Have just returned - barely - from the US. My flight out of Chicago was delayed by more than three hours. Thankfully my connection from LA to Sydney was also delayed meaning I managed to make it home rather than be stranded for the night with Tom Bradley and all his friends (my luggage has not yet made it home but that is another story).
Coming through security I encountered one of those great moments in Transport Security Administration automatism. You know the type where seemingly half-intelligent TSA offices apply a bizarre rule so strictly that they make themselves and the whole of the USA government look like a cross between a Eastern European border guard from 1983 and Southern European circus clown from 1973.
My trip through security was uneventful (if you include taking off half your clothes, stripping down my computer like it was a AK-47 and extracting my nasal spray from my bag as uneventful). The guy behind me was not so lucky.
"You're in big trouble" said the burly TSA guy gleefully grabbing a backpack off the x-ray machine and whisking it over to the inspection table (where I was sitting getting dressed, putting my computer back together and wondering if I really needed to keep the three year old nasal spray).
The TSA agent digs deep into the bag as all of us around prepare to duck, cover and soil ourselves depending on what comes out of the bag. He wiggles, heaves and strains before with an enormous sense of satisfaction his hand emerges from the backpack holding a clear, sealed plastic bag containing two very dangerous looking items - a jar of pasta sauce and a jar of olives. You would think that would be OK. We have what is obviously food in a clear plastic bag. But to the men and women of the TSA it is a non-compliant plastic bag and therefore a risk to national security.
"You are going to have to throw it away or find a ziplock bag" the agent demanded.
As the couple considered what was more valuable and which was to be chucked - the wife's perfume or the husband's food, I decided that my three year old nasal spray was well beyond it's shelf life, tossed it away and performed by good deed of the day by handing over an old, crinkly and slightly nasal spray wet zip lock bag to a couple of now very thankful almost olive jar terrorists. Thus a national emergency was averted and order to the universe was returned because the food was in a quart sized zip locked bag. True story because I could not have made this up.