The clear quart (or liter) ziptop bag of safety

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Today was the first time I flew since the Great Liquid Explosive Conspiracy, so I arrived at SJC with my liquids/gels/aerosols (hereafter LGAs) dutifully placed in the required clear quart (or liter) ziptop bag of safety (hereafter CQ(OL)ZBOS) (which I actually had to go out and buy since I only had 1 gallon bags, which are apparently tools of Al Qaeda). At the start of the security checkpoint you're instructed to declare the presence of your LGAs. It's not clear what the TSA personnel are supposed to do at this point because when it looked like he was going to dig around in my GQ(OL)ZBOS, I insisted he replace the rather discolored nitrile gloves he was wearing with new ones. Apparently changing gloves is a lot of effort so he just had me hold up my CQ(OL)ZBOS for inspection and let me go. I shoved my LGAs (still in the bag) into my messenger bag and proceeded to the checkpoint. Apparently you're supposed to let them x-ray the CQ(OL)ZBOS containing your LGAs but nobody seemed to notice.

Anyway, while I'm waiting for my stuff to make its way through the x-ray, the TSA tech monitoring the machine calls over for a bag check. I'm thinking that they're going to hassle me about the empty Nalgene bottle in my bag, but instead they've decided that the elderly Asian man in front of me needs some secondary screening action. The problem, it appears, is that he has some Ls, Gs, or As which haven't been placed in a CQ(OL)ZBOS. At this point, the TSA officers spend a bunch of time doing the following:

  1. Rummage through the guys bag trying to find all the LGAs.
  2. Try to decide if they're over the critical mass of three ounces.1 This involves calling over another TSA guy to ask him "hey, is this more than three ounces"? The problem appears to be that the tube is a metric size and nobody can really remember how to convert metric to English. Apparently just eyeballing it isn't precise enough because liquid explosive is like plutonium in that if you have just short of critical mass it fizzles but if you have just over it then you get a satisfyingly earth-shattering kaboom.
  3. Tell the elderly Asian man that he was supposed to have placed his LGAs in a CQ(OL)ZBOS. I didn't catch this entire conversation, but it sure sounded like they were going to send him back through the security checkpoint to get one: "You need to go to Senor Jalapeno and get... How long from now is your flight?"

At this point, I realized that I had not correctly understood the purpose of the CQ(OL)ZBOS. I'd always assumed that the idea was to make it easier for the TSA officers to look at all of your LGAs in isolation to determine if you had anything bad (hence the requirement for it to be clear). Apparently, however, the idea is that in the case that your LGAs are in fact liquid explosives rather than (say) hand sanitizer, that the CQ(OL)ZBOS will contain the explosion, thus saving the lives of everyone else on the plane, which raises the question: for my safety and the safety of others shouldn't they require that people use the thicker and hence safer freezer storage bags?

1. This sentence originally was ungrammatical. Correction due to Terence Spies.

3 Comments

In my experience, LGAs can not be detected by the xray machine and it is much preferable to not put them in a CQ(OL)ZBOS.

Only a terrorist would question the purpose of the CQ(OL)ZBOS.

I would immediately pick you out to be the terrorist, esp over an elderly asian man! :-)

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