I was robbed at the US Open Tennis Matches yesterday.

Okay, you say, so what’s new? Anybody who buys a cup of coffee at the US Open has been robbed.

But this isn’t about the food courts.

This is about a very nice metal water bottle of mine. The US Open took it from me at the gate and they didn’t give it back. They stole it.

They would say they confiscated my Kleen Kanteen for the good of Everyone. God knows what heinous explosive (or erosive) compound it contained. Imagine the impact it would make on the head of Maria Sharapova, hurled onto the court during one of her shrieks.

It was therefore Illegal. And so, the young bag-searcher removed it from my backpack.

Which was also Illegal this year. My backpack is a small, ugly, little-old-lady Vera Bradley red-hankerchief-print creation, fraying near the top of the straps–which the young bag-searcher instructed me to tie together so I could claim it was a purse. I could then hang it from one shoulder or the crook of my elbow. Which is uncomfortable, but Legal. Rather than carry it on my back. Which is comfortable, but Illegal.

This year.

Last year, the US Open considered the same backpack Legal because it was small. Large backpacks were Illegal.

Last year, they also permitted me to bring in my Klean Kanteen.

But sometime between then and now, both the bottle and the little backpack became Illegal.

Big bags are still Legal this year. I can carry a bag as big as last year’s Illegal oversized backpack. If it looks like a bag, not a backpack. If I hang it from my shoulder or the crook of my elbow.

I can carry a big umbrella my big not-a-backpack bag. One with a stout wood handle and a metal point. I can put a heavy cane in it. I can put a solid, old-fashioned cell phone in it. I can carry old tennis balls in it.

That would all be Legal.

But not my tattered little cotton backpack. Or my light metal water bottle. Or even the plastic water bottles that the US Open stole from other customers.

If I need water, I have to re-mortgage my apartment like everybody else and buy a bottle of Evian at the food court.

Why? I asked the young bag-searcher, as I took a last drink of potentially explosive (or erosive) water from my Klean Kanteen.

It’s the rule, she said.

But: I could keep it, she said: I could walk to the other end of the outside grounds, stand in another line, pay five dollars and place my bottle in a special locker, then return to the back of this endless line to once again permit the young bag-searcher to look through my former Illegal backpack/current Legal strap-knotted purse.

Then, at the end of the day, I could stand in line with the other tennis fans who’d brought Illegal booty into the park, to reclaim my bottle.

How about that?

Hmm. I’d already waited in line in the hot sun for a half hour. The locker was far away. It would cost me five dollars, to save a bottle for which I had paid twelve.

So I stood by while the US Open stole my $12 water bottle.


Five years ago, I suffered a similar theft. The Logan Airport TSA stole my mini-leatherman.

Okay, you say: Why on earth would you try to board a flight in a post-9/11 US airport carrying a miniature folding tool that you could have twisted into a pair of scissors with menacing 3/4-inch blades that you could then have used to hack out a pilot’s jugular vein?

Was I crazy? Was I stupid?

Was I…a Terrorist?

No, Gentle Reader: the truth is that I was not boarding a flight at all. I had been asked to come as a volunteer member of the Massachusetts First Response team to Logan Airport, where I would pretend to be gravely injured as part of a Mass Casualty drill.

I got up obscenely early that morning, gassed up my car at my expense, and drove to Boston in the rain. I parked in a designated off-site hotel parking lot, pocketed my keys and took a long ride on a shuttle bus to an unused hangar in an obscure and deserted corner of the Logan compound.

I walked into the hangar.

Two grim-faced TSA members told me to empty my pockets. They saw my mini-leatherman attached to my key ring and demanded that I hand it over.

I had not detached it and stowed it in my car, which was now far away. Why would I? I was not flying: this was a Mass Casualty Drill.

Give it here, said the TSA worker.

Why? I asked.

It’s the rule.

She did not even offer me a special locker.

So I stood by while the TSA stole my $20 mini-leatherman.


The theft of my water bottle by the US Open was not a felony. Nor was the earlier theft of my mini-leatherman by the TSA. Both were Legal thefts, and I suppose they were my fault. This is the US, my country: the Powers That Be in my country invent rules for the good of Everyone. In my country, the Powers That Be are only trying to keep Everyone safe.

I know this.

But I am a flawed human being. Both of these Legal thefts have made me unreasonably angry. This is because they affected me personally.

And so, I rail about them in my blog.

I do not write about the ease with which a random stranger might tip a flask of arsenic into my water supply. I do not rant about the likelihood that somebody could smuggle anthrax onto the Q train. I do not even mention that explosive (and erosive) substances might be spirited aboard an airplane in multiple three-ounce containers. Or that the TSA checks the soles of one’s shoes, but not the soles of one’s socks. Or that you can hide an explosive (or erosive) compound in a hollow tennis ball and sneak it into the US Tennis Open in a Legal big bag.

No, these things do not affect me personally.

Not like the Legal theft of my water bottle and my mini-leatherman.