Saturday, May 24, 2014

Outside the Box!

I understand the importance of security in this dangerous world.  I understand the rationale behind having identification, or a license to operate machinery, and for certificates of authenticity, i.e., a degree stating that an individual has completed sufficient courses and is competent in his or her chosen field.  

What I do not understand is the inability of a country to not encourage their people to look "outside the box" when there are guidelines set down.  Most guidelines are not set in stone.  They are just that "guidelines" and some discretion must be shown by the individuals working within those guidelines.

What am I getting at?  Mainly, the security one must go through at airports now a days.  I accept this slight inconvenience and understand the necessity for it, but I also think that the people in Honduras at these checkpoints really don't understand fully what they are looking for or are able to use rationale in their searches.

Case in point.  We are told that we cannot travel with bottles of liquids containing more than, I believe, 1.5 ounces.  Fine.  We are told that these objects must be placed in our suitcase and checked as baggage.  Fine.  We are told that we cannot carry guns or knives, which I am in total agreement with, and fingernail files or clippers, which I find a little far fetched.  Yes, one can use a fingernail file to poke out the eye of someone and use it as a weapon, but the same can be said for a pencil or pen or knitting needle and none of these are banned.  Now as to a fingernail clipper - sorry, I can't see anyone using it as a weapon and threatening to clip someone's nails off as dangerous.  But, then, maybe the officials in security know something about fingernail clippers that I don't.  

Everything, with the exception of aerosols and chemicals, weapons, etc. can be carried in our luggage.  We can carry bottles of liquor, balsamic vinegar, bottles of hand lotion or shampoo, canned olives; anything not considered dangerous by securities' standards.  HOWEVER, when I go to San Pedro Sula I always go to Los Andes, which is the Mecca for grocery shopping.  They have just about everything I would want and even things I do not know about!  They have things I can never get on the island and things that delight me when I can buy them.  

We have, basically, three kinds of soup on the Island: Chicken noodle, vegetable and cream of mushroom.  That's it.  I can go to Los Andes and get at least 15-20 different types of soups, some of which I love to use in my recipes.  Cream of Broccoli, Broccoli with Cheese, Nacho Cheese, Onion soup, etc.  So, when I am in San Pedro I buy these soups as a treat for the special dishes I can otherwise not enjoy.

In April, my husband and I went to San Pedro to complete business and shop.  I packed all grocery items in my suitcase and cold items, such a meat in cheese in a carry-on cooler bag.  My luggage was checked and we proceeded to security and the waiting lounge.  My carry-on cooler bag made it through with no problem and we patiently awaited the departure of our flight.  

Imagine my surprise when I was approached not 5 minutes after getting into the lounge by a Sosa Airline employee telling me I would have to go open my luggage downstairs.  He took me to the security area where 3 men were waiting.  They asked me to open my suitcase, which I did, and they proceeded to search it.  The man found the soup, looked at it (Cream of Broccoli) and said "You must open this."  I could not believe my ears.  I said, "Why?"  He said that it was a liquid and I had to open it.  I said it was not a liquid but a cream based soup and what were they expecting to find?  He did not respond to my question, simply said that it must be opened.  I told him I had a receipt from the store showing my purchase that very day and how could I seal up a can between the time I bought it and them finding it in my luggage?  Of course he shrugged his shoulders and said I must open it.  I then told him (and the policeman there) that this was totally ridiculous, it was a stupid request and that if they used their knowledge they would know that there was nothing wrong with the can of soup.  It did not seem to matter that I had packed it in my suitcase with other liquids (which they never opened).  They seemed indifferent as to which one of the 4 cans they had to open.  

The can was one with a pop top and they managed, with difficulty, to open it.  He looked at it and said it was ok.  He never dumped the contents out, never probed the contents to see if something else was in there.  He handed me the can and I said it is ruined now, what do you expect me to do with it?  He just shrugged.  Then, since the policeman had not shown his ability to rule over me, he asked if he could search my suitcase further.  I said go ahead and do you want to search me to which he replied no.  They completed their efforts, set the open can of soup aside and let me take the other 3 in the suitcase and I was allowed to return to the waiting area.

No one has ever produced a list to me of what, exactly, I can and cannot carry in my luggage except for a few notices posted about flammable items, chemicals, guns, etc.  Now soup is considered dangerous?  If this "liquid" was dangerous, why did they not check the cans of olives, the balsamic vinegar, the bottles of Triple Sec?  I was told on my second trip just this past week (they opened another can of soup then too) that they had a list downstairs in the main terminal but no one offered to go get it for me.  I had already pointed out to the airline personnel that I was carrying soup and canned olives and he placed them in a bag and took them to Security who, again, ultimately said I had to open one!

My question is: why can't they think "outside the box?"  The items were packed in my suitcase where I had no access to them.  I was taking nothing that was listed on their posters in the main terminal.  Other items with "liquid" were not brought into question and only the soup which had a "pop top" opening was the target of their interest.  

Can they not take my receipt as evidence that I had just bought the item?  Can they not realize that I had no way of resealing a pop top can?  And, lastly, why would anyone try to hide drugs, if that was what they were looking for, in one can of soup?  Surely they must realize that if one's intent was to transport drugs for sale, a single can of soup would not contain much of anything and, besides, they never searched the contents.

Again, I realize that our security while flying is something we should all be concerned about.  But let's use our heads people!  If you are going to do a job and insist on opening a can of soup - well then search it and show me that you are really serious about this.  Don't just do it because you are bored and must show your ability to control things.  Do it because you actually fear that something illegal is going on.  And, take into consideration that even though it is a "pop top" can, I have no access to it from inside the plane!

Think outside the box!

As a side note: the security in La Ceiba must have a different set of rules because they do not question soup as one of the items carried in a suitcase as they do in San Pedro Sula.

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