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The TSA, Volume, and Mass

Megan McCardle has a short-but-amusing bit about the 3.4-ounce rule for liquids on plane flights:

I asked a screener, “volume or weight?”

He said, “Huh?”

I answered that “ounces” in English units were both a measure of volume and weight, and for most substances these two numbers would be different.

The bit is amusing enough.  It’s another nail in the coffin of TSA’s idiocy. They’ve enacted a million policies that aren’t rational, but might make people feel more safe.  In this case, the policy is so irrational that they don’t even really know what it means.

The discussion that follows is an added bonus.  Some of the commenters berate the traveler for “being an asshole to people trying to do their jobs,” and that theme gets a lot of mileage.  The general thrust of the argument is that you shouldn’t take your ire out on the poor sap doing their job; you should complain to your congressman, the person who is responsible for the stupid policy.  I don’t think that’s quite right.

I think it’s totally legitimate to tell the person applying the policy to you that you think the policy is wrong.  It is very reasonable to think that part of that person’s job is to interact with the traveling public, collect feedback about policy and implementation, and give that information to their management.  If I get a crappy experience from the TSA (and I do, every time), it’s silly to think that my only polite recourse is to complain to my congressman.  I think that if we all told the TSA what we thought about our screenings that we’d start getting a better process.

I’m not saying you get to have a screaming fit when the TSA guy.  I’m not saying you get to insult the person or their family.  But when the TSA is being dumb (when the TSA is being the TSA. . . .), you get to tell them.