herself from the Pittsburgh airport (she was told she could also return it to her car or simply leave it at the checkpoint if she liked). But I think that a purse is to brass knuckles as a water pistol is to a handgun: they may look similar, but they are made of entirely different materials, for entirely different purposes. And I can’t imagine either one being the first choice of a determined hijacker, even if he had been disguised as an affluent traveler from an upscale Pittsburgh neighborhood who had decided to call attention to himself by changing his flight at the last minute.
    Nor was I there to see the incident in person. But everything this traveler told me was entirely credible and consistent with my own TSA experiences. An internal investigation would almost certainly show that, contrary to her assertions, she was treated with the utmost respect by the TSA.
    But I believe her.
    I believe she was harassed over her handbag. The TSA seems to have a phobia about purses. A pregnant teenage girl was hassled over a purse with an image of a gun on it in December. That incident made national news. This one didn’t, because the woman didn’t want to make it, quite literally, a federal case. There had been enough drama for one trip already.
    Nevertheless, when the TSA tells you that most Americans are happy with their “service” because complaints are down, that doesn’t mean that incidents of institutional ignorance have decreased or that Americans aren’t being harassed.
    “You’re lucky we aren’t involving the police.”
    Under threat of DYWTFT (“Do you want to fly today?”), we abandon the pocket knives and sewing scissors we forgot were in our possession, or we amp up the travel stress a little more by making a mad dash to the car or airport post office (if there is one) and back again, all to satisfy the whim of a TSA employee with an overactive imagination. Yes, I guess she could have punched someone with the faux-brass knuckles on a knuckle purse, but she could have just as well snapped off the handle of a rolling bag and beat someone with it. Or tied up a roll of quarters at the end of a scarf to make a sling. Or cracked the end off a beer bottle from a concourse bar. Or she could have run over someone with a drink cart. Or simply strangled her seat-mate with her shoelaces.
    The TSA will never be able to stop all the possible improvised weapons, because they’re, uh, improvised. And it’s not necessary to do so because most couldn’t bring down an airplane anyway. What TSA can do is harass the traveling public for the most trivial of reasons. And they seem to relish doing so.
    It won’t be reported, because most of us just want to get where we’re going, but at this moment in an airport somewhere in America, a poorly trained employee of an out -of-control federal agency is probably telling an innocent traveler, “You’re lucky we aren’t involving the police.”
    Enjoy your vacation.
    (Photo: Neiman Marcus)
    Elizabeth Conley likes this.
  2. She was lucky -- remember the gal who got arrested for the Shepard Fairey designed piece of jewelry that was essentially brass knuckles?

    You Can Get Arrested For Wearing An Awesome Ring To The Airport

    I mean, arguably these things could be used as brass knuckles, so I think it's not the most ridiculous ever policy it if TSA has to apologetically insist on their voluntary surrender. However -- it should be obvious when the people who bring these things to the airport are just clueless about what they look like. How many average people know anything about brass knuckles? Especially when they're sold as jewelry or accessories.
  3. RB

    RB Founding Member

    Why would anyone find this story improbable when TSA is known to have confiscated Disney "Pirates of the Caribbean" plastic toy swords?

    It is the total lack of human thought that makes TSA Screeners easily identified.
  4. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    Well, that and their utter lack of humanity...
  5. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    I'm reminded of the other story about the teenager who's purse had a picture of of a gun on it. like SunnyGoth said ' they couldn't tell the difference between a gun and a PICTURE of a gun.'
    nuff said.

    The biggest threat to airline passengers wears a blue shirt and blue latex gloves.
  6. Frank

    Frank Original Member

    In this they are much like public school administrators. I'm just waiting for the TSA :trash: fest when a Pedosmurf discovers a passenger in possession of a Massachusetts quarter.
  7. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    Wait for it....you know its coming.
  8. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    Or a stack of $2 bills... Can't you see this sort of thing happening at a checkpoint where the pedosmurfs not only believe it's illegal to travel with cash, but that there's no such thing as a $2 bill?
  9. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    AKA the second group to be put up against the wall when the revolution comes, right after TSA.
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  10. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    "God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board."

    ...and after much experimentation to perfect idiocy, He created the TSA.

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