02 Jun2007

salt1

Following my recent post on no liquids on flights to the U.S., the Patience & Logic Gods decided to test Marketman further while attempting to board a flight yesterday in Cebu, headed back to Manila. You have to understand, I now think one of my top 10 salt2purposes in life on this planet (and specifically, this country) is to be a one man consumer/service/logic victim/advocate/educator and I honestly consider that my pointing out and sometimes writing about illogical issues, should generally be seen to be non-confrontational, but rather, potentially educational… So anyway, read on if these types of posts amuse you. I was in the family office in Cebu these past few days and one of the staff members brought me a huge bowl of utterly fantastic makopa or tambis, picked just seconds before from a tree right on the property. Along with this bowl of makopa, came a shallow dish with some rock salt. I immediately noticed that the salt was incredibly white, the flakes flat and shard-like and the flavor a clean crisp saltiness. Frankly, it reminded me of much more expensive European salts and so I immediately asked where it was purchased from. Turns out it was bought at a local market and there was nothing special about it at all; probably cost PHP10 a kilo just like Manila rock salt. At any rate, I requested that they acquire 3 kilos of the same quality salt so that I could take it home to Manila. The salt arrived in a plastic bag a few hours later…

So yesterday, as I left for the airport, I grabbed the salt in a plastic bag and at the airport, it cleared the first x-ray machine with no problem at all. I checked in all my luggage, and continued on to the pre-departure area and put my backpack in the x-ray and sure enough, the bag was stopped and the salt removed, inspected and the security folks shook their heads… Asked what the problem was, they said “bawal ito sa loob ng aeroplano… corrosive kasi,” (this is prohibited on board the plane as it is corrosive), then when a colleague I was travelling with nicely asked if we could take it on board, the security man said “as long as it is wrapped well in styrofoam, cardboard or plastic, you can take it on board.” It is here that my ears perked up and the LOGIC POLICE MODE rapidly kicked into fourth gear. I had two hours to the flight and nothing better to do so I figured I would engage the security personnel in some lively discussions…

I asked the guy if salt was a prohibited substance on board planes. He said “yes, it is corrosive.” I didn’t bother to ask him to define “corrosive,” nor to argue how salt3corrosive salt was compared to say, muriatic acid, vinegar or battery acids for that matter. So I said, “if it was prohibited, why would he allow us to take it on board if it was wrapped in cardboard or styrofoam?” He answered, because your “colleague asked nicely, so you can get special consideration.” It is here that I began to get hot under the collar. Where is the logic in that? Salt is prohibited, but because we asked nicely, and if wrapped up tightly, we get to bring it on board??? Could I bring a machete on board if I were a cute blonde with a sugar sweet puhlease…? I told the guy that if he just said it was prohibited or that we had to check it in, that would have be more logical, but he wasn’t getting it. At any rate, I asked him to bring out the rules so I could see them for myself. Sure enough, they had a written rule that passengers couldn’t bring “corrosive materials” on board. But no guidelines as to what constituted corrosive, nor the degree of acidity, saltiness, etc. I mean, kalamansi fruit is more corrosive than salt. I pointed out that the dried fish for sale in the departure lounge was probably 70% salt and they said that all dried fish had to be checked in; this asserted, of course, as a flight was boarding and dozens of packages of dried fish were making their way on board. If I had my standard stash of kiamoy and sampaloc, I would have asked them if the salt on that was prohibited as well. Finally, I asked to see a supervisor who then arrived and after explaining the matter, the first inspector changed his story and he said that told us “to check it in.” If there is anything that sets me off, it is someone who is illogical and then LIES to make up for it. Why would I have been discussing the salt at all if they had simply and categorically refused to let it on board or asked us to check it in in the first place?

At this stage, I asked my colleague to just go back out to the check-in counters, open the packages of salt and throw them in a garbage can; he did this accompanied by an armed escort, as though salt could blow up the place. I then asked the first inspector for his name, and he quickly covered his identification card and refused to give me his name. Well, that did it for me. Ballistic. First someone who says something totally illogical, then lies about what he said, then refuses to give their identity. I took out my cellphone and called my office and before I could locate the airport operations manager, he happened to walked by not ten meters away from me and I had a chance to talk to him about the incident. His initial reaction? “What, salt? That’s not prohibited. I don’t think that is corrosive; yes, of course you can bring that on board. In fact, its better to have it in your hand carry rather than having it loose in the cargo hold by itself!” Now doesn’t that just want to make you strangle the first inspector? He wanted to accompany me to the garbage bin to retrieve the salt but I said it was a mess… Confident I had made my point, I walked off to await my flight and the Operations Manager had a word with, the by now, inspector who was sweating profusely… The moral of the story? Don’t mess with Marketman’s salt. No really, the moral is that you should follow the rules, but the rules better be explicit, you shouldn’t lie to cover up an earlier mistake and you shouldn’t try to hide your name thinking that will prevent having to answer for your silliness! And P.S., I checked the website of the TSA about prohibited materials on board planes and well, SALT doesn’t appear to be on the list. So let’s just say it’s a Cebuano thing to ban salt on board planes…

