On the way home


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Diane and I are about to board the airplane here in the Bahamas to return to the U.S. Twas an interesting and pleasant weekend.

Not surprisingly, the TSA were pigs as we left. It turns out that it is forbidden to carry from foreign countries a ham sandwich on the plane to eat. Either that, or they like to steal sandwiches from passengers for their own lunch.

As I said to the TSA agent, “Pigs. This is not the country I was born into.” She then tried to debate politics with me and I said, “No, please, let’s not.”

The real evil here is that the agent was upset that I was honest about having the sandwich. If I had lied and said we had no food with us, they wouldn’t have checked and all would have been fine. The whole setup was designed to make everyone dishonest and liars. If you were honest, you were punished.

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27 comments

  • Captain Emeritus

    “Pigs”, really Robert?
    I think you were very lucky to be allowed to board.

  • ken anthony

    Decades ago my folks were stationed in Greece and I went there for vacation and stayed long enough to try to get a job on the USAFB in Hellinikon. On the application they ask how long I would be staying in Greece. Sounds like a reasonable question, right?

    I gave the wrong answer. I said, if I got the job I’d stay. So I got designated a resident alien which disqualified me for the job. I could have qualified by claiming I was leaving. I could have even qualified by leaving the country to any other and then coming back. The guy that had offered me the job was as amazed as I was.

    It would have been an interesting job writing navigation software in the early 80s for nap of the earth flight. This was before I’d ever worked with GIS.

  • Steve Earle

    Captain Emeritus said”
    “……“Pigs”, really Robert?
    I think you were very lucky to be allowed to board…..”

    Agreed. I know you like to sometimes be VERY direct with people Mr. Z, but I am also surprised you didn’t get singled out for “Extra Attention” as a result.

    Being a career cop I was called that (and similar) many times while just trying to do my job. I always try to let it roll off my back, but it never gets any easier to hear it…..

  • Jim Jakoubek

    It might be possible that the contents of the sandwich was not the issue at all but the bread
    that the sandwich was made of.

    Was said sandwich made with “white” bread?

  • Cotour

    Oh, I don’t think its the sandwich.

  • My post doesn’t really describe the conversation properly, as I was posting it quickly as we were about to board. I very clearly did not direct “Pigs” to the Customs agent. I said it quietly to myself (thinking about the TSA and Customs in general), though the agent did hear it. It was also very clear that she herself was embarrassed by this stupidity and wished we had lied rather than tell her about the sandwich. She then took us to a separate area, where had to wait about ten minutes before being called up. This new agent then asked, “Did you eat the sandwich?” At that moment my wife handed it to her. The agent then said, “You had the time to eat it.”

    What I interpreted her comment to really mean was, “You had the time to hide it and lie about eating it.” Had we put it away and told her it had been eaten, she would have accept that lie.

    The whole incident stinks. It also illustrates how foolish government procedures routinely punish those with common sense who tell the truth, and reward lying.

    I admit that I should not have used the term “pigs.” I don’t like calling people names. I also know that when there is a lot of abuse of power people begin to do exactly that, because they have no other outlet. And I also know that if the abuses continue, the name-calling also routlinely escalates to violence. We are heading in that direction.

  • Jim Jakoubek: I think you are kidding, but the agent specifically said it was the ham. The agent also made the ridiculous and insulting claim that the rule was to protect American businesses.

  • Cotour

    ” I don’t like calling people names. ” (That appears to be an inaccurate statement)

    But here we are, you, who ban name calling on your own web site, under penalty of banishment, are in fact, when the rubber meets the road, you are a name caller. Interesting.

    Not even under your breath, you say the word out loud, not internally, which you initially lead us to believe. You say it out loud and one of them hears you. How pleasant for all involved.

    “And I also know that if the abuses continue, the name-calling also routinely escalates to violence. We are heading in that direction.”

    As long as there are name callers in the world your probably right, they are just doing their job.

    Ever consider stepping back a bit and dialing it down a couple of notches? You were in the Bahamas having a nice time (I hope you and your wife had a nice time) and you had to choose to keep it dialed to 11.

    The security policies exist and we are all aware of them so we prepare before we get to the airport. And yes, it may well be the slippery slope, but must we choose to rush to it?

  • Nick

    Prior to 9-11 I was returning from a trip to Canada. I also had a sandwich. The Pre-TSA guy gave me all sorts of grief over it.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with the law. It all has to do with power.

