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TSA Log Shows Passengers Say the Darndest Things 427

Posted by timothy
from the save-your-rapier-like-wit-for-the-clamdiggers-back-home dept.
coondoggie writes "There is no humor in an airport. It's a fact. And while most travelers business or otherwise know that, there are a few out there who haven't gotten the message or perhaps the choose to ignore it. Either way the 'People Say the Darndest Things' or 'What Not to Say at an Airport' section has become one of the more popular destinations on the TSA Blog site." The collected wit and wisdom of airline passengers linked unfortunately does not distinguish between stupidity (claiming that you have a bomb to get through security faster) and seemingly sensible questions that get at the heart of the problems with the current and long-running engagement of Homeland Security Theater. (It's also hard to know whether some passengers might have innocently thought their tone, facial expression, body language or context would have served as notice that they weren't actually threatening murder.)
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TSA Log Shows Passengers Say the Darndest Things

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  • Cool story bro. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:00PM (#43359771)

    Repeats the same three anecdotes 11 times. Stupid people will say the word "bomb" sarcastically. Headline news.

    • Re:Cool story bro. (Score:5, Informative)

      by daern (526012) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:08PM (#43359901)

      Repeats the same three anecdotes 11 times. Stupid people will say the word "bomb" sarcastically. Headline news.

      ...and stupid people take them seriously.

      • Re:Cool story bro. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:32PM (#43360253)

        ...and stupid people take them seriously.

        They have to. Because they cannot rule out that someone crazy/stupid enough to bring a bomb on a plane would not also be crazy/stupid enough to brag about it.

        And it also serves to discourage such jokes that make the other passengers uncomfortable. Because you are, literally, joking about killing them.

        • ...and stupid people take them seriously.

          They have to. Because they cannot rule out that someone crazy/stupid enough to bring a bomb on a plane would not also be crazy/stupid enough to brag about it.

          And it also serves to discourage such jokes that make the other passengers uncomfortable. Because you are, literally, joking about killing them.

          Absolutely. A lot of burglars brag at barrooms where anyone can overhear. Most criminals and insanely angry people are dumb. Unaware.

        • Re:Cool story bro. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:44PM (#43360419)

          Has anyone EVER been caught with a bomb after saying the word "bomb"? People have attempted to carry bombs on board (both successfully and unsuccessfully), but I've never heard of single terrorist plot that was deterred because of a Freudian slip.

          • by sycodon (149926) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @03:14PM (#43360849)

            Has anyone been caught with a bomb period?

            All I hear about is test fake bombs that get through.

          • by onyxruby (118189)

            When I first got out of high school I worked as a security guard in a bank skyscraper. We had a form for people calling in bomb threats as this was one of the tallest buildings in a large metropolitan area and it attracted it's share of nutcases.

            One of the very first questions that we would ask callers is what their name is. People instinctively answer certain questions with Freudian slips all the time and the bank knew this. You would be surprised how many people got arrested after answering that question.

        • by Minwee (522556)

          They have to. Because they cannot rule out that someone crazy/stupid enough to bring a bomb on a plane would not also be crazy/stupid enough to brag about it.

          You know what else? You also cannot rule out that someone crazy or stupid enough to bring a bomb on a plane would _not_ say anything about it. So you'd better close down the airport and call in a SWAT team every time a passenger doesn't say anything about bombs.

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Repeats the same three anecdotes 11 times. Stupid people will say the word "bomb" sarcastically. Headline news.

        ...and stupid people take them seriously.

        If you had your hands in your pocket and a cop pulls a gun on you and tells you to take your hands out of your pockets, are you going to say, sarcastically, "But I have a gun in my pocket?" or "my gun will fall out" or something about having a fucking gun?

        Sarcastically or not, joking about bombs when you are trying to board an airplane is stupid, i mean, really fucking stupid.

    • Re:Cool story bro. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:40PM (#43360367)
      And a number of those were caused by what I've been told by officials is a federal crime (having checked baggage travel without the owner on the plane).

      If I were Emperor of the Universe, I'd declare that anyone whose luggage goes "missing" be given a free ticket to wherever it landed. Going to HI and your luggage ends up in Cairo? Free trip to Cairo.
      • And a number of those were caused by what I've been told by officials is a federal crime (having checked baggage travel without the owner on the plane).

