No Water-Gate Here: Baby Or Not, This Time The TSA Got It Right
A preface: I've had enough rotten experiences at airport security lines like almost all of us. So, you won't see me reflexively rushing to the defense of the TSA, even if they did reimburse me $150 for a destroyed bag without giving me a hassle.
This weekend, the agency was once again on the wrong end of the spotlight, when network news programs showed video of a woman named Monica Emmerson -- who just happened to be a former Secret Service agent -- having an angry confrontation at Reagan National Airport in Washington after being told she couldn't take a sippy cup for her baby filled with water through a checkpoint.
The donnybrook kicked off when Emmerson then either dumped out the water on the floor, or as she says, accidentally spillled it. Eventually, she cleaned it up. But the damage was done. Amid this version of Water-gate, she and her 19-month-old missed their flight.
And that should have been the end of it, except for the fact that Emmerson made a big stink of what happened by posting in a local forum, and soon the blogosphere took hold of the story. The TSA then responded by posting a video of the incident on its Web site, to show its agents did nothing wrong. So vehemently did the TSA believe in its position that it placed the video under a heading blithely labeled "Mythbusters."
ABC tried to present a balanced report by saying "in a tense environment, some argue that passengers need to be more aware — and that the sippy cup mom may have acted inappropriately."
The problem phrase here is "may have." The video was provacative enough and relatable to millions of beleaguered travelers. Yet, in the end, it really shouldn't have been much of a story, if any at all.
The real news here may be that the TSA got this one right. As is stated clearly at TSA.gov, "[p]rescription medications, baby formula and milk (when traveling with an infant or toddler) are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces...."
We don't know if this was explained to ex-agent/pissed-off Emmerson. Either way, her reaction was not the one warranted or deserved. The mere presence of the incident being caught on tape didn't make it any more newsworthy.
I came up against this rule myself traveling with my toddler earlier this year at LAX. If there had been milk or juice in my son's sippy cup, that would have been fine. But it was water, and that it was verboten was conveyed to me in a matter-of-fact, even apologetic way.
I've long since shrugged off incidents like these as just one of the many annoyances of flying today, rather than throw a hissy fit. You won't win the argument nor should you.
I've actually noticed an increased level of professionalism and courtesy among TSA personnel, who had been more prone to make up rules as they went along and treat passengers like cockroaches who stood in the way of their coffee break.
Which is not to say they are perfect, but on this day at Reagan Airport, they were right.