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Yo Ho Ho and My Bottles of Rum

An iconic act of TSA piracy.

by
Hannah Sternberg

Bio

May 21, 2014 - 9:17 am
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Hi PJ gang! I’m back from an adventure-filled trip to St. Croix, where I helped a friend capture and study America’s rarest lizard, and met some interesting characters along the way. You’ll hear those stories another day soon; for now, let’s talk about the TSA.

On my last morning on island, my friend took me to the Cruzan rum factory. While Cruzan was acquired by Jim Beam several years ago, it’s still operated by the same local family that has run it for generations. You can tell locals are very proud of their brand; the other rum factory on the island is Captain Morgan, which has only been operating from St. Croix for two years, and if you walk into nearly any bar, you’ll see rows upon rows of delectable Cruzan rum varieties, and perhaps one or two bottles of Captain Morgan stuck in the corner.

I had just enough time to squeeze in a factory tour before heading to the airport. At the gift shop, I was bummed that I couldn’t pick up any nice large bottles to take back, because I wasn’t checking my bags. The tour guide told me I could buy the 18-bottle variety pack of airplane bottles in different flavors, and then dump them all into my TSA-mandated clear plastic toiletries bag. Sounded clever; other people had done it!

My 18 airplane-sized bottles of rum fit neatly into my plastic bag. I hugged my friend, and prepared for the journey home. However, in the TSA line, I was stopped.

Agents informed me that the scanner told them I was selected for additional screening. My bags were hauled onto a table for examination. The agent assigned to me held up my plastic bag and said, “Too many.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “Everything fits in my bag. All the bottles are the correct size. I thought I was allowed to take whatever I wanted that would fit.”

The TSA agent told me my bag was too large. That confused me as well; I told her I fly frequently, and I’ve always used that size bag, often full to the brim (I have a beauty regimen, okay!), and I’ve never been stopped or informed it was incorrect.

“You come from the big cities,” she told me. “They’re too busy to stop you, they have too many people. We have plenty of time here, so we enforce all the rules.”

Now came the reckoning. Do I ditch my cosmetics, or the rum?

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