I don’t know which colour-coded alert (orange, yellow, blue or black) is now on in America. But with my every visit to this country, I learn about new threats to its homeland security. I was careful this time not to keep my nail-cutter in the shaving-kit as part of my hand baggage during air travel. The last time I did, the officer at the security check (Hong Kong airport) took the nail-cutter away before I could board the flight to San Francisco.
They were after my shaving kit this time as well; at the security check-point in Seoul (during transit) the man picked out my deo-spray and said, “No, not allowed”, before tossing it into a thoughtfully placed trash-bin. Toiletries so collected at airport check-points can keep the shelves always filled at Chennai’s Burma Bazaar. The US federal security bans carrying gel (more than three oz) in any form in the hand-baggage.
It is on such occasions I miss my wife. She has a way with the airport security officials. During our last visit to the US together we had our baggage scanned on arrival at San Francisco and I watched helplessly a customs official rummage my hand baggage and pull out a plastic container with betel nuts. As he was about to toss it into the bin my wife spoke up on my behalf. “It is supari,” she said, “we take it after meals for easy digestion”. The man saw sense in it, and asked my wife if there was anything else we were carrying. “No”, she said with a straight face, while I knew she was carrying rasam powder, milk sweets and banana chips.
This time my wife and I traveled on different dates. While I lost my can of deo-spray my wife had breezed through the airport formalities with her Mahalakshmi sweets and assortment of other eatables for her pregnant daughter-in-law and beloved son.
My son Ravi, who travels frequently within the US, says they were more considerate at domestic airports. Once at San Jose when he told the security officials he didn’t want to lose his after-shave gel. They offered to courier his can of gel to his residence at San Ramon. He wound up paying the courier charges ($ 10), which was more than what the gel had cost him.
My wife’s complaint is that I am anxiety-prone. My anxiety is that, unknown to me, my wife packs in sweets, eatables and curry power in supreme indifference to the restrictions at the US airports. My telling her about such baggage violations, sniffer dogs and the trash cans at the airport security checks has little impact. I get silenced by her saying, “I will take that chance, so long as you don’t blurt it out to them”. So I let my wife do the talking. I can’t bring myself to telling people at airports, ‘we’ve nothing to declare’, particularly when I know not what my wife'a baggage had that didn't show up on the electronic scanner.
Cross-posted in Desicritics and Zine5