But to make this a bit more of a classic Marketman food post, I feature here a little ceramic container that I recently purchased at Sur La Table in New York for about $3.50. It is perfect for carrying several teaspoons of salt with me whenever I go on trips and expect to either cook a meal or two and/or plan to eat a lot of room service. In the past, I also used to bring a small stainless Perfex pepper grinder with me to ensure I had some good cracked black pepper for my meals but I lost so many of the grinders by leaving them on hotel room service carts that I stopped that habit a few years back. The salt photographed here is not the Cebu salt, it was in the garbage after all, but some superb Maldon sea salt from the U.K., notice the shard like flakes?

 

COMMENTS:

  1. wysgal says:

    MM you are just too funny! As a side note, couldn’t the soda they serve on board be considered corrosive as well?

    Jun 2, 2007 | 4:20 pm

     
  2. Marketman says:

    wysgal, DARN RIGHT! If I thought his brain could handle the stress, I was going to inform him that 1 oz of coke on a Toyota hood overnight would do more damage to the paint job that my 3 kilos of salt! Ditto for kalamansi, lemon, 3 oz of facial astringent (which is allowed), etc.!!!

    Jun 2, 2007 | 5:32 pm

     
  3. shae says:

    Wow what an airport incident, and so unprofessional of the staff! go show ‘em Marketman!

    Jun 2, 2007 | 5:32 pm

     
  4. nikita says:

    Makes you wonder what type of requirements they have for security/inspection people at that airport. What? They don’t require one to have a brain in order to work there? *shakes head*

    Salt. Of all things that dude would say wasn’t allowed! What an idiot!

    Jun 2, 2007 | 5:38 pm

     
  5. wil-b cariaga says:

    in Philippines. . . security authorities could be soooo strict, it pisses me off. . . all the time they’re pretending to be that strict but when they do bag check they just let you open your bag and have a peep. . . its just a waste of time, they don’t really look whats inside, i could easily sneak in something prohibited. . .

    Jun 2, 2007 | 6:16 pm

     
  6. ykmd says:

    These “inspectors” can be so arbitrary about things, just goes to show they have no firm grasp of what their jobs are really about. Plus I think some of them get a kick out of saying “hindi pwede” just because they can!

    Jun 2, 2007 | 10:53 pm

     
  7. sha says:

    i knew its maldon am off to UK tomorrow surely will get some supplies… ah love tjis kind of post!!!

    Jun 3, 2007 | 2:01 am

     
  8. cc says:

    MM … wow, just for salt! … have your people mail it to you from Cebu. Cebu salt, after all, is not just ANY salt. I can relate … inspectors at the airport have a lot of leverage over passengers despite how dumb they are. This was a funny blog, and it kept me laughing.

    Jun 3, 2007 | 2:25 am

     
  9. Lou says:

    Way to go, MM! Reading your on your experience, I was actually boiling mad at the attitude of that imbecile of an inspector! Without going into details, a similar incident happened to me and I could still feel the anger when I think of it. Some of us get easily scared by customs inspectors, not because we have something to hide, but to chance on someone dumb to make our passing thru less painful.

    Jun 3, 2007 | 7:44 am

     
  10. MegaMom says:

    MM, I actually don’t see the humor in the incident. Like you, I’m seething with anger over it. I’d have to say I admire your courage at facing up to the inspector. Being non-confrontational, I would do the safe thing by checking it in. I would simply obey, for fear that they would prevent me from getting on board, or worse, throw me into jail. I’d have to look into flight regulations, but I know that in some countries, these morons actually have police power – what a scary thought! ykmd hit it on the head – they do it just because they know they can, sort of a “power trip”. After all, in their state of IQ, how else can they wield and exercise such power?

    Jun 3, 2007 | 8:35 am

     
  11. connie says:

    *rollseyes at dumb security personnel*
    I did not make A’s in chemistry, but I do know that the sodium part of salt is highly reactive and reacts explosively to water. But for heaven’s sake, unless you brought along a chemistry laboratory with your carry on luggage, or do a McGyver and extract pure sodium out of salt, in which you have to be fast before sodium oxidizes in the air, mix it with water or mix it with kerosene. All of that while trying not to atract attention from fellow passengers and flight attendants, working in your two feet by two feet working space. Silly, so down right silly!
    So MM, you think you could do a McGyver? :o)

    Jun 3, 2007 | 10:48 am

     
  12. mike says:

    I think it’s a scam-the only shop in the airport to sell those styrofoam boxes is Tinderbox so no doubt the guard gets a commision-I experienced this once and I am a british living hk-fortunately my friends had told me of such a possibility so I was able to extract the flatpanel box from my backpack assemble it in front of the guard and loudly tell him “no pesos for you now f… off” btw, I was carrying shrimp paste

    Jun 3, 2007 | 2:34 pm

     
  13. kulasa says:

    Nakakatawang nakakainis.

