Drying out at high altitude

They did it again. Just when you thought it was safe make a wise crack in the security line about nosehair trimmers or hole punchers, they went and banned a whole new set of items from air travel.

Now not only are we restricted from flying with nail clippers but also anything containing liquid, gel, lotion or anything of a “similar consistency.” And lest you try to slip one by the federal government, this also applies to gel-fortified undergarments worn for cosmetic reasons.

OK, I understand it’s for my own – not to mention the rest of the world’s – damned good. And I will gladly forego my Wonderbra in the name of national security. See, despite the griping, I really am a good citizen. Since this whole color-coded security thing began, I have happily removed shoes, hats, jackets and belts. I’ve stood in lines for countless hours, been “wanded,” emptied pockets, broken down strollers, lost wedding bands and even endured a public scrutinizing of my “Pump in Style” (which after careful consideration was allowed on board with me.) And except for one tiny incident involving a silly little pair of wire cutters, I have come out clean every time.

Which always comes as a big relief. I mean, no one wants to be “that guy” – you know, the one who gets surrounded by big burly officials in uniforms and asked to “please step behind the curtain.” In fact, I had prided myself on my compliance, but I must admit this whole no-liquid thing really threw me for a loop. Just between you, me and my recycling guy, I go through liquids like a pig through slop. Doesn’t matter what kind: sparkling, mineral, flavored, malted, barrel-aged, performance enhancing – I love it all. My car is a vast wasteland of empty plastic water bottles, and I should probably own stock in Nalgene. In fact, if there’s not at least two beverages by my side at all times, I get a little nervous.

Which is why I had trouble swallowing the thought of no water on planes. Don’t they know what that dry airplane air can do to the skin? And the cost of bottled beverages in airport terminals is just plain highway robbery. Forget about “Snakes on Planes,” this was a true, real-life horror.

But apparently when they say “all liquids,” they mean all liquids – including Juicy Juice boxes and plastic cups of Del Monte mandarin oranges in light syrup. OK, I knew I was pushing it with the juice box, but with a preschooler in tow and two flights to go, it was worth risking. But oranges? They were factory sealed, for chris’ sake. I even offered to peel back the top and drink the juice right there on the spot to prove that the suspicious substance really was high-fructose corn syrup and not liquid explosives. But no such luck.

However, I will say, on the security staff’s behalf, that before they ruthlessly confiscated my contraband, they did afford me the opportunity to get out of line, put my shoes back on and walk out to the curb to consume the forbidden fruit. I declined when I found out this did not allow for cutting in line when I came back in.

Of course, one can’t help but see the blatant airport concession conspiracy at work here. So in a show of patriotic defiance, I refused to purchase any beverages before my flight. Dehydration be damned – I’d show them that I didn’t play those water games. Of course, by the time I took my seat on the plane, my lips were parched like two pieces of high-grit sandpaper. I tried to ease the cold sweats brought on by water-deprivation with a blast of air from the overhead jets, but this only seemed to have an evaporative effect. I was just starting to hallucinate about how the Tidy Bowl in the plane’s bathroom looked a lot like a refreshing tropical cocktail when the drink cart came to my rescue. I barely croaked out my request before I was handed what my kidneys had been crying out for the last hour and a half (an eternity for the water-obsessed): a 4-ounce plastic cup filled with tap water and ice cubes. Nectar of the gods; delicious elixir of life. Needless to say, I now know the real reason that 59-year-old woman freaked out on the plane from London last week.

Anyway, I decided that a repeat performance was not in my best interests, and at the next lay over, plunked down $10 for a veritable beverage buffet: chocolate milk, apple juice and bottled water. We drank with wild abandon until we thought our bladders would burst and the ice-cream headache became unbearable.

Unfortunately, this all-or-nothing approach presents a whole other slew of complications: namely a race against 150 similarly bloated people for one of two tiny stalls the second the “fasten seatbelt” light goes off. And you thought road rage was bad.

Of course, none of this would be necessary if a friend of mine had his way: naked airlines, or barelines, if you will. According to him, the whole problem would be solved if everyone just stripped down and lined up. No clothes, no carry-on, no nothing. Sure, it would require some retrofitting of the lap belts and could create some embarrassing and/or painful situations in the event of turbulence. Then there also would be the problem of where to stash your boarding pass for safe keeping. But just think of the time we’d save. Eventually, everyone would get over it (except for the Europeans who will embrace the idea) and pretty soon, it would be just like any other trip, except, of course, the complete stranger next to you would be naked. Sort of lends a whole new meaning to “the friendly skies.”

But until that fateful day, when the security alert hits “code nude,” I think I’ll opt to stay high and dry – and dressed.

– Missy Votel