Burt Prelutsky

I recently had to fly up to San Francisco in order to appear on Ronn Owens' popular radio show. It was the third time I had done an hour with the affable Mr. Owens, and it was the best one yet because it marked the first time I ever had listeners in the ultra liberal Bay area calling in to agree with me. In fact, so many callers had nice things to say about my conservative commentary, I accused the show’s producer, Mark Silverman, of having fallen asleep at the switch.

Although I realize I'm grasping at straws, I can only hope that it's a sign that the town that gave us Nancy Pelosi is belatedly coming to its senses.

In fact the only downside to the trip was my having to deal with airport security. In Burbank, I was pulled out of line, not because, God forbid, I was trying to sneak a bottle of water or a jar of hair gel aboard, but because my can of deodorant and my tube of Crest were deemed too large. The two items were promptly confiscated. Fitting the terrorist profile as I do -- being a bald 67-year-old American male -- it made perfect sense that they’d want to separate me from those potentially lethal toiletries.

Of course that meant I had to purchase smaller versions of the stuff when I reached my destination.

However, the following afternoon, when I went through security at the Oakland airport, I was once again yanked out of line. And once again the problem was my deodorant and my toothpaste. This time, my sin was in not having placed them in a plastic baggy. But instead of confiscating them, I was simply sent back to the ticket counter where a bag was provided.

What was not provided at either airport was an explanation. If toothpaste and deodorant in the wrong hands somehow form a dangerous combination, what possible difference does the size of the container make? And why is it important to place them in plastic? Are Islamic terrorists reporting back to Osama bin Laden that the Great Satan has stymied their sabotage efforts with the baggy defense?

I'd also like to know who's making all the money providing the airlines with these millions of plastic baggies. Call me a cynic, but I'm smelling political pay-offs.

But as much a headache as air travel is for the rest of us these days, think what a hardship it is for Fadhel Al-Maliki, the 35-year-old Iraqi national who was stopped at LAX the other day. When he set off the metal alarm, it was discovered that he had concealed a rock, chewing gum and a thin wire filament, in his rectum. When questioned, Al-Maliki explained that the items were intended to alleviate stress. I, for one, think that's as good a reason for carting a rock around in one’s behind as I’ve ever heard.

There are, I believe, two lessons to be learned from all this. One, if Fadhel ever offers you a piece of Dentyne, pass. Two, the next time any of you decides to alleviate the normal stress of air travel by sneaking a bottle of tranquilizers or "War and Peace" aboard, first be sure to put your tushy in a plastic baggy.