    Way back when in the dark Ages I was transporting a “laptop” (not battery powered, made by compaq, but truly among the first laptops, even finding its way into a painting of the then President of the National Academy of Engineering). I also had a fiber optic temperature sensor setup. The gate agent had never seen either, and after I was done explaining what they were to him and why they weren’t checked baggage, he asked if I had anything in my leather jacket. “Only a Star Trek phasor up the sleeve” I answered.

    Whatever joviality he had exhibited immediately went away and he told me that lying to a federal agent was punishable by 5 years in prison, a $50k fine, or both. I rolled my eyes, told him I was joking, and got through with a stern wording.

    I didn’t think pig, but the word I used was similar to asterisk.

    Don’t ask me about the time the gate agent sniffed my boot less than a month after 9-11. I did ask him if he had the abilities of a dog, because otherwise what the hell was he doing? Surprised I didn’t get nabbed for contempt of TSA, but they hadn’t locked down their stasi like tactics yet, I suppose, used to defend their kabuki theater. And yes, that’s exactly what it was, and still is.

  • Jim Jakoubek

    Yes, I was kidding.

    However, in today’s environment it is not too difficult to see a ham sandwich
    escalating into something blown way out of proportion.

    Makes me wonder what would happen if it was leaked by some source that President
    Trump ate a ham sandwich while flying on Air Force One to Israel.

    I can see the media going loopy with “Ham-Gate”!

  • Fred K

    Sandwiches are not against the TSA rules.

  • wayne

    National Anthem of The Bahamas
    “March On, Bahamaland”
    https://youtu.be/K1UM0p_q2zk
    1:58

  • Laurie

    Cotour,

    It is not hypocrisy to hold a standard one fails to attain, but rather to condemn others for likewise failing to attain that standard. Not liking to do something doesn’t imply one never does it.

    That said, I know what it is like to be overwhelmed by frustration, even anger – sometimes it is very, very hard to keep it in check. Hence, the injunction to speak the truth within (the constraints of) love.

  • FC

    Was it TSA or Customs? Was it a Bahamian official or an American? Anyway, countries often prohibit the importation of uninspected foods as a biosecurity precaution.

  • Mike Borden

    Think maybe it had to to with untaxed importation of foreign product?

  • Mike Borden, and everyone: It was simply a damn sandwich to eat on the plane. This was obvious on its face. The sandwich and ham would never even have entered the U.S., unless you want to count what might arrive in my toilet.

    The stupidity here is beyond words, but then, this is exactly the kind of stupidity I expect from a government operation, which in this case was U.S. Customs.

  • Cotour

    Laurie:

    Do you think it appropriate that a grown adult man call another adult a “Pig”, just because someone is doing their job? Even if that job is understood by all involved to be intrusive?

    And then proudly, with the proper excusatory explanations, tell the story about the situation to the world about his “defiant” act against “dumb” rules.

    I have pointed out in several other conversations that every successful human interaction begins in conscious mutual respect and understanding the context of the situations we find ourselves. Are we in a Subjective or Objective situation?

    When an individual applies their inflexible pre set political Subjective perspective inappropriately in a well understood Objective situation or setting that is the foundation of potential unnecessary escalating conflict. Do you know what the individuals who are doing this TSA or customs job are taught? Being respectful and remaining Objective while doing their intrusive and offensive to many job. Why? Because people come to the airport with all kinds of preconceived notions about what is “their” interpretation of where the line is to be drawn and still they must accomplish their job.

    (In an ideal world people go to the airport, get on their plane and arrive on time, rested and ready to continue on. Our world however has been jacked up into this super paranoid “Terror” mode, two ends of the spectrum. And I am not dismissing the “Sheeple” aspect of the situation or the “its just a sandwich” aspect)

    And my point is correctly pointed out here: “And I also know that if the abuses continue, the name-calling also routlinely escalates to violence. We are heading in that direction.”

    How do I understand this so clearly? Hypocrisy? I have done it myself. And I attempt to take note and remind myself and learn every time that I back slide and realize that I have not properly interpreted the situation that I find myself in. For me not reading people and situations properly could be the difference between going home at night and spending time in the hospital or worse.

    Yes, I am needling the Zman a bit here but real life examples like this are excellent opportunities to better understand that the things that people do, consciously, unconsciously and automatically can be the butterfly that flaps its wings and sets off the hurricane that could ensue.

  • wayne

    It’s not about the nail. (it’s how it came to be.)

    pivoting……

    “The Freedom of Evil in America”
    Alexander Solzhenitsyn
    https://youtu.be/IeJVvmz-euU
    4:52
    ————————–

    “There’s something happening here.
    What it is ain’t exactly clear.
    There’s a man with a gun over there,
    Telling me,
    I got to beware.”
    .
    .
    Paranoia strikes deep.
    Into your life it will creep.
    It starts when you’re always afraid,
    You step out of line,
    the Man come and take you away.”