        Of course, compaines ship other people's packages on commercial flights all the time w/o the owner on board, and many of those packages undergo less-rigorous screening than passengers and their checked luggage. From: How safe is the cargo on passenger flights? [cnn.com]

        While much airport security is concentrated on screening passengers and their checked bags, about half the hold on a typical passenger flight is filled with cargo. In fact, over a third of cargo by volume that entered the United States in 2010 was shipped on passenger jets, according to the Department of Transportation. That is 3.7 billion tons. Another 7.2 billion tons of air cargo came in on all-cargo aircraft, according to the DOT.

        And the screening requirements for such cargo are not as strict as they are for passengers and their checked bags.

        Most of the cases described in the article involve in-bound international flights, and there is a US law requiring 100% screening of all cargo, even US officials admit that the screenings would have caught some of the items discussed in the article.

  • I was going through security one time and had to be patted down. The guy behind me in line decided to be a joker and made a comment along the lines of "they could at least give you a drink for this!". I was really expecting them to unleash the dogs on him for that, but they let him through with just the usual scan. I'm not sure if he would have been so lucky had we been at a larger airport.

    So I would say the TSA agents do have some latitude on what they do - but I wouldn't recommend testing it if you want to make it on time to your flight.
    • by operagost (62405) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:08PM (#43359917) Homepage Journal

      I'm not sure if he would have been so lucky had we been at a larger airport.

      Why? Are we supposed to show obeisance to the stormtroopers of our overlords?

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:13PM (#43359989) Homepage

      I was really expecting them to unleash the dogs on him for that

      Well, there's little room to interpret buying you a drink as anything threatening.

      But the people who make jokes about having bombs or firearms? Well, that's just stupidity on their behalf, because it won't be taken well. You might as well go to a women's crisis center and make rape jokes -- they're just not going to work.

      I've long since learned that at an airport, it's best to just play it cool, and be seen to be non-threatening or angry with them. Untie the shoes before you even get called, make sure you know what's in your pockets so you can remove it (a shocking amount of people don't seem to know what they're carrying), smile at them -- they may be idiots with no real training in some cases, but they respond to polite a whole lot better.

      Some people seem to think it's a good time to make a political statement or otherwise act like an ass. It's your choice to do that, but certain kinds of jokes with these kinds of people are never going to be taken nicely. Hell, even "Airplane" in 1980 was making the "Hi, Jack!" jokes, and that was long before people got ramped up to the current state.

      On the other hand, I once had a TSA agent become very interested in the my GPS for golf after he'd examined it. A friendly chat and a quick product endorsement, and I was on my way.

      • I've long since learned that at an airport, it's best to just play it cool, and be seen to be non-threatening or angry with them

        Solid advice. That works well with US customs as well in most cases. When I deal with either I always try to present myself as the least interesting person they've seen all day. (granted a lot of people find me boring so that isn't too much of a stretch for me) Have all the papers ready and approach them as if they had their sense of humor surgically removed but are otherwise just like any other person you've ever met.

        Some people seem to think it's a good time to make a political statement or otherwise act like an ass

        There is a time and place for such things, but I would generally say the airport is

      • And this is why i'll never step onto a commercial airliner again. I absolutely refuse to enter the TSA point-of-no-return. I rarely enter anywhere i cant leave easily and at my own discretion.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          And this is why i'll never step onto a commercial airliner again.

          Well, you're definitely free to make that choice.

          For many of us, air travel is a reality that comes with our jobs. Not flying isn't really an option.

          Which means your next best solution is to make the process involve as little hassle for yourself as possible.

          Do I think the TSA is stupid, wasteful, and draconian? Absolutely. Do I think going through airport security is the time to make a beef about it? Not bloody likely.

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        I've long since learned that at an airport, it's best to just play it cool, and be seen to be non-threatening or angry with them.

        That's hard for some people when you find out that your conecting flight has your luggage, but you are 30 seconds late to board, so all your belongings are headed on, but not you. They won't return your property, nor honor their ticket to put you on the plane. "We'll get you on the next flight, Tuesday." is the best you get. For many, it's hard to remain calm and polite when faced with that.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @03:01PM (#43360681) Homepage

          That's hard for some people when you find out that your conecting flight has your luggage, but you are 30 seconds late to board, so all your belongings are headed on, but not you.

