Enjoy the hummus!


I rarely sign my credit cards. Instead, I'll write "See License" or "See ID" on the back of the cards, requesting the clerk to visually compare the signature on the receipt to the signature on the identification, and the photo on the ID to the face smiling back at them. I figure, if I can duplicate someone else's signature as easily as I can, someone else can forge mine just as easily, and I want that visual identity check to happen if I'm going to be held financially responsible for a transaction.

It worked for a long while, maybe ten years. I was asked for identification for maybe 90% of the time. I had even called the various credit card companies to confirm this practice was okay. With most of them, at the time, it was.

About three or four years ago (those years are all a blur now, if only I'd be journalling then!), I went into a Best Buy to purchase something or other, and went to pay by credit card. The clerk refused to accept my credit card unless it was signed on the back. The card with "See License" on the back and my driver's license wasn't good enough, the card had to be signed. The store had recently issued the refusal policy, and all the clerks were adamantly adhering to it.

So, I asked, "If I sign the card right here in front of you, will you accept it?"

When the clerk answered, "Yes," I told her to cancel the transaction, I would never be purchasing anything from any store with such a stupid policy, cancel the transaction.

The sale wasn't small. It was around $400, maybe $500. She was shocked. Why was I cancelling the transaction?

The card was no more legitimate with my signature as it was without it, if I had stolen it, I told her. My signature which I signed right there in front of her would match the signature of the receipt I signed right there in front of her, because I was signing both at the same time. I refused to be party to such an idiotic policy that stated my signing a potentially stolen card made the card valid, when requesting you check my signature on the receipt to government issued identification wasn't valid. I then went on to tell her I would stand her, blocking her check-out lane until she cancelled that transaction, lest she run it through, charge my card, and keep the merchandise for herself.

She looked at me stunned for a few moments, then turned, and cancelled the transaction. I think my parting, "Have a nice day!" ruined the rest of her evening.

This memory came to mind today when I was heading through the security line at the Boston airport. As I approached the line, I had suddenly realized that this was the origination airport of the 9/11 flights, and this was most likely one of the terminals and security checkpoints, as I was flying out on United. The hard-fought conquer of my long-seated fear of flying suddenly felt quite temporary.

At that point, I shut down as many emotions as I could, and walked to the end of the security line. Tuesday afternoons aren't very crowded in any airports, I would guess, and today was no exception. One hop, one skip, and one shoe-removing jump later, I was on the other side of the security waiting for my bag to come through the x-ray machine.

The screener asked to put it through again, and I shrugged my shoulders, sure. Back through it went, one time, two times. "If you tell me what you're looking for, I'll open the bag up and hand it to you to look at," I offered.

They glared at me in return.

Eventually, they gave up trying to figure out what the problem item was, and asked to open bag, pulling out my Pelican travel kit, my Apple Airport Express, my United snack box from the flight out, my retainer case, and a pair of my underwear for yet another trip through the x-ray machine.

Kitt's travel tip #32: always carry a pair of clean underwear on the plane with you. If your flight is diverted, and you have to stay the night somewhere unexpected, you can wear the same socks, you can wear the same pants, you can wear the same shirt. However, wearing the same underwear is just gross - pack an extra pair.

When I packed that pair, I honestly wasn't expecting it to be contraband.

It wasn't even a lacy pair: they were plain, cotton, red, bikini-cut undies.

Fortunately, they were clean.

So back through the x-ray machine went my assortment of items, and back out they came, with the United snack box being the source of the offending item. The TSA guy pulled it out of the box, and asked what was in it. I answered, "I honestly don't know, I purchased it on the flight out, and figured if United gave it to me on the plane, it contained nothing of any security threat. Do you know what's in it? Did the x-ray show you?"

He wasn't humoured and opened the box.

Well, tried to open the box. He couldn't get the plastic seal off the box in any timely, graceful way, eventually putting it up to his mouth to plastic to initiate a tear, pulling the plastic off, pulling the box pull-tab and opening the box. He then pulled out a small bottle, and told me it couldn't go on the plane.

I looked at it in his hand, then took it from him to see what it was. At the moment I snatched the jar from his hand, I had images of another flight years ago when a TSA agent refused to let me have back what I accidently had left in a bag, and Kris' unwillingness to help me at that incident and his insistence I "not make a scene" almost ended our relationship. I refuse to allow another person make me feel as powerless as I did at that moment, one by fake power, the other by embarrassment.

The TSA agent in front of me seemed flustered that I had grabbed the jar from him, but he waited as I looked at the label, and handed it back to him. It was a two ounce jar of hummus.

As anyone who knows me would predict, I asked him, "It's a two ounce jar. Why can't I take it on the plane?"

His answer was less than satisfactory. "Because you can't."

"Why can't I?"

"Because you can't."

"It's two ounces. It's less than the three ounces all of the regulations state are allowed. Why not?"

Now, I'm standing there with all of the rest of my stuff. In one bag I have, undeclared, a 4 ounce container of apple sauce that went through not only this security screening, but TWO of them went through the San Jose security screening four days ago. In the other bag, I have, once again undeclared, two packets of energy GEL (you know, of the liquid and gel prohibition), twelve containers full of saline solution, a container of lip balm gel, and two ounces of sunscreen. All of this is undeclared. All of this is packed deep in my backpack or on top of my computer bag. All of this the first TSA agent has seen and RECOGNIZED, as he paused when he took the items out of my bag, and looked at them intently.

He didn't pull out any of these items. He didn't confiscate any of these items. But the two ounce jar? The TWO ounce jar of humus? It can't go on the flight.

"Uh... you can't... He'll explain it," he answered, and walked over to the shift leader. "Explain why she can't take this one the plane," he requested, handing the shift leader the two ounce jar of hummus.

The shift leader looked at it, looked up, and automatically said, "You can't take this on the plane."

"Now wait a second, here's what happened." I explained the box, and stopped him from interupting me several times until my story was done, and finished, "It's a two ounce jar of hummus, why can't it go on the plane when it's clearly less than the three ounces stated?"

"Was it in a plastic bag?"


"It can't go on because you didn't declare it."

"Because I didn't declare it by putting it in a plastic bag?"

"Right. If you don't declare it, we don't trust you, and you can't take it on the plane."

"You're serious?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"So, if I put it in a plastic bag...."

"You have a plastic bag?"

"Yes, I have a plastic bag," thinking, duh, what kind of an idiot do you think I am? I have five plastic bags because other people will be caught in the evil TSA frackin' RETARDED WEB OF STUPID POWER TRIPS TO ANNOY ALL OF US rules and need the bags for help. Oh wait, you think I'm of the TSA idiot kind. "If I put the jar in a plastic bag right now, and walked out that way, and came back in through the x-ray machine right now, you'd let me take it on the plane."

"Yes, ma'am."

Exasperated, "Really?"

"Yes, ma'am."

I was stunned.

I turned around and walked away, calling cheerfully over my shoulder, "Enjoy the hummus!"