New Tips to Breeze Through Checkpoints

2005: Unger's Travel Tips

In 2005, The Unger Report issued a set of guidelines for air travelers that recommended — among other things — showing up at the airport in pajamas and slippers. Humorist Brian Unger, aware that recent events have changed the nature of flying, presents updated travel tips.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Last year, the Unger Report issued a set of guidelines for air travelers. In light of recent developments, those guidelines have been revised. Here's our resident humorist, Brian Unger.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

To save time at airport security checkpoints, a year ago the Unger Report recommended, among other things, putting your kids through X-ray, like a laptop computer, and flying in your pajamas and slippers.

Times sure have changed in a year, because the threats have changed. By now, listeners are familiar with the new policy instituted by the Transportation Security Administration banning most liquids and gels in carry-on baggage. That includes beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, toothpaste, hair gel, and other items of similar consistency.

It seems like only yesterday I carried on a plastic tub of my mom's chili, the lid sealed with duct tape, nicely stowed in a paper bag over my seat. Those were the good old days - good chili, too.

Thursday morning, on my way to Columbus, Ohio, the TSA confiscated my saline nasal spray. The fellow in front of me lost his Southern Comfort and hair gel. My travel companion, she bragged about beating the brand-new system: smuggling her Victoria's Secret lip-plumper right through security, undetected. She really stuck it to the man that day, and all weekend, each time she twisted that metal tube of lip gloss.

In a nation where high school seniors rank near the bottom in science and math, Americans are now required to know the three properties of matter as to discern whether the carry-ons are solid, liquid or gas.

To the woman who stood with me at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, I'm sorry about your '02 Cabernet, but I was more concerned that you did not know it was, in fact, a liquid. The waters are murkier than ever.

At Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, I heard this announcement from an airline employee: You can bring a sandwich, a pizza, or a hamburger on the plan, but you will not be allowed to board with a sealed ketchup or mustard packet. Terrorism is not funny, but everyone at Gate A10 was laughing because they know all too well what happens when ketchup mixes with mustard: delicious.

The TSA explicitly asked travelers to not joke about such matters, but people joked anyway, perhaps out of nervousness or the flat-out absurdity of our new war on condiments. Just think, it's now a federal crime to get peanut butter on someone's chocolate, and chocolate in someone's peanut butter.

America's airports are now huge repositories of toiletries. I watched a guy, practically in tears, hand over what looked like a bottle of High Karate cologne. Everyone else in line was near tears too, mainly because of how he smelled.

One woman at Port Columbus Airport in Ohio nearly collapsed giving up a clear plastic tote filled with precious bottles of liquid foundation, yet a woman carrying a yapping Chihuahua passed through security hassle-free.

Some people want to blow up airplanes; some want their lips to look glossy. Barking Chihuahua, yes. Revlon Cover Girl, no. The incongruity of it all is as palpable as the threat is real. Our defense, both vigilant and distracting, and ultimately maddening.

So the Unger Report travel guideline update is simply this: fly naked. And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

CHADWICK: Travelers take note, the Unger Report, being neither a liquid or a gel, is fully compatible with new regulations regarding carry-on items. And you can take it with you. It's available as a podcast. Visit our Web site, npr.org, to find out more.

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