Thursday, August 9, 2012

Before we get started, TSA (Travel Security Association) would like to point out that, though it might seem as if we're trying to make your travel experience more difficult, that's not the case: we simple want everyone to arrive at their destination in one piece (if not in peace). The following, therefore, is meant to prepare you for the security portion of your flight with your child; please read it carefully and, if you have any questions, call approximately seventeen months in advance at 1-800-GET-HELP.

To ensure the security of all travelers, TSA is under blood oath to screen everyone, even orphaned disabled babies, before allowing them to go through the security checkpoint. What do we mean by “screen”? Well, that’s a good question, and one we can’t readily explain. It could mean long periods of uncomfortable standing, sweating, and being glared at in hostility, or it could simply mean that a radioactive wand is waved around your brain. Regardless, the point is that we are doing something to show that something is being done before any orphaned disabled babies are allowed to advance to security.

TSA will NOT ask travelers to do anything that will separate them from their child(ren). That is, unless the children are made up of more than three ounces of liquid—in which case (especially if they’re made up of organic free-range breast milk) they’ll be dumped in a large canvas sack, to be sold on the sidewalk behind Terminal B.

TSA specially trains Travel Security Officers (TSOs), drumming it into their heads that child travelers, like their parents, must be given a modicum of respect. Not too much respect, mind you, because we want everyone to stay in line, but certainly enough that there are no riots. If a child becomes uncomfortable or starts screaming because she’s only two and the idea of having to remove her shoes in front of all these strangers is overwhelming, TSOs will wave their radioactive wands while singing Eminem songs, a surefire technique to get young passengers to chill out, YO.

As part of our highly mysterious and borderline incomprehensible approach to security, TSA recently accepted that some children, especially orphaned disabled babies, might not be able to perform the shoe removal ritual with adequate speed and that they therefore might need to go through the security checkpoint twice, and sometimes even fifty, times. The new screening procedures TSA has adopted in hopes of appearing “considerate” and “nice” towards innocent children includes a Sno-Cone machine that doubles as an explosives detector; when the blue raspberry button is pressed, electrodes penetrate the passenger’s aura, determining whether he/she has ever enjoyed a fireworks show or held a sparkler. Passengers twelve and under are now allowed to leave their shoes on (but not their socks).

All carry-on baggage, including children’s bags and toys, must go through the X-ray machine. Examples include: everything that is carry-on baggage. You don't need to take your pants off and put them through the X-ray, but if you do, we’ll gladly take you aside and have an in-depth conversation with you in a small room. All child-related equipment that will fit through the X-ray machine must go through the X-ray machine. Examples include: everything.  If any child-related equipment does not fit through the X-ray machine, TSOs will either throw it away or keep it for themselves--NEVER, under any circumstances, will the equipment be returned to its rightful owner.
Ask a TSO for help gathering bags and child-related equipment, if necessary; bribery, in the form of chocolate cake, may come in handy here. 

TSA has interviewed many moms on this issue, and the consensus is that children who can crawl should be urged to go through the metal detector/Sno-Cone machine alone. Why? Simply because moms need a break, for Pete’s sake, and those three seconds of  alone time are deeply valuable. Many of the interviewed moms actually encouraged TSA to make their children crawl through the metal detector many, many times—everyone will be that much safer afterwards. If parents are carrying a child through the metal detector/Sno-Cone machine, the officer will have to additionally screen both the passenger and the child. TSA acknowledges that this statement makes no sense whatsoever, but in the spirit of keeping things complicated so they seem better, it’s a legitimate rule; if a baby is carried through the metal detector in a carrier or sling, such as that used for a broken arm, additional screening may be required.
Passengers may not pass their children to another person (“pawn them off”) during this process, EVEN IF the children are screaming.
Passengers may not pass their children to TSOs, even if they wish they WOULD confiscate them and sell them on the sidewalk behind Terminal B.
Security officers may ask for help screening children, although, if the parent has fled at the thought of the eight hours of travel with a toddler, “help” might be far away.