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Observations on airport security

Greetings from sunny Malta, a tiny island just south of Sicily. That’s where I’m spending my week as I walk and bike my way around the three islands that make up the nation of Malta (the other two are Gozo, which means “Joy,” and Comino, which is mostly uninhabited but has a stunning blue lagoon that draws tourists).

You’ll get the full report on Malta in my January American Adventurer column, but for now I wanted to check in with some observations on airport security here and abroad.

I’m sure most of you are familiar now with the TSA’s new “3-1-1” rule—it’s their way of saying that all liquids and gels (none more than three ounces) in your carry-on must be kept in one clear plastic bag of one quart in size.

I discovered that I didn’t have a one-quart bag as I was rushing off to the airport (Boston’s Logan International Airport, for the record), but I did have a slightly bigger clear plastic bag, and I was only filling it with one three-ounce can of shaving cream and a three-ounce tube of toothpaste, so I figured no big deal, right?

Wrong. Despite the fact that I literally had two items in this bag, and despite the fact that I was initially told that was fine, I was ultimately kicked out of the security line altogether and told to go find a one-quart bag. This is as I’m trying to catch a flight! Naturally, the newsstand right near the security line had set up a little cottage industry: For $0.50 I could buy a one-quart bag from them. Which, of course, I did, because what choice did I have?

Now fast-forward to London’s Heathrow airport. At Heathrow, the security officers were handing out one-quart bags for free. Not surprisingly, the line moved much faster.

So, yeah, I should have grabbed a one-quart bag from somewhere before I got to the airport. But isn’t it time the TSA practiced a little common sense as well? The size limitation on the bag is clearly there to prevent travelers from filling a giant plastic bag to the brim with liquids and gels. In my case, as I said, I had two items totaling six ounces. Come on.

All I can hope for is that my story will at least save you from making the same mistake.

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