Wednesday, April 18, 2012

DON'T TOUCH THE BAGS!

I have to be honest, when I first read the story about the man who stripped down to his birthday suit in the Portland Airport because he felt the TSA was harassing him, my first reaction was to laugh. I’m sure I wouldn’t have laughed if I’d been walking past him with a five year old in tow, but I’m pretty certain I would have giggled if I had been alone or with my husband. Why? Because a really white naked backside is just funny. And I have to admit, I admire his um, cajones. In a manner of speaking.

I can sympathize with him. I get it. I surely do. Let’s be honest, who among us hasn’t been on the verge of a meltdown at the airport because of the crazy things that push your buttons there? Flying just hasn’t been fun since 9-11, and I fully understand how he reached the point of dropping his pants in protest. He might be under some personal stress, but I could be convinced that he just got his fill of airport security/airline nonsense and felt the need to take a stand. He must have felt pretty strongly about it, too because he stood without a stitch of clothing for quite a while in front of a lot of people, and he’s no David Beckham, so he probably has the same insecurities a lot of us have about our bodies. Another woman pulled the same thing at a different airport recently, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see some copycats in the coming months. What the heck, it sure could make the airport more interesting than it is on a typical day.

I’m all for security, but sometimes I just laugh at the TSA lines. Never do I feel more like a cow on its way to slaughter than when I’m dragging through that line with my boarding pass and my carryon. The level of security is not the same at all American airports. It seems to waver depending on the attitude of the TSA agents. There’s no rhyme or reason to the way they do things, and they certainly make some interesting choices when it comes to pulling people aside for body searches. We’ve gone through the lines at times when they’ve pulled Mama J. aside, which always cracked me up. Why pick the elderly woman with the walker? Granted, appearances can be deceiving, but the woman didn’t have enough flexibility to bend over and remove any plastic explosives from her shoes if she wanted to. Her biggest concern would have been not to pass gas when she doubled over that far. When she was little, Teen Angel got searched a couple of times. Again, you never know about folks, but Americans just aren’t big on strapping a bomb to their kids and setting them up for suicide, so pulling a Midwestern kid who’s obviously more excited by the people mover than she is her impending flight is a pretty good sign she’s not going to blow up a plane.

All of the stripping down, wanding and hassle of keeping up with your spare change and your shoes as you snake your way through the lines is trying at best, especially if the line is incredibly long or you’re running late. And the 3 ounce limit for carryon items? Oh, the pain that can cause.

When we flew home from New Orleans in January, we had a big snafu at the security checkpoint, and it was my fault. I’m the chief packer in our house, by the way. Hubby is not allowed to pack because we’d each show up with twenty pair of underwear, a pair of flip flops and no shampoo if he did it. When you leave a cruise ship, you have to put all your baggage outside your door the night before you depart the boat. That’s to get all of your luggage organized and ready to take off the boat. You essentially walk off the ship with your pajamas and whatever essentials you deemed necessary for your last night of sleep, and you get your luggage on shore. When we left the ship, we sent all of our luggage to the airport by shuttle, spent the day toodling around the French Quarter and then caught a ride to the airport closer to our flight time. We checked our luggage, I kept the carryon that had our essentials we had used that last night on the boat and headed to security. The line there was horribly long. When we got to the front of it, I realized I had on sandals and had no socks in carryon. Which meant I had to walk barefoot through security. Ug. That was even grosser than the time I found that lint covered Circus Peanut in the bottom of my purse and ate it, lint and all. I asked a TSA agent if they any of those paper booties and she actually laughed out loud in my face. “Girl, our budget is so bad around here, we ain’t had those in forever,” she said. So I trudged through in my bare feet and prayed that I wouldn’t catch Hepatitis. We actually made it through without setting off the alarms, which is a miracle for us because Hubby usually forgets to take off something metal. But I couldn’t find our carryon. About the time I said something to Hubby about it, I heard this voice boom across the security area, “Who does THIS bag belong to?” An agent was pointing to it like it contained a dead body, and sure enough, it was ours. He waved vigorously for us to come over to him, which was the first sign that we were not moving on any time soon. “THIS bag has NUMEROUS items over three ounces in it!” he barked. “Oh,” I said. “YES!” He started pulling them out and naming them for everyone to hear. Thank God I didn’t have a four ounce tampon in there. He pulled out some cosmetics, and when he got to the bottle of wine from the cruise ship, I realized I had forgotten the whole list of carryon rules when I shoved our cosmetics and stuff from our final night on the ship into that bag. He proceeded to explain the three ounce rule and dress me down like I was an idiot. I explained that I knew the rule; I just wasn’t thinking when I threw the stuff into the bag. I might as well have told him I killed puppies and kittens for pleasure from the look he gave me. Twice he practically smacked my hand when I pointed at something in the bag and got a little too close to the suitcase. “DON’T TOUCH THE BAG.”

He explained that we could either throw away the items or go back and check the bag. Which meant we would have to go through security again. I was just going to toss the stuff until he came to the $30 bottle of sunscreen I had in there, and since it’s the bomb of sunscreen and I paid THIRTY DOLLARS for it, I chose to run the bag back to the check in counter while Hubby went on to our gate to make sure they wouldn’t leave without me as our flight time was drawing near. After I checked the bag, I waited in the security line, took another barefoot stroll through communicable disease territory and dashed to our gate just in time. By the time I sat down on that plane I wanted to either hit someone or toss back a shot of hard liquor. Honestly, I’m not sure which one would have made me feel better. I skipped both, put on some headphones and thanked the good Lord there were no rowdy children sitting near me.

So I get it. I fully understand why the gentleman in Portland dropped his drawers in front of the TSA. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else, but I would have applauded his efforts had I been at the airport with him. I would have also needed my sunglasses. Dude’s fanny was WHITE.

5 comments:

Linda said...

There are times when it is just better to travel any other way than flying! I can totally understand your frustration. I think the worst part is the disdain they view you with if you don't comply with every single rule they have!

Sharon said...

With all that harassment all I can say is thank goodness we hardly ever fly! Though I sure do wish we traveled more often : (

J.G. said...

It is just their way of making us think they are doing something. Don't get me started on that!

But I once heard a security expert describe the whole TSA thing as being "really good at preventing things that have already happened."

Anyway, I'm with you. Good sunscreen is hard to come by.

Jan n Jer said...

This is why I do not want to fly anymore..if I can help it!!!

Cruise Mom said...

This is one of the reasons why I take Amtrak if the ride is less than 8 hours. So much less stress, and the on time performance is comparable to most airlines....