Dehydrated Defense

But the tube says 5oz.” –anonymous TSA official while confiscating a rolled up tube of toothpaste after the passenger squeezed out all but the last 3ounces as required by the airlines after the latest terrorism scare.

Time may be of the essence, but so is timing. Hence, it was my misfortune to schedule a two-week trip to Italy in the aftermath of the big “toothpaste” scare.
Worried that I’d become dehydrated on the long overseas flight (it’s been known to happen), I drank a gallon of water en route to JFK International Airport. Unfortunately, this only increased my already frequent visits to the bathroom. As recommended, I packed no bottled water for the flight – just a three-ounce container of eye drops, to ensure my contacts wouldn’t stick permanently to my pupils.
A few minutes prior to boarding, I purchased a few items at the nearest newsstand. As I waited in line, I heard the perky cashier tell other customers, “If you buy your water now, the airlines will let you board with it because you’re past customs!”
“Yipee!” I thought. “Now I won’t die of thirst!” So I bought a small bottle of water, stuffed it in my bag, and headed for the gate. Much to my dismay, however, the bottle was gleefully confiscated before I boarded the plane. Now I know what it’s like to suffer through a drought.
I’m all for security. Isn’t everyone? Security is good. Don’t we all need to “get with the program?” So off I went – thinking about all those airport trash collectors who’d either get rich selling discarded bottles of unopened water or (alternatively) perish in flames after opening one filled with nitroglycerin.
About halfway through the flight, we were served dinner. Now I was thinking, “I really wish terrorists could weaponize airline food, because this slop should be banned by international treaty.” (Drumroll please.) As I picked at, and finally passed on, my alleged “food,” I guzzled my half- glass of water (most flight attendants only fill the cups halfway), hoping it would keep me hydrated during the next seven hours of the flight.
Boy was I wrong. Within the hour, I felt like Lawrence of Arabia trying to cross the desert to Aqaba. I couldn’t believe this. Everyone knows the dangers of dehydration on long flights, but there were no bottles of water on board, no attendants milling about with partially filled glasses, and no response to the little pings that signal the desperation of passengers for some kind of assistance.
So, I took it upon myself to stand up – stand up and get a drink. After stepping on a few toes and bumping several elbows, I made my way to the back of the plane, where two attendants were merrily gossiping. “May I have a glass of water?” I asked politely. After a scowl and a perturbed look, one attendant filled a cup, this time only one-third full (or two-thirds empty, depending on your philosophical predilections). Grateful, I gulped down the precious liquid, and skulked away, feeling like a naughty little schoolgirl.
A couple of hours later, I employed the same strategem, with the same results. I do need to point out here that the beverage cart only passed us twice – at the beginning of the flight and about a half-hour before landing. After “deplaning,” I ran to the bar, clutching my Euros, to buy that amazing compound of hydrogen and oxygen that most of us take for granted. (I, for one, will never take it for granted again.)
My inbound flight was so traumatic that, during my entire vacation, I prayed that someone, somewhere, would recognize the folly of dessicating airline passengers, and would allow us to buy the water at the terminal. Or perhaps some brighter bulb – some brilliant entrepreneur – would consider selling (or giving away) bottled water on the actual airplane. Not only would this avoid damaging passengers’ internal organs, especially the kidneys, but it would prevent scowl lines from becoming permanently etched on the faces of the flight attendants.
No such luck. On the return visit to the airport, my bottles were, once again, relegated to the ash can of history, and I shriveled like a raisin in the sun before landing at JFK. Strangely, security never asked me to take my shoes off, though I was totally prepared to do this without question. If only I’d bought hollowed out platform shoes containing water! Note to self … research rum-running tactics from Prohibition.
Needless to say, I find this whole water-deprivation routine to be ludicrous. Unless Aqua Man turns traitor (and God help us if he does), how could anybody possibly take over a plane with bottled water. If security is worried that, in fact, those bottles contain something other than water, wouldn’t a quick “sniff” or a litmus test (a real litmus test, with the litmus paper) suffice to distinguish between H20 and napalm?
OK, you’re right. Such testing would really, really slow down the lines at the security checkpoints. So why not allow people to bring aboard water from the airport newsstands and duty-free shops? Stamp the bottles (on the inside) with a bar code peculiar to each stand to make “good bottle” identification easy and tamper-proof.
Ultimately, the whole liquid deprivation issue boils down to this: a few creeps are caught planning to down planes with some unknown substance, and suddenly the whole world starts banning baby food and toothpaste. People by the hundreds are being hired to rifle through bags with rubber gloves, confiscating perfume and eye drops, because some guys hoped to sneak explosives onto a plane.
Believe me, as an international traveler, I take the threat of terrorism very seriously. I don’t mind inconvenience if it prevents me from being used as a human missile to kill innocent people (including myself). It’s the mindless overreaction to terrorism scares to which I object. Why is every liquid known to mankind banned after one incident (which, truth be told, never became an incident)? And, more important, why not ban other substances that are already proven to cause great harm?
For example:
• Why, after three school shootings in one month, do we continue to permit people to buy guns with minimal oversight?
• Why do we facilitate the proliferation of nuclear weapons, when their use will only result in the complete destruction of the planet?
• Knowing that lead and other materials with which people work every day are hazardous, why do we continue to expose people to them?
• Why do we pretend to love peace, but sell weapons to the very people who will make war with them? It boggles the mind.
More people are killed because of gun violence in one day than are killed by liquids, but the nations of the world trade guns and ammunition as if they were candy. Keeping this in mind, you might reach the conclusion that it’s more logical to ban weapons instead of relying on dehydration as a defense.

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