Monday, March 14, 2022

When TSA tells you, "Empty your lady bags..."

 

HALLIE EPHRON: Air travel!! I was just on a plane for the first time in more than two years and got reacquainted with the perils and pleasures of passing through security check.

Before I left, my friend Patty Jo emailed me about her recent experience:
I just went through security at the airport. The lady checking ID and boarding pass said, "You’ll have to empty out your lady bags when you put things through the scanner.”

“Lady bags?”

She pointed at my chest and the cell phone discreetly tucked in there, “ Yes, dear, everything has to be emptied out.”
Patty Jo cracked up, and I cracked up reading it. Lady bags? If I had to rely on mine for transporting my belongings, I’d have to leave everything at home.

But her experience took me back to a trip to Bouchercon when I was carrying some right/wrong answer buzzers in my bag for our Jungle Red Writers Jeopardy game. I’d neglected to take the batteries out and every time the security person jostled the bag, the wrong-answer buzzer went off.

That was early days, before TSA had grown a sense of humor (see “lady bags”). My luggage got searched and they confiscated a nearly empty tube of toothpaste because it said “6 oz” on the outside.

Years ago Jerry and I got stopped leaving Tangiers. We’d bought a large hammered copper teapot and I’d had to stuff our (dirty) underwear into it in order to fit it into our suitcase. Needless to say, the suitcase was searched and the teapot had to be emptied out.

Nowadays I zoom (lower case z) through security with TSA precheck. Most of the time.

Have you had to empty your ‘lady bags’ or had other adventures getting through a security checkpoint?

RHYS BOWEN: I haven’t flown in nearly three years and I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. I remember the early days of TSA when they were paranoid and confiscated any liquid or gel that looked as if it could be more than three ounces. They took my husband’s money clip, of which he was very fond, because it had a tiny, one inch knife on one side. I had to bite my tongue so that I didn’t point out you could hardly hijack a 747 with it.

My most embarrassing experience? My carry on bag set off the alarm as it went through the check at Heathrow.. It was hauled aside and I had to wait. I was annoyed. I told them there was nothing in it and I had been through other checkpoints with the same bag in the last few days. He searched and found some kind of face cream with maybe three ounces left in the bottom. I told him he was being ultra picky. He removed the cream and sent the bag back again. It beeped again.

I got more frustrated and pointed out that if I wanted to hijack a plane I wouldn’t bother to pay for a first class ticket! Then, to my mortification, he found another pocket in the bottom of the bag and in it… a bottle of orange juice I had bought on a train days before and completely forgotten about.


Exit with red face.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My most memorable TSA experience was traveling with The Boy, who was then about nine. He was going to stay with relatives in Tuscaloosa while I went to the Alabama book festival - a nice way to combine business with family. I had previously warned him not to make any jokes about bombs or terrorists, and he promised he wouldn’t.

What I neglected to say was not to touch anything belonging to the TSA personnel. I was pulled aside for further searching, and as the agent was checking my carryon, The Boy picked her wand up from the table and began “shooting” with it - yes, friends, with pew-pew sounds effects as well. I saw my life flash before my eyes as I pictured spending the rest of it in a small federal cell.

Thank God, the agent was also a mother. She gave him a lecture in a Very Serious Mom Voice, winked at me, and wished me good travels. Crisis averted! I’m still considering slipping a Nerf gun into one of his kids’ bags at some future family travel event, however. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh boy, more good times to look forward to as we travel more! The only real troubles I’ve had are the times I put something in John’s suitcase and forgot to mention it:). On the way to Mexico for a family wedding, he was pulled aside for smuggling apples into the country. Oh he was mad!

Another time I completely spaced out and put a big jar of beautiful jalapeno spiked peach jam in his bag to take as a gift for my brother. He was not pleased about that either. We had a choice of surrendering the confiscated item or returning to the check-in desk to check the suitcase. Sigh…I wonder if anyone ever enjoyed that jam?

JENN McKINLAY: Lucy is a smuggler!!! LOL.

I have flown more during the pandemic than ever to help my family on the east coast during these crazy days and it’s been fine. I haven’t even had a rabble rouser on any of my flights (thank goodness). The only problem I’ve ever had was in 2004, flying with two boys ages 2 and 3, and Providence TSA decided to pull me aside and wand me, making me assume the Karate Kid crane kick pose - both arms and one leg up in the air. Naturally, the Hooligans took this opportunity to escape mom and in case you’re unaware toddlers are FAST!

