Every so often, the New Yorker runs a selection of their cartoons that readers have failed to "get." They give a multiple choice for each cartoon as to why it's funny and usually cover the possiblities pretty well. I suppose part of not "getting" it has to do with the readers' backgrounds. I've thought that some of those cartoons were funny, although perhaps obscure.
Recently, the always-funny XKCD gave us a look at potential misadventure at the airport checkpoint. For some of us, fools are hard to take, and this mode of attempt at defusing the situation is a constant temptation. You think that's bad? You're not even considering something much worse! If the interlocutor has no sense of humor, however, your situation can rapidly get much worse. There are species of hypotheticals I never, never blog about for this reason. And I have become very, very careful of what I say at the TSA checkpoints.
James Fallows, like me a skeptic on the rationality of TSA activities at airports, has found the TSA's blog and their response to XKCD's wit. But I took it quite differently than the TSA or, apparently, Fallows.
The female in the cartoon sees that her companion is on the way to getting arrested. If the water is bad and the laptop batteries are worse, then the humorless TSA inspector will pull both of them aside for interminable questioning and possible incarceration. This is what many of us fear at TSA checkpoints, that through some bizarre definition of terrorist, we will be trapped. Particularly those of us who have been.
The TSA humorlessly explains in their blog that they can't tell if those things they're throwing in a big barrel are water or explosives, so they have to take them away from you and concentrate them in that big barrel, whereas laptop batteries are permissible because, well, they're permissible. Nice bureaucratic word, that.
But they ignore what people really fear and dislike about their checkpoints.