          That's odd, because for the last 10 years, when they're calling the flight and if you don't come to the desk, they say they'll pull your luggage. They're not supposed to let your luggage fly without you. If they're putting your luggage on and not you, I think they're in violation of FAA policy.

          And, the people you need to be angry with are the agents of the airlines NOT the security folks. The customer dis-service reps deserve a little ire now and then. But getting into it with security is just asking for trouble.

          I've been flying long enough that I allocate *lots* of time to make connecting flights -- like 1.5-2 hours minimum to absorb any delays, more if it's winter or an international flight. Mostly because I've learned you need to account for delays and other things which work against you.

          Any time I see someone who allocated 20 minutes to catch a connecting flight, I just shake my head, because it was never realistic for you to make that connection in the first place. In some airports it can take more than that to get to your next gate if it's in a different concourse.

      • I've long since learned that at an airport, it's best to just play it cool, and be seen to be non-threatening or angry with them

        Yes, that is true. Unfortunately it is ridiculous that we have got to that point. That's why we should support anyone who does not respect their authoritae. It almost certainly means they are going to get hassled as a result.

        So while it might be seem stupid for someone to invite the TSA to shit on them, at least they are willing to give a little bit of that shit back to the TSA. We should cheer those who stand up and act like free men. In any social revolution thousands, if not millions, get smacked do

        • by seepho (1959226)
          It's ridiculous that it's gotten to the point where you should act non-threatening and nice to people? While there is a degree of absurdity in the fact that a dude with a paper badge has authority over you, if all you have to do to avoid the wrath of that authority is not be a dick I'd say it's not a big deal. Why not save your protest for someone who can the policy you disagree with, rather than manifesting your civil disobedience as sarcastic remarks to the guy who is power tripping on his menial job?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:14PM (#43360003)

      You really expected them to react to that line?

      My last experience involved a pat-down with a TSA agent at MIA. He asked me, "May I ask what your objections are to the scanner?" I said, "No, you may not."

      Didn't go over well. Got a 20 minute lecture on why I should just trust the scanner. I didn't really react which made him angry.

      He was a Cuban guy and he was starting to make me angry. I caught myself about to make some potentially racist remark along the lines of "This may be acceptable where you came from, but it's not here." Instead I took a deep breath and asked him if I was free to go.

      The guy was going full jerk by now and yelling at me to remove my items from the area. I had them in my hands and was stepping away before he could even finish the sentence.

      Flying again in a week. Joy joy.

      • by guanxi (216397)

        I get patted down regularly, and the TSA agents have been professional and polite. Occasionally one will talk to me about using the scanner, but it's always a brief, polite discussion and they haven't tried to push me.

        I'll say that TSA staff, years ago, were much more aggressive and liked to throw their authority around. Maybe they received customer service training because that isn't a problem any more.

    • by niado (1650369)

      The guy behind me in line decided to be a joker and made a comment along the lines of "they could at least give you a drink for this!".

      While a dig at the TSA agents, this comment cannot be construed as a threat to kill hundreds of people, which is probably why it was ignored. It would be impossible to justify detaining someone because of a verbal jab. You could probably say "i hate this, you guys suck" and they wouldn't do anything about it.

    • When you're so terrified of the government that you can't even make a joke without fear of being punished by it, I think something is very, very wrong. And to think that all this is because people are afraid of a nearly nonexistent threat...

  • Print version (Score:4, Informative)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:04PM (#43359855) Journal
    The layout of this article was awful. Here's the print version [networkworld.com] so you can see them all on one page.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...was the bomb.

  • I have a very similar sense of humor, and could see saying something like this. But not at airport. And not at the TSA. I don't know if people just lack the common sense or the social skills to realize this is not the right place or time. And it sounds like in most cases they get checked 'just in case' but nothing too over the top. If someone was charged for making a bad joke, then I'd be complaining that the TSA was over the top as well.
    • I don't know if people just lack the common sense or the social skills to realize this is not the right place or time.

      How do common sense and social skills help you realize this? One would think that common sense will either tell you that an *actual* airplane bomber *won't* say anything like that, OR that what the person says shouldn't be relevant at all to your attempts. How do social skills relate to objective detection of dangerous materials is beyond me. If I make a curtsy towards the X-ray machine, will it be more decent towards my genitals, or what?