While the agent was diligently wanding me, I said, “Either you go chase those two toddlers down right now or I’m going, but I’m not having my kids snatched because of you.”

Dude dropped his wand and signaled for me to go. What I felt like saying was “I have my babies with me. I’m not going to blow up your plane, you numpty.” But I didn’t.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Air travel! I haven't flown since January 2020 and I think I've lost all my airline privileges, boo. But my Global Entry and TSA Precheck should still be good. Now if I can just remember how to pack when I do finally get to take a trip.

I have been guilty of inadvertently smuggled produce. Coming back into DFW from London, I had the agriculture beagle alert on my bags. I couldn't imagine what I'd packed that was on the no-no list (hadn't been visiting farms!) But it was the good old forgotten apple, the traveler's staple in case of starvation!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: So funny! I have actually done a story about those sniffer beagles, in the company of an adorable beagle named Haven. She totally knew her stuff! No matter what the passenger said, Haven insisted, and she was always right.

My favorite story is when Jonathan and I were flying to Mexico. Because my carryon bag was heavier, Jonathan was carrying mine, and I was carrying his. We were clearly together, but Jonathan was stopped at a special checkpoint, for some reason which we can only imagine, and was asked to open the bag. Which he did. It was full of women’s clothing, of course, all my stuff. They looked through it, without batting an eye, found nothing wrong, and said okay. And waved us through.

Now, call me crazy, but clearly that was not his suitcase, right, probably? And it since it wasn’t, clearly— that meant, probably, someone else had his! This has haunted me ever since.

I always thought–you think you know what you’re looking for, but maybe you are not seeing the bigger picture?

HALLIE: What have been your adventures getting through security, and are you looking forward to getting back into the swing of air travel?

79 comments:

  1. Although I used to fly so often (speaking at conferences, attending Bar and Commission meetings, and for family gatherings and college council meetings) that I earned enough miles to fly to Beijing first class for free, I haven't been near an airport in years. Not just Covid, but I just didn't have occasion to for a couple of years before the pandemic. But as for airport adventures, on the way back from Shanghai, the pair of jeans I had worn all over China disintegrated between the thighs when I squatted down to shift some stuff from one bag to another at baggage check. (Fabric fatigue after two weeks of touring.) Since my bags were still on my side of the conveyor belt, I pulled out my alternate pair and was able to change in the ladies' room, discarding the dead pair. And once when I flew with an injury, I had to have a skycap push me to my gate in a wheelchair; going through TSA in a wheelchair is much less onerous. I hope to fly again some day, but right now I'm working up to our local streetcar. Maybe I'll try a train to Chicago before I fly again-- unless someone offers to pay me again. We'll see.

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    1. That must have been embarrassing... and that moment when you're bent over and hear it go.... Been there. Yes it used to be that it was fun, "getting there." Now, not so much.

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    2. Luckily the disintegrated fabric was between the thighs, so I was able to waddle into the ladies' room without anyone (including my traveling companion) being aware. But pulling the spare pair out of the case must have triggered them to mark my ticket, and I was pulled over for in-depth check at every leg of the journey home. Apparently, there is something sinister about changing your clothes in the first class lounge.

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  2. Although I’ve never really had any problem with TSA, I truly dislike the whole process . . . the last time I flew, the agent spent five minutes gushing about the barrette in my hair . . . .

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    1. Just imagine how boring that job would be... without the occasional barrette.

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    2. Boring, but vital. I always try to remember to thank them. As tedious as the process is, I'm grateful they take loaded guns from idiots who try to take them on planes.

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  3. WOW, considering how often I used to fly, both for work and leisure, I really have no crazy check-in/security stories.

    My recent flight last October (t0/from Toronto) were the easiest/less stressful for me in Ontario. Because pf COVID, they moved the security checkpoints to an upper floor here in Ottawa and I breezed through in less than 3 minutes. Eerie though that the main concourse was deserted at noon on a Tuesday. Ottawa still has about 30% of pre-pandemic numbers due to the lack of business travel and international flights (none allowed to land until Christmas time).

    We'll see how my flying experience going to Santa Fe & ABQ, NM in early April. Have not been through US customs & TSA and changing terminals to catch 3 flights in a long time.

