We flew out of Albany a week ago Friday.

We had all packed our own bags, and we let Silas pack his own this time as well, with a minimum of supervision.

My intention was to check the larger bags to avoid the hassle of having them tagged on the tarmac when they wouldn’t fit into the overhead bins. When we got to the ticket counter, the $25 extra per bag gave us a little sticker shock, so we decided on the spur of the moment to just take them as carry-ons after all.

When we put the bags through the X-ray machine one of the TSA agents came up to ask whose bag the blue backpack was. It was Silas’s. She said she’d have to examine it by hand. Ok. It turns out that the Off insect repellant that we’d put in there last summer for days at the Wilmington beach with the Summer Recreation program had never been taken out. The bottle amounted to 4.5 ounces of bug repellant. They removed it and explained that the maximum amount we could carry on was 3 oz. But because it was contraband, they began pouring over the bag. There were three or four other TSA agents now, wiping chemical samples from inside the ziploc bag in which the bug spray had been zipped, and examining it at arm’s length under some kind of chemical hood contraption, as if it were bomb material. They took Silas’s name and ticket number. I suppose they cross-referenced it with the NSA’s no-fly list or something.

Once they were satisfied that it was insect repellant after all, they explained that we could buy a bag and check it with the airline as luggage (for the $25 checked luggage fee), or we could call someone to come and get it, or we could surrender it.

We surrendered it.

They made such a commotion about the bug spray that Silas asked me afterward why they had been so upset about it. “It was just bug spray,” he said.

“They’re paranoid,” I said. “And stupid.”

But the joke is on them. In my bag I had a 16 ounce bottle of after-sunburn lotion, a 14.5 ounce bottle of suntan lotion and a 6.5 oz bottle of after shave lotion. I knew about the 3 oz carry-on rule but had packed them anyway, thinking that I was going to check the bag. I completely forgot they were in there when we decided to carry them on at the last minute. Apparently they got such a hard-on over the 4.5 oz bottle of bug spray in the backpack they looked away from the X-ray monitor when my bag went through right behind it with over 32 oz of liquids and gels. They never picked it up.