I managed to reach the Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority (CATSA) late yesterday afternoon after trying all day to the sound of a constant busy signal. I guess I’m not alone trying to figure out the new rules regarding what you can carry on an airplane and how you are supposed to actually carry it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the agency mandated to protect us by implementing the new safety regulations isn’t quite sure either. After the “tier-one” agent told me I could carry on a bag the size of a diplomatic pouch and I asked him, “How big is that?”, he returned from speaking with his “tier-two” supervisor to inform me that he had been mistaken and that a diplomatic pouch had to have the seal of government on it.

So he passed me on to his supervisor, who told me that I could bring on a laptop case with my laptop. “Can I have something else in the laptop case?”, I asked. “Only the power supply and cord” he replied. “What about my wallet, iPhone, camera, medications, toiletries, etc.?” I asked him. “Carry those on your person” he replied, “and then put them in your laptop case once you’ve cleared security”. When I asked him how big a laptop case I could have, he didn’t know, but simply said, “As small as possible”. I asked about the “small purse” that women are allowed to carry and what its dimensions should be. He didn’t know, but kept saying, “A small one”. “Are you married?” I asked. “Because if you are, you know that a woman’s definition of ‘small’ is a lot different from a man’s”. He laughed, but emphasized that regardless of what he told me, the CATSA security agents (yes, the minimum-wage geniuses we’ve all come to know), have the final authority and can reject any piece they feel is inappropriate.

And if you’re asking what is the logic behind the no-carry-on regulation, it has nothing to do with what’s actually in the case, but rather the fact that having a case takes more time to screen the passengers. So it’s not about enhanced safety, it’s about trying to get everyone through in time to catch their flight!

My friend’s daughter works at the airport for one of the airlines and told him that absolutely NO bags were allowed, not even laptop bags. You have to carry your laptop in your hands and everything else in your coat pockets. I think this will be my approach since I don’t want to be sent back to the counter to check my small Tumi case with my netbook in it.

In parting with the supervisor, I said, “It seems like you’re making up the rules as you go along”. “That’s pretty accurate” he replied in his flat monotone voice.

When I first got my iPhone, I mused that one day I might be going to the airport with nothing but my iPhone (replaces the computer, camera, PDA, etc.), wallet, and pillbox in my pocket. I guess that day has come much sooner than I expected.