boysandjenGuest Blogger: Jen Nuckols. 

Jen is getting a masters in social work student at the University of Washington.  She eats peanut butter everyday, but never buys Jif–only the natural stuff. (Like a good north westerner…)

  The last time I was at the airport, I felt anxious at the security check-point.  Unlike the other compliant travelers, I hadn’t put my toiletries in a Ziploc bag.  I was instead sending my hot-pink-Clinique-free-gift-bag through the X-ray machine completely exposed.  As it disappeared into the radiation void, I remembered that I hadn’t removed my fingernail clippers or my little scissors.  In my head, I began arguing with the TSA officer about how it was obviously impossible to execute a hijacking with fingernail clippers and a pair of mini-scissors with rounded tips.  Finally, my little pink bag emerged fully innocent.  As I grabbed it off the conveyor belt, I saw the huge bin full of confiscated lotions, toothpastes and shampoos.

Then I saw the woman next to me.  She had short hair, was wearing a trendy belt and looked – according to all my own preconceived notions and stereotypes that I am here confessing – like a law-abiding citizen.  A uniformed TSA officer was standing in front of her holding out a large jar of Jiffy peanut butter. 

 “I’m sorry, but this is a gel,” the officer said. 
  “But I was sure  that it would be O.K.,” replied the woman.  Her voice cracked a little on the last word.

“Peanut butter is definitely considered a gel.”


That’s when her tears started to flow.  I don’t know why she had a jar of peanut butter in her carry-on; my best guess is that she was flying it to someone who was living deprived of the nutty gel in another country.  I bet that she had carefully planned this gift and was so excited to give it.  That thought made me start to tear up a little too.  Now a government official wearing a plastic blue glove was not only thwarting her generous intentions, but also accusing her intentions of being dishonorable.  To top off the insult, the neatly packed and personal contents of her suitcase were currently exposed to public onlookers like myself.  I cried once when a heartless TSA official threw away my new bottle of Bath&Body Works raspberry-scented lotion.  That was a little embarrassing, but certainly this circumstance called for tears.

The pathetic situation drew the attention of another officer who suggested that she check the bag.  Between little sobs, she calculated that she would have time to do that.  As I walked away, I felt resolved, and then … silly.  I just witnessed two grown women, myself one of them, shed tears over a jar of Jiffy.  How did that happen?  Was it the loss of its four-dollar value in the midst of an economic crisis?  Was it the ex-pat’s craving that would not be fulfilled?  The assumed accusation?  The stress of traveling?  PMS?  I decided that her emotions and my reaction were too complex to yield a logical explanation.  There was in fact only one logical conclusion to draw from this situation: forget finger-nail clippers, the real threat to American air travelers is peanut butter.