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TSA Frisked Me for Chocolate Milk

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Did TSA screeners think my family was on holiday vacation/suicide mission?


Momlogic's Momstrosity: I let a stranger put their hands all over my body for a drink. Not an alcoholic beverage -- that might've been worth it. Nope -- I did it for milk. And it wasn't even for me. I did it for my 3-year-old. So let me rephrase that: I let a stranger put their hands all over my body for my daughter.

Oh, yeah, that's not too creepy. 

It was my first time flying over the holidays with a child. I had no idea I couldn't have even one juice-box-sized, sealed chocolate milk. If it had been a 3 oz., it would've been OK, but mine was a  juice-box-whopping 8! I now realize these rules have been in place for a while -- but these days, I don't fly much.

Our trip was days after that Nigerian bomber allegedly sauntered onto a plane wearing exploding underwear. When it was discovered I intended to transport contraband, I was given an option by the bleary-eyed TSA worker -- either I get frisked or they confiscate the moo milk. WTF? I calculated in my head how I would deal with losing my liquid bargaining chip.

As any parent knows, chocolate milk is a powerful weapon. I don't know about its ability to bring down a plane, but it can get toys picked up, TVs turned off, and can buy blissful moments of silence (that is, until the straw plunges into the depths of the box).

At first I said no.

Then I looked at my daughter. Already weary of waiting in line and taking off her shoes -- all in the name of uncovering bombs. But now she was a mini-walking time bomb -- ready at any moment for a meltdown. I had to get her out of there before the bomb-sniffing dogs came in and hauled her away. 

I had no choice. I submitted.  

What were they looking for to go with that potentially lethal chocolate milk? The straw? Or did the screener believe that my family and I were on a holiday vacation/suicide mission?

Look, my kid was one of the lucky ones. She got that chocolate milk. Josh Pitney wasn't so lucky. His Christmas Play-Doh was taken away on his flight returning from Granny's house. Play-Doh, it turns out, is NOT on the TSA forbidden carry-on list. However, because plastic explosives can be camouflaged to look like Play-Doh, a TSA spokeswoman said screeners are told to use their own discretion. (Or maybe the screener, also a parent, knew that Play-Doh is a pain in the ass to clean up and was doing everybody a favor?)

Come on, people. Isn't it time we stop wasting everybody's time taking away toys and food from children and connect the dots?! (A great game BTW for kids to play on planes!) It can't be THAT hard, can it? Compare and contrast these scenarios: 


  • Family plans trip to visit grandparents.
  • E-mails circulate about impending visit.
  • Frazzled family checks in -- a zillion bags in tow.


  • Nigerian man is reported by dad that he's connected with terrorists.
  • Intelligence uncovers evidence that a terrorist attack is being planned by Nigerian.
  • Nigerian man buys tickets with cash and has no baggage (not even chocolate milk!).
Who is more likely to blow up a plane?

next: 23-Year-Old Former Foster Child Finally Gets Adopted
27 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sonnie January 6, 2010, 12:40 PM

I would rather be safe than sorry. The TSA is just doing their job. If they let you through with your juice box size chocolate milk, who is to say they wouldn’t let somebody else through with a juice box full of explosives/drugs. People use their kids to hide all sorts of contraband.

Anonymous January 6, 2010, 1:05 PM

Oh, but wouldn’t that be profiling and that’s so not political correct to do.

Lauren January 6, 2010, 1:20 PM

I agree - better safe than sorry. It doesn’t matter “who’s more likely to blow up a plane.” TSA needs to be consistent in applying screening procedures whether it’s for a mom and her little one or a big, scary criminal. If we allow exemptions just because someone’s probably harmless, terrorists are going to exploit, possibly cause harm, and we’ll be back at square one.

I’m actually surprised they let you through with the chocolate milk at all. I didn’t think any foods or beverages were allowed through security, regardless of how many ounces. You could have always bought another chocolate milk on the other side of security. I assume if you were willing to be frisked for it, you probably would have been willing to pay another $4.

Sara January 6, 2010, 2:14 PM

Sometimes terrorists use little kids to get through security.

Perhaps you shouldn’t think that you’re above the rules just because you’re a mom traveling with kids.

Pamala January 6, 2010, 3:14 PM

What part of the 3oz rule did you not understand? How long has that rule been in effect? Never buy a drink outside of security, wait till you’re in the terminal. Frankly this whole article is just plain weird.

Mama January 6, 2010, 3:35 PM

I don’t get it…. you’re complaining because you didn’t follow the rules? The liquid rules have been in place for years now.

And you’re complaining about getting patted down? Days after someone tried to bring down a plane? Weird…

Robin January 6, 2010, 6:06 PM

My sister pretty much got strip searched with her 2yo because she was wearing a tank top and a skin tight long sleeve shirt. Two layers! Shame on her! Seriously, they better make guys wearing a business shirt and an undershirt strip down too, or I’d be ticked.

