Like, why are you so obsessed with me?

By Kat Kinsman
Updated June 29, 2018
Credit: Photo by Kat Kinsman

I was pretty sure someone at the TSA had a crush on me, because lately they'd been leaving me little notes in my suitcase, telling me they've rifled through my stuff. I got two last weekend alone and was actually a little bit hurt not to discover a third, but maybe they were busy with something else like trying to keep people from smuggling exotic lizards or hoverboards or weapons of various levels of destruction. I honestly wasn't sure what they were hoping to find, but I doubted it was my stash of RxBars and worn undergarments (but if it was: ew, and at least Venmo me). So I did a little digging.

I fly what feels like constantly, and it had been a little while since I'd gotten the mash note saying that a transportation officer had plundered my checked possessions. Was the magic gone? Had I become predictable? Oh it's just her again, with her sensibly-sized toiletries, two paperbacks she won't get around to reading, and charger she's just going to forget in the hotel room. Yaaawwwwwwn. Even when I spiced things up a little and hauled back six pounds of butter and comical quantities of ketchup-flavored chips back from an exotic foreign land (OK, Canada), I heard nary a peep, and then all of a sudden, two in a row.

So I did some digging and my guess is this: booze. On a fairly regular basis, I fly with a bottle of something in my check bag. It's not so I can avoid the usurious minibar charges (though seriously, the last hotel room I stayed in wanted $35 for a quarter bottle of just-OK bourbon), but I like to bring it as a gift for people I'll be seeing, or haul interesting specimens back home. The difference is, they're usually full and sealed. On this recent trip, a friend who is working with a liquor brand gave me a pint of their new rye to sample and fine, I did indeed swig some in my room, then closed the bottle, rolled it up in a dress so it wouldn't break, and didn't think much about it.

Apparently that's not entirely acceptable per FAA regulations. While it's permissible to bring up to five liters of alcohol per passenger in your checked luggage—provided it's between 48 and 140 proof—it must be in a sealed, unopened retail container. A cursory X-ray of my bag would have shown that I'd nipped into that fella enough to make a visible dent in the contents, and my is that what tripped the search. I wouldn't have thought much, but I'd left the bottle in my bag for the next flight a day later and got a note again. That may or may not have been the actual reason for the inspection, but it's something I didn't know before. And if I'm really curious, I guess I can always just leave a note in there asking if TSA boo wants to meet up for a drink and explain it to me.