Friday, January 2, 2009

Today's Civics lesson

The latest chapter on my TSA claim:

Dear Claimant:
This constitutes final administrative action on your claim against the United states under the Federal Tort Claims Act based upon the alleged negligent or wrongful acts or omissions of Transportation Security Administration personnel.

Let's pause here. Defensive much? "Claimant?" You know my name; you made me enter it about 10 times on your form. And don't say I have filed claim against THE UNITED STATES (cue Ken Burns music) like some kind of Weather Underground.

Your claim is denied. After careful evaluation of all the evidence, we have determined that there are no legally sustainable grounds upon which a finding of liability can be based on the part of TSA.


1. I had a journal in my suitcase
2. You opened my suitcase
3. I didn't have a journal in my suitcase
ergo.... yeh there can


If you are dissatisfied with the action taken on your claim, you may file suit in an appropriate US District Court not later than six months after the date this letter was mailed. This information is not intended to imply that any such suit would be successful.

Yours sincerely.

Sincerely. HA!

Part of the lore of my circle of hometown friends involves the notebook I lost outside the Peabody Jr High library. In a similar way, it was there... until it wasn't. Not just any notebook, but one of the dozens of spiral notebooks in which I was recording a rambling novel manuscript over the course of 4 or 5 years. The less said about that the better. The story is, it was on the floor (I was sitting on it) waiting for the library to open (we were Pure Nerds). I stood up and entered with my friends, said Oh, my notebook, went back out and it was gone.

Never found. Like this one, it is lost to the ether.

Two codas to this tale. If you have two, are they codas?

1. I decided to call USAirways to see if they had it in their box of pocketknives and mace and suspicious flip-flops. I want you to know that everyone was very helpful and patient -- first the 1-800 woman, who is nowhere near Boston and had to look up the correct contact number, which took a very long time -- then the service desk woman, working on New Year's Day and sounding bored about it, but she patched me to the baggage room where I got someone willing to go look.

He comes back and says, "what's your name?" (No, I didn't have my name in my journal. I had my name all over that spiral notebook, including the fact that the main character in the story was ME. I was 15. back off) And I said if it had a name it wasn't mine. he says, "we've got 4 or 5 books like that, but none matches your description." We talked a little longer about how TSA works, and how I had already filed a claim which had been denied, and he closes with, "Well I'm sorry, it's not here."

I said, "I'm just nervous that it is one of them. It wouldn't have a name in it, though," and he says, "No this one says, 'If Found, please contact...'"

Are you caught up with me? Are you thinking, "Then you should contact them"? I left it alone. he was very nice.


2. On my most recent flight, I kicked it up a USPATRIOT notch by going through the Marvel Comic x-ray glasses machine you see above. Notice that in these illustrations, people have washboard abs. I shudder to imagine my own.

You get in one of these
and pantomime Y-M-C-A. Out of your sight, but on Wrist-talkie with your TSA Agent is another agent who ogles your person looking for suspicious articles like your IUD. (here's how they describe it, if you want to hear both sides) Your agent will repeat what they say to you without any context, like this:
TSA: Right rear pocket
You: what about it? that's my wallet? What do you people WANT from me? Did my parents escape the camps for THIS?
Me: {remove wallet with 2 fingers and display with a flourish, like a magician}
TSA: It's a wallet (which sounds idiotic because you forget she is not talking to YOU)
TSA: Left front pocket
Me: {same dexterous gesture with my folded money. You now know exactly how to jump me for my valuables.}
TSA: some... cash
Me: {forgetting we are not having a chat} Hey, a girl's gotta eat.
They send you on your way.
I predict I am one trip away from the No Fly List.
Here are some fun blog posts about Encounters with the TSA in the Wild:

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