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    1. Good luck, Grace! I hope it goes smoothly.

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    2. Thanks! My immediate challenge is to find a pharmacy where I can take the mandatory rapid test 24 hours before my flight to Denver. We have limited places available to book the tests here in Ottawa.

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  4. Such adventures! And "lady bags" - that's priceless, Hallie.

    With metal in my back from a lumbar fusion, plus two fake knees, I get wanded a lot. I just put up with it.

    During the early post-911 days, I'd brought a yogurt to eat on the plane. They considered it liquid. I stood there and ate it right in front of them. Another time I had brought some knitting and they didn't like my little (very sharp) four-inch sewing scissors. Luckily I am chronically (pathologically?) early to airports, so I had time to go back, buy a little padded envelope, and find a way to mail it home to myself. Those were very high-quality scissors, a gift from my mom which I still use, and I wasn't about to toss them.

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    1. Also, a friend in his thirties worked for TSA for a number of years. He did the job, but he didn't like it. Now he's a Medford police officer and much happier. Go figure!

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    2. EDITH: Thank goodness you were able to go back out to mail those scissors home.

      I do remember travelling to the US was tricky early days post9/11.
      My last time going to Malice Domestic was spring 2002. I flew out of Toronto Pearson. In addition to going through TSA security to US gates, there was a THIRD security screening that was just for flights going to Reagan Int'l Airport. And they scanned and body searched everyone! I don't think that extra security screening exists now.

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    3. I remember that extra screening for Reagan Airport too. I was being searched by a Sikh gentlemen and each time he found something he wanted to check out, he had to call the woman agent from the next line over because he couldn't touch me. I'm not sure if it was a religious issue or a TSA issue, but it would have been comical in another setting.

      They also had random security checks at the gate for a while. My 5 year old niece with a clear plastic backpack of toys for the plane was selected. She was not impressed.

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  5. What I don't like is when you have TSA pre-check and the airport that you arrived at doesn't, so there goes the long, long line, taking off the shoes, taking out the computer, removing your jacket, and so on and so on.

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    1. Agreed. I've had that happen a few times. It's a good reminder of what a good deal TSA *is*... when it works.

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  6. I've never enjoyed the haggle of getting through airport security, but I suppose I'll have to do it again at some point. I remember going to Disney with my kids in 2008 (they were 8 and 6 at the time). We'd warned them the security men would probably ask questions. Sure enough, TSA asked my son, "Who's that lady behind you?" My son looked, turned, and said in his best "adults are stupid" voice, "Uh, that's my mom."

    I think it was Bouchercon St. Pete that I packed a bunch of books in my suitcase. When I arrived home and opened it, everything was tossed about and there was a note "TSA has searched this bag." Some of the friends I travel with had the same situation. We think they saw the rectangular shapes of the books and thought it was bricks of C4. LOL

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    1. LIZ: That's so true. I usually took the conference book bag (filled with books) as my carry-on. I often got the comment "You must like to read" after the bag goes went through the security cameras but they were never opened/searched.

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    2. Coming back international I've had that "your bag has been searched" memo.

      Coming back from China there was a service at the Chinese airport where they would wrap your suitcase in cellophane and tape it up before it got loaded onto the plane. Lots of travelers were opting for it. I'm sure there was a reason...

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    4. HALLIE: Yeah, I remember seeing that wrapping service when I flew back from Beijing.
      I also did not use the TSA-approved locks on my luggage since I figured the Chinese security would just bust the locks open. They opened up and searched everything in the smaller Chinese airports (outside of Beijing).

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    5. For several summers I visited my friends' ranch in Wyoming, sometimes flying to the Cody airport. They have two gates, a Delta one and an American or United (I forget which), but only one set of gate agents. They would close one and walk to the one next to it. But every single bag, checked or not, was thoroughly searched, coming and going. It was SO annoying. And you never knew what they would confiscate. I never lost anything, but the routinely took my girlfriend's expensive face creams, even from checked bags, to her continued outrage.

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    6. Karen, that is exactly why I never travel with any expensive cosmetics - nothing I can't buy at Target. I've read stories of people losing high-end makeup collections worth hundreds of dollars.

