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Guest Commentary

It’s the fear — not the proof — that’s in the pudding!

1/14/2015

In time we’ll likely enjoy the orange pudding, a Christmas gift from one of our daughters.

Or maybe, we can have it bronzed as a reminder of the terror-filled age we’ve inflicted upon ourselves — and keeping such pudding or fruitcake around for a long time can be a tradition.guest IMG_5375

Whether it’s called pudding elsewhere or fruitcake in the U.S., the folks of the Transportation Security Administration ever vigilant to its pledge — “Your Security is Our Priority ” — opened and sampled our Christmas gift labeled Heston Hidden Christmas Orange Pudding at an airport in Hawaii.

Perhaps that is all part of what TSA calls its “risk-based strategy.”

The so-called risk, in this case, may have been flagged by the word “Hidden” or maybe it was in the warning in cooking instructions that “overheating may cause fruit and sugar to ignite.” (Although about anything you pack is ignitable.) Or maybe the TSA focused on the word “frenzy” as the pudding maker in the United Kingdom referred online to “…Internet and media frenzy about Heston’s Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding from Waitrose.”

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For whatever reason, when we got back home and unpacked, one suitcase had the TSA “Notice of Baggage Inspection… for prohibited items.”  That particular piece of luggage already carried a label indicating it had been searched and cleared by the US Department of Agriculture inspectors who check all baggage leaving Hawaii for the mainland. (Further, the holiday item had been purchased by our daughter who lives in Australia and, after a brief stay on the mainland, she brought the gift to the Island of Kauai as part of Christmas gift giving. So it already had cleared security checks, including the TSA, a couple of times.)

Even though the USDA at Lihue Airport spotted the pudding and cleared the little box — about 6 inches square and 4 inches deep — the TSA folks slit open the box, removed the bowl of pudding, unsealed a bit of the lid and, judging from an indentation in the pudding, sampled the stuff. Maybe they risked a taste test; maybe folks in HAZMAT suits took it to a lab for a quick test.

Having found the pudding to be pudding, the TSA resealed the bowl with crisscrossed duct tape bearing the TSA label but lacking a celebratory “ENJOY!”

But why mess with luggage and an item already cleared by the USDA and previously by other TSA workers?

Even our other baggage should have been more suspect, containing as it did bottles of liquid more potent than orange pudding/fruitcake.

But that’s the nutty world we live in today.

We may have moved past the cliché’, “If we don’t do this, the terrorists will win.” But we don’t fully recognize the threat in “Because we do this, the terrorists have won.” CV

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.

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