Friday, August 11, 2006

The thirsty traveler

We are back. Phew.

First, a quick note to Debra and DebR and a few others who emailed me to tell me to NOT PACK LIQUIDS and gave other good and useful airport advice.

Unfortunately, I didn't read my email after wednesday afternoon and didn't see them. And, as Roger and I were in true vacation mode, we had not been watching the news or reading the papers and didn't know anything at all about the latest airline threat. Which was probably a good thing, actually, as we'd have both worried ourselves sick the night before.

When we were packing up to go, we found that we had an abundance of beverages in our condo fridge, apparently having over-estimated our likely thirst while on vacation. We'd also anticipated eating more dinners in than we actually did, so we had Perrier, beer, a full bottle of red wine, and various sodas and juices left. I wandered around outside for a bit and met incoming folks to whom we passed off our left-over drinks. They were especially thrilled with the beer! And, lo and behold, it turned out that the woman went to my high school and knew my brother!

Still, we held onto an unopened bottle of wine, two bottles of water, and two juice boxes to take in our carry-on bags.

So, imagine our surprise when we arrived at Maui airport, checked our luggage with the curbside porter, and were told we couldn't bring beverages in. We figured he MUST have been wrong about the unopened drinks (and we had no idea why this rule was announced, so we figured it was some odd quirk of Maui's airport security) and we proceeded. I took Caroline to finish checking in the luggage while Roger left to return the rental car.

Inside, we were met with a very long security line which was focused solely on liquids. They were asking people to dispose of all liquids or other lotion-like items, including eyedrops, sunscreen, perfumes, etc. And it was apparent that most of the people in line -like us -- had been in oblivious vacation mode and had no idea why. The security folks seemed tense and cranky, and of course, we realized why later.

As Roger was carrying the wine and coming behind us, I knew he'd be unhappy to leave that behind--but he was able to give it to a helpful baggage guy. He was most unhappy that they took his little travel-size bottle of Purell hand sanitizer which he keeps in his backpack. At the gate, where Caroline and I checked in and relaxed to wait for Roger, I got a bit more information, enough to understand that there'd been some strange issue with liquids somewhere.

At that point, people were re-stocking their beverage supplies. All of the airport concession stands were selling bottled beverages as usual, of course...and I think a lot of people figured that since they'd gotten through the airport beverage-screening process and abandoned everything, they could buy stuff inside the security zone.

Not so. Before they began to board the airplane, the gate clerk announced that no beverages at all would be allowed on board, even if they'd been purchased in the airport. I saw quite a few people looking really annoyed at having to either gulp down or abandon the drinks they'd JUST BOUGHT. There was a lot of annoyed eye-rolling and grumbling. But people complied.

Oh, and lining up to get on the airplane? They had way more security people watching people get on, and they had us line up BY GENDER. Males over there, females over here. Hmmmm. I couldn't figure that one. Because terrorists are probably male? In case they had to do a quick strip search?

Once on the flight, all was fine. The attendants came around often to offer water, so it was clear that they understood how people have come to depend on carrying water with them. We had several crying babies on the flight (oh, how I remember those flying-with-a-baby days and oh, how I appreciate NOT doing that this trip) and I wondered whether the moms had to abandon the baby bottles loaded with formula. My mom told me later that she'd seen on the news that at SF airport, security was letting baby bottles go through IF the person carrying them would drink some of the contents in front of the security people to prove it was milk or formula.

At any rate, despite that confusion, we had a very pleasant flight. Caroline played happily with her Pokemon game and drew pictures. Roger slepted and listened to his ipod. I listened to the newest Tim Gunn podcast on the latest Project Runway episode (if you're a PR fan, go listen to Tim's podcasts! They're great behind-the-scenes info!) and I FINALLY finished Michener's Hawaii. It wasn't until we arrived at SF (at 8:30 pm California time) that we learned the specifics of the airline threat and understood what the whole liquids thing was all about.

It felt great to get into our very own car and head toward home. We stopped for a very quick dinner on the way home (Hello, In-and-Out Burger!!) -- no Blue Hawaii for me-- and were feeling pleased with our progress until we ran into inexplicably stopped traffic on the freeway north of SF (in Petaluma, of all places) and inched forward FOR TWO HOURS to go about 15 miles. We figured it was some really bad accident, but no, it was CAltrans doing road work and funneling everything down to one lane. Once we got through that nasty snarl, we spent the rest of the drive home discussing 1) whether one could sue Caltrans for the delay (with me, the litigator, saying NO), 2) how Caltrans could have managed that more effectively, and 3) which Pokemon characters evolve and what their best attacks are.

We got home at 1:15 am. A long travel day, to be sure, but we're home.

Thanks again for all the nice travel thoughts. I can see that it won't be long before they're banning electronic devices, too. I mean, really, if you were a terrorist, wouldn't you try to rig something that looks like a cell phone?

Anyway. Caroline and I fly again in a few weeks, just an hour's flight to Southern California for two days, and I'll be sure to check the restrictions up to the last minute. But I'm gonna beg to get that Gameboy on, I can tell you.

1 comment:

Deb R said...

Glad you made it home safely, Diane, despite all the frustrations and delays.

I wonder the same thing about electronics. (And then can you imagine the outcry when the airlines lose luggage containing cell phones, ipods, notebook computers, etc!!) A friend of mine told me that the domestic regs are downright generous compared to international flights the past few days. In flights coming in from some places outside the country to the US the only things they were allowing people to bring on planes were a wallet and something else (I'm drawing a blank on what) in a ziploc bag. Everythinge else, including BOOKS (!!!) had to be checked or discarded. They weren't even letting women take purses on the plane. I want to be safe and want everyone else to be too, but damn!...isn't there some middle ground between no security and a police state?