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    7. The comment about books reminded me of a story that my Mom told me about. She decided to leave the tour group and fly home. She happened to catch the last seat on a chartered? flight from London, England. Most of the people travelling on that plane headed back to the USA were British war brides who were visiting home for the first time since the Second World War. My Mom had bought several books in England that were banned in the USA at that time. The airport security treated everyone on that plane like VIPs and did not bother to check the bags. I am trying to recall if it was the airport security in the UK or the USA when she arrived home. No one confiscated her books! That was in the early 1960s.

      Diana

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  7. Would love to be flying off somewhere--the tag end of winter lasts way too long! Not me, but a friend I was flying with--broken hip, on crutches and TSA tried to make her walk through the checkpoint. Duh!

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  8. My favorite security check moment occurred when I was leaving Heathro for my flight to Atlanta. I had taken advantage of the little Harrod's shop in the pre-flight area and happily stashed my purchase in my carry=on. Diggig through my bag, the Heathrow security person pulled out one of my recent purchases and growled, "You can't take this on board. It's a gel." I answered indignantly, "It's not a gel--it's marmalade." "It's a gel," the guy insisted. "No, it's marmalade," I countered. But clearly, I was not going to win this one, so I handed over my Harrod's marmalade I always wondered if the security guys enjoyed spreading "the gel" on their scones during tea breaks.

    But the worst security check experience? Flying from Accra, Ghana, to Kumasi with my 1-year-old daughter (a long story, don't ask!), we had to endure a body check on the tarmac before boarding the single engine plane. It was sweltering, and my daughter was fussy. No matter. Not only did I have to put up with being patted down, but they did the same for my daughter--including, feeling inside her diaper! How I wished they had discovered something unsavory...

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    1. Being patted down is no fun. I never used to, but now I always wear a bra when I travel. Nuff said.

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  9. "Step away from the table, Miss. Don't touch your bags!"

    "But that is my lunch!" (As in, "Keep your grubby gloves off of my sandwich!")

    I do have a funny story about my sister-in-law. My parents were closing up the Connecticut house for a permanent move to Florida and my nephew was in Connecticut with his mom and other family members, choosing things that the folks weren't taking with them. My dad was a butcher and had some nice knives and my nephew chose my dad's cleaver, then put it into his mother's backpack without telling her about it. I was not there, but I think she had some explaining to do when she got to TSA checkpoint at the airport."

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    1. Yikes! I once traveled with a friend who forgot about his nail scissors and got it confiscated. Early days. I don't think they do that now... But a set of butcher's knives and a cleaver! I imagine they got put in a little room and asked a few questions.

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    2. Yikes, indeed, but I do wonder how your mother did not notice the extra weight added by the knives and cleaver in her backpack?

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    3. In 1970s a co-worker who was a clothing designer had her shearsin her carry on, she always had them with her for work ..very heavy,very short blades (they may have been pattern shears. too long ago for clear memory). They went on the flight with her in the custody of one of the flight attendants. And from then on were checked, always.

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  10. If you think domestic security is bad, try international travel these days. Between the usual security stuff and Covid protocols, it is unbelievably torturous. And at every terminus along the way.

    The only time I've ever gotten pulled aside was on our first trip to Africa, in 2013. I had all our cash in my waist belt, under my clothing, including 50 $1 bills that we were advised to bring, no older than three years (so much counterfeiting of US money worldwide that many people refuse to take crumpled bills). They took me to a "private" room, but kept opening the door while my clothing was in disarray. It was a thoroughly humiliating process.

    Because I am clearly as much of a terrorist as Jenn was with her two little ones, right?

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    1. It’s a great idea to get global entry! It makes international travel so much easier…

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    2. Here here! To global entry. However... last time I came in from abroad I was with Jerry. I had global entry. He did not. We both got through security and arrived at baggage claim within minutes of each other. Go figure.

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    3. We can get NEXUS to speed up entry to the US but I never bothered.
      I still have Priority Pass airport lounge access until 2024 but searching online, there are no lounges I can enter during my 3.5 hour layover in Denver. So annoying.

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    4. My daughter and son-in-law have diplomatic passports they use when traveling on official State Department trips, but they can't use them for personal travel, like their recent trip to the States. They do, however, have Global Entry. What a difference it makes! But none of it applies to Covid protocols, like presenting negative tests, etc.