  • wayne

    Jordan B Peterson:
    “If You Lived in Nazi Germany, 90% Chance You Probably Would Have Been a Nazi”
    https://youtu.be/tVCAhGL0ohw
    7:29

    Excerpt from Jordan Peterson’s 2015 “Personality Lecture 13: Existentialism: Nazi Germany and the USSR.”

  • BSJ

    TSA stole a jar of Dry Roasted Peanuts and a pair of cheap slip on shoes when my wife went to the Bahamas.

    Gota wonder what they are thinking…

  • Mike Borden

    That was a joke Bob. I’m actually very curious as to the specific regulation that prevented said sandwich from making it on the plane. Do they consider boarding the plane as “entering America”? If not, then eating a sandwich on board a plane should not be a problem. This reeks of corruption. As you said, it seems as though they want to promote lying and dishonesty and will use that as an excuse to search and sieze any person they want to, regardless of the items in possession(because people lie(which they promote)). Not entirely sure if the same laws apply but I regularly cross customs from mexico with my favorite burritos from nogalas. A bag full of them to boot, And have never had a problem bringing any food into the country. It definitely seem like their own self made loophole that allows them to single out and check any person they want regardless of cause while protecting themselves legally.

  • Michael

    Based on my experience TSA regulations vary by airport, time of day, how the agent feels, and the roll of the dice.

    To date I think I have lost about a gallon of suntan lotion to TSA. Hopefully I will finally remember that I have to pack it in the suitcase.

  • Edward

    Since 2001, I have not had a pleasant experience flying. The TSA is the reason.

    Robert wrote: “The real evil here is that the agent was upset that I was honest about having the sandwich. If I had lied and said we had no food with us, they wouldn’t have checked and all would have been fine. The whole setup was designed to make everyone dishonest and liars. If you were honest, you were punished.

    This is one of the reasons why we Americans are entitled to a lawyer when accused of a crime. We can phrase things improperly (e.g. Hillary was not declared grossly negligent but was “extremely careless” http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/358982-early-comey-memo-accused-clinton-of-gross-negligence-on-emails ), or a lawyer could have advised eating the sandwich before entering the international security corridor. Clearly, the latter action is what the agents desired but failed to recommend.

    It is interesting that they believed Robert about the sandwich, which they then wanted to see, but did not believe him about the consumption before entering the United States.

    It is amazing how dishonesty can be tacitly rewarded and honesty punished. There are too many laws, statutes and “case law,” for any of us to know them all — even lawyers have to do research when working a case — and it is even harder to know which ones are enforced and which ones we are expected to break in order to obey the ones enforced. Amazingly, South Lake Tahoe required homeowners to remove pine needle droppings from their yards for fire safety, yet at the very same time the city fined people for environmental damage for removing the pine needles.

    Last year, I had to go to Hawaii for a funeral, and we bought some sandwiches inside the security corridor for lunch on the plane (some of us bought sandwiches on the plane, the airport food was much superior in price, quantity, and taste). I think a question to ask, here, is whether ham sandwiches were for sale inside that Bahamian airport’s international security corridor.

    Mike Borden asked: “Do they consider boarding the plane as “entering America”?

    Once you enter the international security corridor at the airport you enter the international security corridor in the United States and every other country, because where you leave the security corridor depends upon which plane(s) you take. This is not the same thing as entering the United States, because it is after departing the plane that you are cleared for entry into the country. That was the premise for the film “The Terminal,” in which a coup at home makes a man’s passport invalid for entry into the US, and he has to remain inside the airport’s international security corridor until it can all be straightened out.

    If the TSA were concerned about a ham sandwich entering the US and harming American business, then shouldn’t it have been at the US Customs at the US airport, not the Bahamian airport, that they should have been concerned?

  • Edward: A long time ago, when convenience of their citizens was their primary concern, the Bahamas and the U.S. agreed to let the U.S. clear its citizens for re-entry into the U.S. at the airport in the Bahamas. That way travelers would not have to clear customs in the U.S. when they might have a connecting flight to catch. This is why I was dealing with U.S. Customs at the airport in Nassau.

  • wayne

    “Argo”
    clearing customs
    https://youtu.be/OSIePnJhp6Y
    4:47

  • Edward

    Robert,
    So, you were inconvenienced by convenience.

  • Mike Borden

    Thanks for the clarification Edward.

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