TSA letter | AspenTimes.com

TSA letter

Barry Smith

A 15-year-old boy sneaked into the wheel well of a Boeing 767 and flew from San Jose, Calif., to Maui, Hawaii. — CNN.com

Dear TSA,

Hi, it’s me again. I’ve contacted you so many times in the past that I suspect you have some sort of a file on me by now. I hope this file also contains all the harmless stuff that you’ve confiscated from me over the years. And I don’t mean an itemized, written record of the stuff — I mean the actual stuff. I’d like that really expensive bottle of hot sauce back some day.

Anyway, I’m happy to see you in the news once again, as I know how frustrating it can be when nobody is noticing you. As Oscar Wilde said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Wilde also once said, while coming through customs, “I have nothing to declare but my own genius.” Funny how that sort of comment made today would probably get you hustled away to a detention center somewhere, but that’s a topic for another day.

Today I want to tell you a story about the time I went to watch the sheepdog trials in my home state of Colorado. I know that sounds like a random transition, but stay with me.

Now, I don’t really know anything about sheep or sheepdogs or the art of sheepdogging, but it just seemed like it might be something interesting to do. I was watching the action from the bleachers — the “action” being a guy making a dog run around a bunch of sheep in a field. It really is pretty amazing to watch, though I clearly was missing some of the nuances, as other spectators routinely applauded at moments that I wasn’t aware were applaud-worthy. However, there was one moment that I understood perfectly. Right in front of the bleachers was the pen full of sheep waiting to be carted out into the far end of the field. There was a guy standing next to the gate — I’ll call him Roy — whose job it was to keep the sheep inside the gate. That was, as far as I could tell, his only job. When the truck would come for more sheep, he’d open the gate to let them out, then close it when he was done, then stand there and wait to do it all again.

At one point, Roy failed to close the gate properly and the sheep just came pouring onto the field — the field where the actual competition was going on. Everything ground to a halt and the stray sheep had to be herded back into the pen. People applauded. I suspect Roy was given a bit of a talking to after this.

Boss: “Roy, what did we tell you about letting the sheep run onto the field?”

Roy: “Uh, either that I’m supposed to, or not supposed to. Remind me again.”

The rest of the competition continued without incident, but for me it never matched the excitement of the errant sheep flowing onto the field.

See where I’m headed with this? You, TSA, you are like Roy. Your one and only job is to keep the gate shut. I know you sometimes get distracted by other things, like confiscating breast milk and toothpaste and running your hand along the inside of people’s waistbands, but keeping people from crawling into wheel wells before takeoff needs to make its way back up your priority list. Sure, we all got off lucky with this one, but what if that stowaway kid had had a bottle of water with him? Or more than 3 ounces of roll-on deodorant? Or a snow globe?

I realize that soon TSA regulations will be altered such that passengers will not be allowed to bring any checked or carry-on luggage, no personal items, no shoes, jackets or pants, no shirts or undergarments, no corrective lenses, no hair, fingernails or teeth. I know you anticipate the day when passengers will be stripped, shaved and hosed down before being cattle-prodded onto their awaiting planes, but until that dream is a reality for you, you really need to learn a lesson from Roy’s misfortune. Focus, people, focus.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “There are only two great tragedies in life: One is getting what you do not want, and the other is…hey…ow…put me down…where are you taking me?”

Until next time,


Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.

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