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    5. KAREN: We have a similar system in Canada and used the special Green Passport when I travelled to China for work. I had to courier my personal blue passport to Environment Canada HQ in Ottawa and they sent me my Green Passport + the Chinese visa to go on the trip. Made travel a lot easier for sure (pre-COVID).

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  11. Yes, I adore pre-check too, it’s so brilliant! But everyone else has figured it out too, and sometimes the pre-check line is longer than the regular line! Although it does go fast.

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  12. Both my kids (late twenties) work for TSA so I get to hear their side of the story. Rude passengers and people who get angry about the rules - which the TSOs don't make, but have to enforce.

    They are tested regularly by folks posing as ordinary travelers and trying to get bad stuff through. Its a big deal if they/the airport fails those tests.

    My daughter in Vermont said they open suitcases in baggage when the xray shows those rectangular blocks of cheese. Might be C4. And they swipe test the outside of the maple syrup bottles. They just got better high tech xray machines though that show the contents of bags really well.

    When we flew out of Vermont (tiny airport) just after 9-11 we were delayed by snow. Went through security check then had to leave the airport, book a flight for next day and get a hotel. Back the next day and the same folks were there. Because it appeared as if we arranged the flight on short notice that was a red flag. We had our bags searched by the same folks who checked us through the day before. They recognized us and knew about our canceled flight, but they had to do their job - Rules are rules.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that perspective. Good to remember what exactly TSA was put in place to prevent from happening... again.

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  13. The sniffer beagle at the Philadelphia airport found my stash of Swiss chocolate bars I had purchased for the kids' Christmas stockings. His handler allowed me to keep them.

    My metabolism/unscented soap/shampoo/deodorant triggers the security puffer machines every time. I always get a pat down. At Laguardia, in the middle of the terminal, in front of the teeming throngs, I had a full "feel" under my clothes and underwear. Disgusting...and they claimed it was "random".

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  14. It has been so long since I have flown I'm sure I wouldn't even know how to behave. I only recall one interesting thing about my luggage as it went through the scanner. They wanted me to explain what they were seeing. It was my hot rollers which I had just randomly tossed into the bag. I'm not sure they understood what I was telling them but them let me go ahead. This was back before things were so strict. On other thing we almost got in serious trouble for - we were walking up a ramp and one side was clearly marked with a big overhead sign that said DO NOT ENTER but since it was overhead we didn't notice it and blithely went on until lights started flashing, there were sirens and people were chasing us. Rather funny in retrospect but we had no idea at the time what we were doing wrong.

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  15. In 2005 I was flying out of Tweed airport in New Haven, a few months after one of spinal fusion surgeries. I was still required to wear a heavy- duty body cast type of brace at that time. Some people wear it over their clothing but I was always self-conscious about it and wore it underneath. When it was time to walk through the gate, I told the TSA agent that I was going to set off the alarm and explained why. She was very professional and asked me to lift my shirt so she could inspect the brace. She checked out all the hinges, and then allowed me to go through the gate.
    When I returned home several days later, flying from an airport I won’t name, I alerted the TSA agent about the brace. He told me to walk through the gate. The alarm went off. Then he told me to come back and walk through the gate again, really, really fast. Nothing happened. He said “okay, you’re good to go.” When I returned home, I told my physical therapist about this. He was shocked! He said “ A TSA agent told you how to circumvent security?!!” I never thought about it that way!

    DebRo

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    1. Hopefully the machines have improved over the last seventeen years... Remember the shoe bomber?

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  16. We have actually been on a plane once in the last few years. In the brief window when it looked like corona was ending, we flew to New Orleans for a long-postponed wedding. We do look forward to traveling again and fully upgraded our TSA status. But we cancelled participating in a Disney trip with grandkids this winter. Just seemed too risky...and in FLORIDA. I've had lots of flight issues in the past, weather-caused, and delayed luggage a few times (I've learned to plan around both,but nothing unusual. So I will tell a good story: in the days I worked in the corporate world I had occasional meetings in Europe. (YI know. Lucky) For overnight flights,our travel dept booked us in business class ( I know). So one flight home, a fellow traveler looked mysteriously familiar. It took me awhile to realize I had seen him on stage and screen. Confirmed going through customs: I heard one officer say to another, "I just checked Mikhail Barishnikov." (!!!)

