Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Dogged by TSA rules



Tomorrow — today I guess by the time this comes out — I will be fully engaged in one of the most unpleasant tasks of modern life. And it’s all Zippy the Dog’s fault.

I don’t usually like to blame Zippy for things. After all, he’s just a dog. I know saying something like, “He’s just a dog,” might not sit well in a day and age when dogs seem to have been exalted to a socio-family niche just below — and in many cases well above — children. I know there are those who bridle and get all haughty when I refer to him as a pet instead of a companion animal. I am painfully aware of my lack of commitment and slipshod dog parenting whenever I scoop out two cups of kibble instead of painstakingly cooking him fresh food. And I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been cutting leftover raw wieners into his breakfast and dinner for a week now since the World Series ended abruptly in five games instead of seven and brought an end to my once-a-year hot dog binge. So sue me.

He’s a dog. A not particularly well-trained dog. A willful dog. A well-loved and even occasionally doted-over dog.

And it’s his fault I’m sinking into the depths of degradation tomorrow and flying to see my folks in Arizona.

The flight thing has me, once again, contemplating theatrical civil disobedience. I have this recurring fantasy of arriving at Ultimate Security — not the first three or four levels of Security but the big line where the x-ray machines and humour-challenged keepers of the gate mass — with nothing but my ticket, passport, painted feet and a fresh pair of boxers under my trenchcoat.

“Remove your shoes.”

“Ain’t wearing any, thanks.”

“Remove your coat.”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“For godsakes, man, put some clothes on!”

But then there’s that all-pervasive lack of humour with which airport security people warmly greet each potential terrorist. While I’m certain my fellow travelers might wet themselves at the sight, I’m also certain such theatrics would be a one-way ticket to body cavity search central.

But this time around, I’m in more of a quandary than usual about flying. On previous flights, my modus operandi was to smile, be friendly, yes-sir, no-ma’am everybody I came into contact with, slide past security like water in a trickling stream, find a comfy seat for the hour-and-a-half wait and break open my Nalgene bottle of scotch. Which is now illegal and impossible to get past security because some asshole terrorist threatened to slip liquid explosives onto a plane.

But since the crackdown on all liquids, gels, creams and personal lubricants, things have eased up a bit. I’m informed by Transportation Security Administration — Motto: Guilty until proven innocent — I can carry travel-size toiletries on board as long as they’re in containers of no more than three ounces and provided they are housed in a single, quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag.

This presents some very clear and perplexing problems. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I travel with oodles of toiletries. A stick of deodorant, a tube of toothpaste and I’ll be happy to use whatever my parents have in the way of shampoo, thank you very much.

But the one-quart, clear plastic, zip-top bag is giving me some problems. One of my consolations to the three “Rs” of modern life — reduce, reuse, recycle in case you were still stuck in readin’, ’ritin’ and ’rithmetic nostalgia — is a whole cupboard full of zip-top plastic bags I wash, dry and reuse over and over again. It goes without saying the tortilla bags, both flour and corn, the Green Giant corn bags, and the peanuts-in-the-shell bags are out of the question. They have commercial printing all over them, obviously failing the “clear” test.

The other odd assortment of bags are either way bigger than quarts or, if they’re more or less that size are tinged the nicest color of blue and might too fail the “clear” test.

I’ve scoured both Nesters and IGA and I’m here to tell you, quart-size zip-top bags don’t exist in Canada. We’re a metric country!

I found a box of Glad — gratuitous plug — sandwich bags in the cupboard. Their size is listed as 16.8cm x 14.9cm. Even I know these are linear measurements and quart is a volume measurement. Carumba!

So I called the 800 number listed on the box.

“Can you tell me if 16.8cm x 14.9cm sandwich bags are anywhere near a quart.”

“What’s a quart?”

“It’s what Americans call a litre, more or less.”

“So you want to know the volume of a sandwich bag?”

“Well, yes. You have to admit ‘sandwich’ isn’t exactly a uniform unit of measurement what with your 12 inch and six inch Subways, crustless tea sandwiches, not to mention Rubens, pastramis and pitas.”

Silence ensued, punctuated only by static-enhanced hold music which made me long for silence.

“Those bags are 0.90 of a litre.”

“Perfect. Thanks.”

I reckoned 0.90 of a litre was close enough for even the overly-anal TSA to accept. So I imagined my next challenge was to find three-ounce bottles I could wash and put scotch into. Until I opened the box. The 0.90 litre zip-top bags are that lovely blue colour. Clear but not entirely clear.

I’m pretty certain, as you see the bottom of the page rapidly approaching, you’re wondering whether I’m ever going to explain how this is Zippy the Dog’s fault. Well, it’s like this. I wasn’t going to fly to Arizona to see my parents. I was going to fire up Mello Yello, the ancient and marginally trustworthy Volkswagen camper, and drive to Arizona, late October and early November being months where triple-digit temperatures finally give way to nearly triple-digit temperatures in Arizona.

But earlier this year, my folks moved into one of those retirement villages where, as my father put it, you enter erect and eventually leave horizontal. The place doesn’t allow dogs to visit. Come to think of it, they severely limit the duration of children’s visits. And, just as an aside, they don’t let the residents wear shorts to the dining room, a rule that is quite possibly criminally negligent in a land where anything more than shorts can lead to heat stroke.

So Zippy would have to be kenneled for the duration of my visit. Zippy’s never been to a kennel. My Perfect Partner was visibly uncomfortable with the idea of imprisoning him in a kennel. She couldn’t find a dog spa whose air-conditioning was verifiably cold enough for a dog that happily sits in snowbanks all day long but hates getting hot.

So it’s Zippy’s fault I’m flying. Which is as close to being treated like a dog as I ever hope to get.

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