  • The best part is this: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/hockey-sticks-pocket-knives-and-billiard-cues-among-carry-items-tsa-will-soon-let-onboard-planes [networkworld.com]

    So, the TSA is still going to judge us for potential thoughtcrime, grope us, and detain people for making (albeit stupid) jokes, but they're going to let POCKETKNIVES back onto planes? Really?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of a pocketknife. I'm just amused (horrified) that they're letting the thing that caused this whole mess back on
    • Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of a pocketknife. I'm just amused (horrified) that they're letting the thing that caused this whole mess back on the plane, but not abolishing the TSA or their fascist policies.

      Personally, I think they should give every passenger a knife when they get on board.

      • Something to be said for making it public knowledge to potential hijackers that every passenger on board the plane has (at minimum) a knife on them.
        • by LandGator (625199)
          Better yet, a one-shot derringer with a frangible bullet (won't penetrate the metal skin of the aircraft).
          • How badly would those ricochet? I'd almost be more concerned with bouncing shrapnel over a bullet hole in the plane's body. By my understanding the bullet hole isn't enough to de-pressurize a plane.
    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      So, the TSA is still going to judge us for potential thoughtcrime, grope us, and detain people for making (albeit stupid) jokes, but they're going to let POCKETKNIVES back onto planes? Really?

      What's the harm? I mean, who ever heard of someone hijacking a plane with a knife? That'd just be ...

      Oh, wait.

    • they're going to let POCKETKNIVES back onto planes?

      I never carried a knife with me on the few times I flew (pre 9/11). I just carried my stainless steel pen. Which they still let you take on board.
  • "...invisible to your imaging scanners."

    Then, watch them sorting it out.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:14PM (#43360007)

    The first time I flew was in the 70's and I can remember seeing signs at the security checkpoints warning against joking about guns or bombs. It's not something distinctive to the TSA.

  • Here's the deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:14PM (#43360011)

    OK. Here's the deal. If they take it seriously and believe me when I say "I have a bomb," then why would they distrust me when I say "I don't have a bomb or gun or knife or anything dangerous" and let me skip the screening. Really, WTF? They're gonna search everyone, right? Then why the fuck do they care what they say? Because catching smartasses is easier than catching terrorists?

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      What's funny is that initially, the threat was prosecuted as a threat. But for a threat to be illegal, it must be credible. So they made new laws to make jokes illegal. Don't worry, it's just a free speech zone. No free speech in airports.
  • It's all just CYA. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:20PM (#43360079)

    Yeah, yeah, it's really dumb to suggest you have a bomb at the airport. But, in reality, if a terrorist was trying to detonate a bomb at the airport or on a plane, they wouldn't tell anyone. The whole reason for the overreaction from the TSA is because they think if there really was a bomb they would look extra dumb if it turned out the terrorist told them about the bomb and they still didn't find it.

    If some guy says he has a bomb, but he clearly doesn't, he's either an idiot or trying to create a distraction. By closing down the airport, you either allow his idiocy to cause real damage to the economy and inconvenience people. If he was trying to create a distraction, you allowed him to succeed.

    Obviously if someone might actually be a real threat, you do what needs to be done to keep people safe. But in every single one of these cases, it seems that it could be ascertained fairly quickly that they pose no real threat even if they suggested they might. I don't mind questioning these idiots in the back for a few hours, but let everything else continue normally.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @04:13PM (#43361769)

      So, I'm walking through security, and I've got a plastic 500ml bottle of CocaCola about 75% empty.

      Security person watches me take another sip, then confiscates it, and tosses it in a basket at her feet.

      I was annoyed, and she provoked me with something like "You didn't think you were bringing that on the plane did you?"

      I replied almost without thinking...

      "If its so dangerous you can't risk allowing it on a plane I'm surprised you are comfortable leaving it in a bin next to you."

      Fortunately all i got back was a dirty look, but it really crystallized for me just how stupid the rules were. That so many people here are advising to just "follow the rules and keep your head down" is truly pathetic.

      • What few people realise is that this may very well be exactly what the terrorists want.