Jacob January 6, 2010, 6:46 PM

The 3oz rules have been in places for years. They’re available on the TSA website and on every airline company website. You should have known.

In regards to the play dough and other things, I’d rather be safe and sorry. Terrorists don’t show up at airports in camouflage and military duffle bags. They try to blend in. Thus, the possibility that they’d use a child as a part of their plan… very reasonable!

Post 9/11 is a different world. Prior to 9/11 it was apparently very easy to smuggle things onto planes. Today it is harder. Tomorrow will be harder yet because of the underwear bomber.

Lisa R. January 6, 2010, 8:32 PM

I think it’s great everyone responding to this article is willing to be subject to searches to keep our airways safe. It’s annoying, time-consuming, even embarrassing, but ultimately worth it. However, where the problem comes in is with WHO is being searched, patted down, subjected to humiliated searches and, more importantly, who ISN’T. Lauren, you said the TSA has to be consistent, and you’re right, but they aren’t. When frazzled moms w/milk for their toddler, eldery women with knitting supplies, a person carrying just too much jewelry packed in one container (that was me) are being searched and actual terrorists carrying actual bombs are getting through security because no one wants to “racial profile,” the system is really broken.

Not a Mom January 6, 2010, 9:05 PM

“Sometimes terrorists use little kids to get through security. Perhaps you shouldn’t think that you’re above the rules just because you’re a mom traveling with kids.”

Do you have a link for an example of this happening at an airport? Or anywhere?

I don’t get the sense that any of the commenters here read people like Bruce Schneier. You know, the 3 oz. liquid rule doesn’t apply to things like saline, actually meaning bottles labeled “saline.” So how does confiscating chocolate milk protect anyone if the liquid in a bottle labeled saline, whatever it is, can pass right through?

Here’s the classic essay, well, an excerpt anyway:

Not a Mom January 6, 2010, 9:19 PM

“I don’t get it…. you’re complaining because you didn’t follow the rules?”

No, she is complaining about the rule itself.

Do you defend the 1-hour sitting rule that apparently has been dropped already by the TSA? Maybe it was dropped because people complained relentlessly about it and no one could come up with even a plausible sounding fake explanation for why it made sense. What is/was your response to the critics of this rule? Was it “better safe than sorry” even though the rule had no connection to safety?

K January 6, 2010, 11:58 PM

I recently flew with my 3 year old and was able to take milk on the plan for him if/and only if I went through the handicap/young children line. I had it in sippy cups and they x-rayed it, opened it, even smelled it, one even asked my son what was in the cup but further than that I never had a problem and it was a life saver to have with us. Next time I would look for these lines and go through them they are much more sensitive to traveling with young children and are typically (in the airports we visited) to the far left and are with the handicap lanes.

Anonymous January 26, 2010, 4:03 PM

the bomb is more safe

a.h. January 30, 2010, 5:58 PM

quit complaining and just follow the rules, they are so YOUR FAMILY can get to you destination safely. deal with it.

wrysuitor January 30, 2010, 6:06 PM

I beg to differ from these “better safe than sorry” folk- “those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither”- Ben Franklin. TSA needs to flip the “on” switch on their brains when making these calls.

Jay January 30, 2010, 6:19 PM

Some of you saying better safe than sorry are out of your minds. The 3oz TSA rule does nothing to improve security. This is all security theater made to make you think you’re safe. If it was the case that anything over 3oz was dangerous whats to stop 3 terrorists from getting together and combining their 3 oz allotments into 9 ounces?

Sexychicken January 30, 2010, 6:32 PM

Lucky for Ben Franklin there were no plastic explosives when he was growing up. If you are unsure of the rules, research before you fly. Want chocolate milk on flight? Request it from the airline. They will supply it for you. Want to bring your play doh home from grandma’s house? Put it in your checked luggage and give the kid some crayons on the plane.

boBob January 30, 2010, 6:39 PM

this seems eerily out of touch

Holly Jahangiri January 30, 2010, 6:59 PM

What’s “eerily out of touch” is the folks who don’t understand what Ben Franklin was saying. Or don’t care. He didn’t have planes, either; but people did get killed by assassins and the world WAS a dangerous place. He thought about it before he said it, and he was right. What it seems people had more of, back then, was common sense. And less “political correctness,” though I hesitate to say that and encourage the rude and politically INCORRECT folks out there in their madness. Decent people - based on behavior, not on skin color, nationality, politics, or religious beliefs - should be treated with dignity and courtesy, NOT like cattle. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t fly. Period. Not only do we have to put up with this nonsense, but in my experience, TSA treats people with more respect than the airlines do.

Molly February 3, 2010, 7:32 PM

Wow. You really are a clueless woman. I’m a mom, I don’t travel much, however, when i did this holiday season, I checked the rules before packing a bag for my son. The sad reality is that people DO use their kids and every day items to smuggle things through security. Next time, spend 10 minutes preparing for your trip and you won’t have a problem.

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