Vitauts in Latvia: Postscript

Vitauts in Latvia: Postscript

UPDATE: Okay, you smug, self-satisfied TSA agent… show me where in this description it says that my liquor has to be in a clear bottle. I am no lawyer, but I can read.

balsam - 1
United Packing the Balsam

UPDATE #2: I took the rules below to the TSA agents and said there is nothing about clear bottles. His excuse? The TSA doesn’t publish ALL the rules because they don’t want the terrorists to win. Hilarious?! But luckily the United guy came and said he could put it in a box for me… so after lots of walking and arguing, the Black Balsam is coming home!! Go United!

Inbound International Flights

You may carry duty free liquids in secure, tamper–evident bags, more than 3.4 oz or 100 ml in your carry-on bag if:

  • The duty free liquids were purchased internationally and you are traveling to the United States with a connecting flight.
  • The liquids are packed in a transparent, secure, tamper-evident bag by the retailer and do not show signs of tampering when presented to TSA for screening.
  • The original receipt for the liquids is present and the purchase was made within 48 hours.

Liquids more than 3.4 oz or 100 ml not in a secure, tamper-evident bag must be packed in checked baggage.

Being in Latvia was wonderful, but traveling anywhere by air in the United States just sucks.

I had three bottles of Black Balsam taken away from me. Two at the Riga airport which was my fault, and one in the United States for which I blame our ridiculous and paranoid security system.

While going through the Latvian airport, I had a gift bag with me with a big bottle of Black Balsam. I hadn’t even really thought about it being a problem, but sure enough, it was confiscated, as was the little bottle. Then they say, “Well you could put it in your checked baggage…” but that baggage is clear across the airport and already checked in. I wish they had a clear sign that said something about it before I tried to get on the plane. But I should have known. Maybe I thought since it was Latvia, Balsam would be acceptable.

So then I decided to buy a bottle of Black Balsam at the duty free shop in Riga. They put it in a sealed bag and said it would be fine to take with me to the United States in my carry on. I asked specifically after my experience, and so I thought I was fine.

We went through Frankfurt just fine. One quick passport check and onto our nightmare 9-hour box of torture to Chicago. I don’t know why riding on an airplane has to feel so horrible, but 9 hours cramped in a seat next to so many people is just too much. I want there to be a better way.

Prior to landing in Chicago, they gave us little slips of paper to fill out declaring what we have in our baggage. None of this was needed because when we landed in Chicago, we had to go through this passport machine scanner, then a lady checked that scan, then another guy checked the passport scan again.

Then, you wait for your luggage, and they grab it right away to throw it on another plane. Both Glen and I thought about maybe putting stuff in the checked bag, but we figured that we made it this far…

For some reason, we left security and had to go to another terminal at the airport and go through security again. Why? Why not have a direct internal connection from terminal to terminal? It made no sense at all to me.

So we get in the security line again, and we had to get Vitauts to take everything out of his pockets and had him asking why over and over.

We got through, but all of my bags were flagged. They didn’t like the rocks I took home because those could be bombs, they didn’t like dad’s duty-free Jack Daniels, and I don’t blame them, and they especially didn’t like my duty-free bottle of Black Balsam. The security guy was nice enough about it, but it’s still such a dickish rule. The Jack Daniels was okay because it’s in a clear bottle, so they can test it. But the Black Balsam comes in an opaque clay bottle. Even if I were to open it to show them what’s in it, that’s not good enough. It has to be in a clear container.

Nowhere did I see a sign or any rule explaining that. How could I know that? He said that I could take it to my checked back… oh… four terminals away on a train ride and then pass through security again.

Just before this happened, I asked Sue… why don’t they have a system for shipping confiscated items home through the postal service. To me it feels like illegal search and seizure for the TSA to just take private property away. They take millions of items every year from otherwise law-abiding citizens. Just because they make some arbitrary rule about what type of container is okay or not okay… and the rules change and aren’t clearly posted. So long story short, my third bottle of Black Balsam is now at the O’Hare airport in the “Hazardous Material” bin. I guess they aren’t far off. It is pretty nasty.

I know I say that there is no such thing as common sense, but Jesus Christ. Law abiding citizens with absolutely no criminal intent or record should not be subject to such scrutiny. Why are we such sheep to allow ourselves to be ruled by fear. So much fear all the time, and most people are just okay with the government doing these things because we are always afraid.

I’m sick of it, and I think the whole affair is a microcosm that explains why more Americans don’t travel.

Other quick things:

  1. Getting elderly person through airports from terminal to terminal sucks. It sucks for everyone.
  2. Flying sucks. Sitting in an airplane just sucks.
  3. Getting a passport is a bit of a hassle. In Latvia it took a few hours. Here you have to wait for weeks.
  4. It’s expensive. Everything costs money, so only people with money can afford to travel overseas.

I know there isn’t much we can do about it, but I feel better for writing this. I needed to vent. Sorry this isn’t as happy and fun as my other posts!


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