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The weakest link

For whatever reason, my flights always bite with my food schedule; not that I have one, but I'll get hungry part way through, it must be the excitement. Under no circumstances will I gulp down the crap they serve on short haul flights, and being a last-minute packer, I usually never find the time to eat before I leave home — I am also seldom hungry when there is stuff to be done before an immutable deadline, such as the departure of a plane.

Fortunately, Switzerland provides healthy and great relief in the form of Bircher Müesli, a snack that can keep you nourished for hours, and which renders itself well to tuppaware transport. So I've gotten into the habit of taking some along on trips.

Today, the security staff at the Zurich airport forced me to break with this habit and to throw out my treasured mush. I have since recovered from the pain, but because there is more to the story than Müesli in the dump, I thought it's about time for yet another airport security story about liquids — my last one is more than half a year old and I am sure you're craving by now…

When the attendants saw my 400ml container containing Müesli (think yoghurt for now, so you'll know what consistency I am talking about), they categorised it as liquid and would not let me take it through. Obviously, there was no point in arguing nor in mentioning that I often take the stuff with me on planes and never had a problem before (which is true). I was left with the choice to dump it all, or try to eat it up before my flight left.

I opted for the latter, but 400ml of Müesli is quite too much for quick consumption and I had to declare forfeit about three quarters through. In a moment of genius, I did the math and postulated publicly that I should now be allowed to take the rest, because it's less than 100ml (airplanes are allergic to liquids in larger volumes). I learnt then that the size of the container matters, not the amount of stuff it contains.

I handed over the container to the attendant under the pretense that I refuse to throw away food and had her do the deed instead. When I got the container back, I noticed that it still had traces of Müesli, looked at the queue of my flight and decided to have a go and be difficult. The result was that I had to head for the toilets and wash off all remaining traces of explosive Müesli.

I made sure to leave a good bit of water in the container, sealed it, and returned to the wardens of safety. This time, they let me pass, despite the 400ml container filled with, say, 30ml of water. But clear liquids aren't dangerous, or so it seems. Or maybe this is the way to smuggle the real stuff on board?

The entire situation was hilarious, I stayed calm and friendly and made sure to inject a sentence about understanding that they're just doing their job and aren't responsible for the regulations at least every minute. They assured me that this was in fact what they were doing, and that it was their orders to obey the regulations imposed by Brussels without exceptions.

Just then, as I was repacking my bag behind the x-ray machine, I noticed how another passenger got through with shaving cream and other stuff in a small toiletries bag. When they didn't even bother to unpack the bag, I remarked that the regulations also demand for a single, one litre, transparent plastic bag to contain all the 100ml containers and asked whether they were aware of those.

At first, the attendant denied it. When I asked her to step over and look at the informational signs all over the place, which clearly documented the plastic bag requirement, she shrugged and got seemingly annoyed: "we do our job the way we do our job, leave it up to us."

Some airport staff make you take off your shoes, others don't. At some airports, you have to switch on laptops, at most you don't. Some passengers are subjected to the new liquid regulations and have to throw out Müesli, others are exempt. Now what was that they say about the weakest link?

NP: Dream Theater: Awake