        Every day you hear a comment along the lines of "this now sets up the perfect scenario where a terrorist can blow up a big queue of people at a security checkpoint"

        But what's not said is that this continuing erosion of free thinking, the indoctrination of "follow the rules, do as you are told" is the ultimate victory for the terrorist. We are in such constant fear of them that we have given up our freedom, surrendered it

  • What - real - terrorist would say in the face of the security that he have a bomb (or better, a nuclear one) in your luggage?
  • None of them are actually funny, at least in print. Nearly all involve passengers attempting to say "I have a bomb" in a humorous manner in some capacity. Now I'd love to see the TSA abolished as much as the next Slashdotter, but I for one don't find bomb jokes funny in the context of an airport.

    Now, if you want to read something regarding airlines that are actually funny, might I recommend either this or this [healthblogs.org], or this [eyeflare.com].

  • So some people claim they have a bomb to go through a security theatre zone faster? Where are they rushing to? Gitmo?

  • An Atlanta passenger approached a flight attendant and asked her if she had ever been hijacked before.

    I'm guessing since it made it into the TSA hall of shame, it didn't work out too well.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:47PM (#43360467) Homepage Journal

    We're a Police State Superpower.

    There's a difference.

  • by xeno (2667) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:49PM (#43360491)

    A few years ago I made the mistake of grabbing something to eat outside the SeaTac security theater zone when I was in a hurry. There was no line (very late at night) but the flight was leaving soon, so I asked "Does my burrito constitute a 'tube of gel' or can I take it through to the boarding area?" Three luggage monkeys wearing aviator glasses at night and a harrumphing silverback later, they came to a conclusion.

    They x-rayed my burrito.

    How is it possible for me to take them seriously? I do risk management for a living, and -- while my jackass question and their retarded response was funny at the time -- there's no way to examine the situation that doesn't indicate heightened overall risk due to bewildered agents looking for irrelevant indicators. Sure, morons joking about a bomb and the forgetful gun-toter need to be weeded out, but neither is a material risk to the lives of anyone on a flight. A good revamp of the TSA would start from undesirable risk outcomes and work its way back to a determination of effective controls... nah. Not gonna happen.

  • by mindcandy (1252124) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:50PM (#43360515)
    Never greet him at the airport.
  • I guess Mormon missionaries sometimes/frequently get in trouble at airports because they will refer to the Book of Mormon as the B.O.M. and somebody will overhear them.

    At least, this was a story I heard way back when, pre 9/11 days.
  • I always thought all TSA agents lacked a sense of humor, until my last trip to the airport that is. It was 6:30 in the morning and I had just passed through the body scanner. The TSA agent told me to wait. Then he told me I could continue. While picking up my stuff from the x-ray machine I turned back to him and asked, "Could you see my junk on the screen?" I was surprised he busted out laughing instead of putting me in hand cuffs.
  • aka the hamburger, don't carry it in your bag or at least, don't call it 'grease bomb' :)
  • During a bag search at Dallas (DAL), a passenger stated: "I'm a terrorist."

    Sure, perhaps that his job, but that doesn't mean he has a bomb or is going to threaten the plane.
    He could simply be on his way to a convention, reunion or visit with friends out-of-town.

    Even terrorists have mundane things to do - grocery shop, yard/house work, dentist appts...

  • XKCD (Score:3, Funny)

    by Alarash (746254) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:59PM (#43360647)
    You know you thought about this. http://xkcd.com/651/ [xkcd.com]
  • "Caaaaart!"
  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @03:30PM (#43361117) Journal

    I've been trying to come up with the all-time best "Not to sing along to in the TSA line" playlist. Amongst the top songs:

    * Janie's Got a Gun - Aerosmith
    * Boom Boom Boom Boom - Dr. John
    * If I Had a Rocket Launcher - Bruce Cockburn
    * Shot With His Own Gun - Elvis Costello (actually about consequences of sex, which makes it doubly good for this list "No, sir, I'm singing a song about a girl getting pregnant!")
    * I Don't Like Mondays - Boomtown Rats
    * Tear Down the Wall - Pink Floyd
    * Rosalita - Bruce Springsteen ("You pick up Little Dynamite, I'm gonna pick up Little Gun")
    * Crash Into Me - Dave Matthews Band

    What else? No rap please, it's just too easy.

  • by BarryHaworth (536145) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @04:48PM (#43362335) Homepage
    An old problem, as Dilbert [dilbert.com] discovered.
  • heh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Khashishi (775369) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @05:27PM (#43362863) Journal

    I'm going to open a bottle of dihydrogen monoxide once the plane gets off the ground.

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