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    1. Triss, you were smart to avoid Florida. When I got Covid in January it was from my nephew's wife. They had just driven home from ten days in Florida, and exposed to Covid every single day they were there. They'd had negative tests before they left, but apparently she had been exposed too recently for the infection to show up.

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    2. Karen, thanks for the support. It was a tough decision. Kids went, fully masked at all times, and had a great trip,so we did have regrets.But large crowds, (school vacation week),huge airports at both ends, plus FL peculiar decisions? No.

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  17. I have provided a number of "then there was the one..." stories for the TSA breakroom. Shortly after 9/11 I answered, "any plastic bottles over x ounces" with a confident "no." The guy stared at the 16 oz nalgene bottle of water in my hand until it finally clicked. He almost lost his eyeballs rolling them back into his head.

    Then there was the time my Dad gave me a pouch of old coins which I dropped into the bottom of my pack and forgot. They scanned that pack about 4 times and finally the agent opened it. She had one of those pithy comments too.
    Perhaps my least favourite event was re-entering the US after a year in Britain. This was 1980. The customs guy searched the luggage and confiscated my copy of Mao's Little Red Book. Mind you, I am a political philosopher by training, though only a student then. He wasn't too thrilled with my irritated but, I am sure, scholarly lecture on why he shouldn't do that. But, as a wise professor of mine once said, you shouldnt argue with the man with the gun.

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    1. Right, pick your battles. But why WERE you carrying it? Light reading??

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    2. At the time, it wasn't available in the US and I wanted to read it. I have never forgotten the lesson that books are dangerous.

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  18. I think this past Christmas was my first air travel, I went to my sister's home in Oregon. I typically fly from the small regional airport in Sonoma County and being my grandmother's granddaughter, I arrive early. There was no one at the check-in desks, NO ONE. The little restaurant was open, empty, but they said the staff leaves the desks between flights, especially the early morning flights. I spent about 45 minutes at the bar until the check-in staff arrived. Then we had to wait for the TSA to open the doors for that check in. Of course, it was misting, and the airport is under construction, so waiting was done in a breezy hallway until we got to the check point.

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    1. Whenever I've flown a "small" airway I arrive before the check-in staff. By the time they show up there's a line snaking to the exit. Doesn't inspire confidence.

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  19. Smugglers! Ah Ha!

    I have not had any trouble going through TSA. I must have one of those faces, or pack very boring stuff. My worst customs story happened back in the 1980s. I regularly travelled from the US to St. Maarten. In the early days the only route from Miami to St. Maarten was through Puerto Rico. No customs in PR going, of course, coming back was a different matter. After months of flying the route weekly, I ran out of things to buy - so I came back with nothing to declare. The customs agent in PR refused to accept that, searched my bags, my purse, and me. Not fun, and I missed my flight. Finally, his supervisor agreed I could leave - there was talk of x-rays - because the supervisor looked at my passport and discovered my frequent flyer status. After that, I made sure I bought something, cigarettes, perfume, booze, whatever, to avoid triggering the no shopping alarm.

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  20. The only problem of this sort that I can remember was reentering the U S from Europe at St. Louis. Passport control pulled me out and asked, " Obviously you are not Middle Eastern, so how do you come by this last name?" (Soleimani) "It's my ex-husband's last name," I answered. "Has he been anywhere near your luggage?" was the next question. I answered in the negative, so they let me go. Needless to say, I made the effort to change my last name back to the maiden name, and get a new passport before I went traveling again.

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    1. How discouraging that is... for all the Middle Easterners out there who've so far done nothing nefarious in their lives but try to get on a plane.

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  21. I was in Charles de Gaulle, on my way home, a few years ago. My three traveling companions whizzed right thru security. I, on the other hand, had to surrender my passport and was taken into a little room, questioned and thoroughly searched. Eventually I was released and reunited with my passport. It was terrifying. And it was before 9/11

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    1. Makes you wonder... guessing it might have been that they thought you were someone with the same name? Or maybe it was one of the "random" checks they still do. But interview? Huh.

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    2. I thought it might be because I looked like wither a drug mule for some cartel or maybe a shoe bomber. Pftt.

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    3. *either Although "withered" isn't far off.

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  22. Bless the TSA! What a thankless job! We continue to tease my brother-in-law because a TSA scan detected a dense area in his head. My personal favorite experience was when I was coming back from Mexico. The TSA scan detected something unusual above my right ankle. I had to explain that I was allergic to mosquito bites and one had turned into a huge water blister. The agent didn't ask to see it, thank goodness.

