The TSA and me

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Most of us have experienced the “thrill” of being checked out by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) when flying. It’s one of the parts of flying that now delays us and sometimes infuriates us. There is no doubt that the people who work for TSA (part of Homeland Security) are necessary and I am sure most do a great job.
I have had a variety of experiences and I’m thinking about it now because soon I’m off to the airport. We’ll see what TSA has for me now!
I have made one-hour trips and nine-hour trips on a plane. All began with a check to make sure I don’t have a gun or a bomb or anything that will explode (like maybe lip gel). If I ever get to be 75 years old, I think I don’t have to take off my shoes anymore or I could just pay that $85 and get a pre-check card good for several years. That might be in my future.
Even though I know the rules and intend to comply, there have been incidents. Not too long ago I was waiting in line with my carry-on bag ready to put on the conveyor belt. I already took off my shoes, removed my jacket and put my liquids in the provided container. I was ready to go through the body scanner.
The guy who was running the conveyor belt told me to go ahead and walk through the scanner. I have always waited for my bag to start going through the conveyor belt before I leave it. I’m sure “60 Minutes” told us to do that. I replied that I would, as soon as my bag was moving forward. He said, “No, go ahead.”
Since this wasn’t my first rodeo, I said, “I’ll be glad to do that as soon as my bag starts moving.” It was about another two minutes before my bag began to move, so then I started through the scanner.
Apparently this really ticked him off. I should have known. But I was not going to leave my carry-on bag unattended. Of course, my bag was pulled aside as I was for a full body check, and a woman at the end of the line proceeded to empty everything out of my carry-on bag. When I asked what the problem was, she said he thought there was something odd in my jewelry bag. She, of course, removed it and found nothing odd. Hmmm.
Then I decided to stand up for my limited rights in this situation and told her. “I know what’s going on here.” She asked what I meant and I explained what had happened and I had not exactly complied with the guy’s wishes. She said she would pass on my thoughts. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, but it made me feel better.
Not long after that I had been on a trip to a very warm climate and had not been able to pack sunscreen because all containers were more than four ounces, which is all that is allowed on the TSA checklist. Consequently at the resort, I had to buy sunscreen and if you’ve ever done that you’ll know it’s about three times what you would pay in a drugstore outside that setting. It was something I needed, so I paid the big price and only actually used a small portion of this fairly large container.
Then we prepared to leave. I packed my carry bag and went to the airport. My bag went through the visual check and I was pulled over for further check. Of course it’s never just the bag. If something looks odd in your bag, they have to check you all over for explosives on your hands and pat you down to make sure you don’t have a weapon. OK, I can put up with all that. Maybe they could save us from some very bad event.
The woman explained she had to go through my bag. As usual, I can’t figure out why. I said, “Fine,” thinking everything was just as it should be in the carry-on bag. She gets down to the bottom and there’s my fairly large container of sunscreen, too many ounces to be legal. Do you remember how expensive it was at the resort? I don’t remember putting it in there, but there it was and I was about to lose it. I have seen the TSA people throw many expensive cosmetics away from people around me.
Only four ounces of a product is allowed and you can only use a small plastic bag. I’ve seen some people lose everything because they used a large one, which meant they had too many products in it. Oh well, here I was about to lose my expensive sunscreen. I started whining to the lady about how I had just been away on vacation and had purchased this and I can’t believe I left it in there. I was looking very innocent, I thought, and that must’ve done the trick.
She smiled at me, put the sunscreen back in the bottom of the bag, replaced everything and said, “Have a nice day.” Wow, wasn’t that pleasant. Clearly I couldn’t do any damage with that sunscreen on the plane and I must have looked like I was just dumb enough to have left it in there. Anyway, I was very pleased and thankful and gave her a big smile, too. That must’ve been her random act of kindness for the day. I guess TSA workers aren’t all vindictive and dealing with the public all day certainly can be a thankless job.
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)



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