    Dapa mga kapatid, sasabog ang asin!

    Jun 3, 2007 | 2:36 pm

     
  14. RGM says:

    MM,

    Salt, or Sodium Chloride in its purest form, has a “0” for “Reactivity” based on the NFPA 704. This basically means salt is “normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water”. Also, under the NFPA 704, it is NOT considered CORROSIVE!

    I know the paragraph above is full of jargon, but hey, this is something you can use to make those stupid police to shut their traps when they talk about salt being corrosive!

    Jun 3, 2007 | 5:13 pm

     
  15. i'lltaketwoplease says:

    He probably wanted money. I’ve seen this so many times leaving out of NAIA, where they say something is wrong of bawal, or this or that, and they have their hand out. Pisses me off. “It’s Christmas Ma’amSir.”

    Jun 4, 2007 | 4:17 am

     
  16. pinky says:

    My dad sums up this kind of confrontation as “Wala kang panalo sa mga taong mga mangmang”.

    Jun 4, 2007 | 4:50 am

     
  17. Bob says:

    Since 9/11 airline travel is nothing but falling in line for redundant checking of ones carry on lug gages. Often one will encounter people who are pulled from the welfare/unemployment line and given a job they are totally not trained to do.This moronic airport staff who seemed to be born without common sense are all over the world not only in our country.A month ago the security staff at Narita airport refused to have us bring in the cabin the ice pack that we used to cool my infant daughter’s milk.My wife and I argued but rather than missed our flight we just had it thrown in the garbage bin.

    Jun 4, 2007 | 8:15 am

     
  18. lee says:

    The plane flies at an altitude close to heaven. Heaven is a place of where all things are good. You cannot bring salt near the heavens because salt is asin.
    I admit it’s so corny I’m having a near death experience.

    Jun 4, 2007 | 10:37 am

     
  19. erleen says:

    were you able to get the inspector’s name? serve’s him right if he got fired.

    since you are a frequent flier to Cebu, the airport people might recognize you and may already have you on their let-him-pass-during-inspection passenger list since they now know that you will not take ineptitude sitting down. =)

    Jun 4, 2007 | 11:56 pm

     
  20. Marketman says:

    erleen, no I nver got the guy’s name, but the airport operations manager talked to him. And I specifically asked the airport ops guy to give him a hard time but NOT put his job in jeopardy. I don’t think he will pull any silly stunts on other passengers anytime soon. And I do believe the six people at that inspection post WILL remember me for months to come…and since I pass through there twice a month or so I am wondering what strange but allowable item I should try and take on board next time! lee, its too corny but I did smile widely… Bob, like you, I don’t bother to make a stink if being left off the flight would be a hassle. In this case, Cebu is a no-risk detention point… Pinky, what is mangmang!? :) I’lltaketwoplease, the salt was worth about PHP30, and if he wanted money he would get japanese war notes… RGM, you are too cool, can you imagine if I spouted off those facts to the poor soul?! Talk about overkill…heehee. Kulasa, you got it. I actually didn’t lose my temper, I was in fact tumatawang naiinis… mike, could the salt in the bagoong be considered corrosive?! Haha! Connie, no McGyver here, specially without my swiss knife that is definitely bawal!

    Jun 5, 2007 | 9:23 am

     
  21. mgr says:

    Whoa! Love the article..and the logic of it. Once we were stopped by a cop in Greenhills for “swerving”. When I asked what he meant by that as we have travelled worldwide and never encountered this, he merely mentioned that we changed lanes too much. When all in fact we did was signal first, check if all’s clear by turning our head, before switching lanes as we were to make a left turn (coming from the right lanes). I guess it’s better to just zip all the way from right lanes to left quickly and by just looking at the side mirrors.
    BTW, of course they will let a cute blondie board withthe salt, batteries, acids, etc. as she’s cute and “nice”.

    Jun 5, 2007 | 12:50 pm

     
  22. pinky says:

    Marketman, mangmang can be translated as innocence or IDIOT – depending on the context of the story. In this scenario the airport ops guy is definitely the falls under the idiot meaning.

    Jun 7, 2007 | 11:44 am

     
  23. Marketman says:

    Pinky, thanks, my vocabulary is widening by the day… :)

    Jun 7, 2007 | 1:25 pm

     
 

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