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    1. I didn't realize the scan detected skin anomalies... wondering if anyone had disease inadvertently diagnosed while getting wanded.

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  23. I had an absolutely horrible experience with US Customs, coming from Canada (Vancouver Island) to Seattle at the end of a vacation. I have HATED any customs / TSA people since. I do not fly. Period. Ever.

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  24. Before the TSA days, we were returning from Texas to Ohio. We'd visited my in-laws out in the boonies and were flying out of Houston. They were x-raying carryon bags and the woman asked me about the knife in my purse. Huh? Turns out it was a fancy letter opener in a metal sheath my travel agent mother-in-law had given me. I'd dropped it in my purse and forgot about it. Our son was next; he was about nine or ten at the time and was totally averse to listening and obeying. She looked in his bag and next thing several police were there. The little #*!@#$ had put a metal toy gun in his carryon. I was furious because he had just helped himself to it at his grandparents'. No one had given it to him. I said something like "Adrian, I could just kill you!" and had a head slap moment, wondering what the airport personnel thought about us. They said we could mail the toy or they could keep it. I told them to keep it and got out of there before I could say anything else stupid. Or murder my son.

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    1. Oh, those mischievous ones! I was driving home from storytelling at New Salem when the nephews saw a fancy train and wanted to stop . . . we found parking and walked up to Bush's campaign stop. Of course there was security . . . and my nephew was delayed by a guard because he was carrying his souvenir switch-blade . . . comb. The guard told him to keep it in his pocket, but knowing he had no pockets, Aunt Mary put the offending comb in my pocket

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    2. What is it about boys and guns and knives? Though I do miss being able to travel with my Swiss army knife.

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  25. I once had the TSA guys ask for info on the comfy insoles in my shoes . . . all those hours of standing were taking their toll on them. No recent travel, but years back I felt bad about the Woolite powder I should have left behind. I told the customs guy it was jabon, but he had to sniff to be sure. Achoo!
    Returning from teaching in Jamaica, I had my paperwork marked for extra-thorough searching ("what's that for?" "nothing" . . . I think it was because I'd been chatting with the Jamaican man I met on the flight and then stood with all our bags while he went back for the backgammon set he'd forgotten on the plane). When he had searched the first bag and found books and dirty clothes, he looked at the donated extra suitcase, tied shut because it was broken. "If you open that one, you'll have to help me close it." "Let's pretend we looked through it."

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  26. HALLIE, I am laughing about "lady bags" because I was reminded of a story that my Mom told me about travelling to a conservative country in 1962. Because she was travelling to Europe for 11 weeks that summer, she brought ? nappies ? ?pads? tampons ? and airport security was going through her stuff in her lady bags. The agents were all men. They were puzzled and did not know what they were. My Mom knew the language and explained what they were. The men freaked out! LOL. I am still laughing about that story because I can imagine their comedic body language.

    More recently, I was flying home from England and I had eye drops (for dry eyes and allergies) in my fanny pack. It was like 3 oz. They went through our bags at the gate before getting on the plane. I told them there was nothing in the fanny pack and whew! I was able to bring the eye drops on the plane with me! I drank my water bottle and threw it away before I got to the airport. I remembered that water bottles were not allowed. This was years before the pandemic.

    When I flew for the last time on 12 March 2020 coming home from San Diego, CA, I adhered with every requirement. I took out my keys and cell phone. I took off my shoes. I had to go through the body scan walk through again. It was funny because there was a guy going through security too who looked like Prince Harry. he signed to me and said his parents were Deaf and offered to help me when he heard my Deaf accent. The security let me through and I made it to the plane moments before leaving!

    Diana

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    1. Proving (as if we needed proof) that there are good people in the world. My daughter said (as we waited, broken down by the side of the road in Puerto Rico and a car pulled up to help us), "Nine times out of ten people would rather help you than kill you."

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  27. Back in the 1970s, there was no TSA, but in some European countries, the airports had metal detectors. We'd flown to England with my 85 year old grandmother (her birthday treat) and on the way back, she set off the alarm. The security guard looked at the little old lady in a wheelchair in some confusion. Then light dawned. He leaned over, shielded his mouth with his hand and asked discretely "Do you wear stays, madam?" Madam blushed and admitted she did, and he smilingly waved us on.

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    1. Did anyone see the movie Airplane? There was a scene where the airport security was watching an elderly person with a cane while several Yassar Arafat terrorist types were wheezing by airport security.

      Diana

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  28. Like Jenn, although for light hearted reasons, I have flown more than usual during the pandemic. Nothing slowing me down at TSA, no rowdy folks on my flights...more like almost no folks on my flights, 3 across rows to myself, quickest delivery of checked bags, ever. And, yes, TSA seem to have let senses of humor show...like "deciding" bagel split 5 ways just wasn't worth confiscating or the agent who told me soto voce, 2 months before my 75th birthday, "keep your shoes on and tell the next agent you're 75." Best experience: booking my first vaccination at 38000 ft in March 2021 on the first try. As earthbound folks were struggling.

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    1. I noticed that on going through this time... 75 is the magic age when at long last you can keep your shoes on!

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  29. I don't have any horror stories going through airport security, just a couple of minor glitches. I had forgotten to take a couple of tubes of lotion out of my carry-on and put in my checked bag. They were gifts, and I was quite irritated when the lotion was pulled from my carry-on and put in their barrel of confiscated items. I call it the TSA Present Barrel, where they divide up the items amongst themselves. The other incident is where I had gifts packed into my carry-on, packed very carefully in tissue paper and boxes. They wanted to take everything out of my bag, and I told them I wanted to pack them back in, not them. Oh, and Liz, I've had the same experience when I pack lots of books in my luggage, and they took a closer look at my carry-on with the books stacked in the bottom, too.

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  30. I wonder if it's because we pack crime novels and thrillers that they give us "special" attention?

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  31. Shalom Reds and readers,
    I haven’t flown in many years. As a young man, I flew around the country perhaps half a dozen times. Only once, did I travel internationally. In 1989, I traveled to Israel. I was in a troubled time of my life, and I found a kibbutz which would allow me to work and study Hebrew at no cost to me except my air fare and whatever spending money I wished to carry.
    My dad accompanied me to Kennedy airport. I was booked on a non-stop El Al flight to Ben Gurion airport. My memory does not make exact sense to me now, but what I remember is arriving for my flight in the late afternoon. I came quite a bit early and hung out with my dad for a couple of hours. He left me when I got on a long line waiting to board the plane.
    The line was moving slowly and at some point, someone from security, pulled me out of the line leading me to the front and to a small anteroom. I think I had two large duffle bags and perhaps a small carry-on. The proceeded to search the bags thoroughly, while peppering me with intense questions. Looking back in hindsight, I realize I fit a profile that they were looking for. My father was black, and both my parents were born with black hair, so I am not blonde, blue-eyed and fair-skinned. I was a young (35 years old) male traveling alone, having paid for a one-way ticket with a check from a newly opened money market account (the equivalent of cash).
    This interrogation lasted very close to the scheduled departing time of the plane and their questioning was making me nervous. They asked me where I was traveling to in Israel. I told them I traveling to a kibbutz, which I named, which was in the northern part of Israel. They told me there was no such kibbutz in the north of Israel. I showed them my paperwork, but they were having none of it. These were not TSA types. They were Israelis working for either El Al or the Israeli government or even both. They could see I was nervous, and they asked me about that. I frankly told them that I was nervous because they were giving me the “third degree”. This was well before the time of laptops and cell phones etc. and I think my only electronics were a clock radio with back up batteries. They took that apart as well as they could. I had a miniature facsimile of a scroll of the book of Esther and they wanded that up and down and back again. I finally complained that I was sure to miss my flight.
    I think they had decided that I was safe, because they told me “You won’t miss your flight.” When I arrived in Israel, it was in the middle of the night. I was greeted by someone I think from the Jewish Agency. A taxi was arranged to take me the long ride from Tel Aviv to the kibbutz which was just about 30 minutes south of Haifa. The director of the program was awake at what I remember was about four in the morning to check me and one or two others in and get us to our rooms for a few hours of sleep.
    I left Israel about 6 months later. At the airport, the security woman asked me three questions. Were these my bags? Did I pack them myself? Did anyone else give to anything to bring on the plane? Yes. Yes. And No. That was it. “Have a nice flight.”
    I hope to travel back to Israel before I reach 70.

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