After all the hype about heightened airport security for Thanksgiving weekend, I was kind of disappointed at how easy it actually was to smuggle dangerous stuff onto an airplane.
I’m kidding. I followed the law to the letter. TSA officials, if you’re reading this, please don’t put me on the No Fly List!
But I WAS expecting it to be tougher to get through security. Maybe it’s because I left my burka at home, or maybe it’s because I look like the quintessential American girl next door. Or maybe it was because I was traveling with my parents way past the age when I should have been, but apparently I don’t look remotely threatening.
Which, as a teacher, I find surprising. I’m pretty sure I can be way more frightening than your average person.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that the guy expediting the x-ray lines at Dulles airport on Thanksgiving morning had a sense of humor because A) I thought it was illegal to joke about ANYTHING at the airport and B) if I had to be working Thanksgiving Day, I’d be blaming anyone who crossed my path for making it necessary for me to be there. But at 7am, when I’m normally anything but cheerful, the guy running the security line had me cracking up.
Completely deadpan, he loudly informed everyone in line to remove all laptops from carry bags and to put each laptop in a separate tray to be scanned. “Each time anyone forgets to take a laptop out of a carry bag,” he bellowed, “it slows down the line and God kills a baby kitten or puppy.”
Because I’m a smartass, I asked him if there was any way to control if it was a kitten or a puppy that died. If it was a puppy, I’d definitely pull out my laptop, but a cat? I’d hide that sucker at the bottom of my suitcase with a dozen full perfume bottles!
By all rights, this probably should have been enough to sentence me to the dreaded scanner machine, considering that you can be arrested for saying the word “bomb” at an airport.
No joke. I went to show my dad a link to funny photo bombs on The Huffington Post and the SWAT team came swinging in through the windows to throw me into a dungeon.
And if I’m being totally honest, I kind of WANTED to get put in the scanner, just to see what all the hype was about. And I REALLY wanted to see the picture of what I looked like in it. But apparently they won’t show those to you. And my dad said that if I asked to go in the scanner, he would kill me Dexter style (which apparently you ARE allowed to say at the airport, because the SWAT team was still hovering to make sure I didn’t say “bomb” again in any context and they nodded their approval when my dad said that). So I didn’t mention the scanners, just stared longingly at them as I put all of my stuff on the X-ray belt.
“No,” the security guy told me, still completely deadpan, “God picks whether it’s a kitten or a puppy that dies.” Then he began listing items that couldn’t go through security with us and what we should do with them. “If you have a cup of coffee, finish it. If you have a bottle of water, dump it out. If you have tequila, share it.”
I kind of wanted him to be my new best friend.
Sadly, despite setting off the metal detector twice with my jewelry, I was cleared once my hands, wrists, and neck were naked and avoided the full body scanner.
I took my time putting my shoes back on (I’d worn boots entirely because I thought they might give me a better chance of getting picked for the scanner), hoping to see if ANYONE had to go through it, but no one did while I was there. Which I think is kind of irresponsible of the TSA. I mean, I’d forgotten that I had a lipgloss in my purse that WASN’T in my little plastic baggie. If I did that unintentionally, what were people bringing with them intentionally? I TOTALLY could have had a chemical weapon in my bra or something. I didn’t. But I COULD HAVE. (But I wouldn’t. Again, TSA, I promise, I’m not a threat!)
But alas, I wasn’t meant to go through the full body scanner.
My experience was the same on the way back, minus the sense of humor. In fact, I was pretty sure that if I joked about leaving my laptop in my bag with the security guys in LA, I would have been dragged into a back room, beaten within an inch of my life, then shipped off to Guantanamo, Harold and Kumar style.
But they must have sensed my desire to be targeted for some additional screening, because right after the flight attendant scanned my boarding pass, I was pulled aside by a TSA crew seated at a table just inside the jetway and told to display my palms.
Of course, I had no idea what was going on, because I hadn’t heard of this particular type of screening, and thought they were going to say my suitcase was too big to carry on, because after Black Friday shopping in LA, it was stuffed far beyond the allowed size limit and was in peril of bursting, spewing clothes, shoes, and makeup over everything within a sixty mile radius.
So I panicked, knowing that my dad would murder me and throw my body out of the exit row door somewhere over middle America if we had to wait at baggage claim (and in that moment it dawned on me that THAT is the precise reason why he insists on exit row seats, not the extra leg room).
But no, they just rubbed a cloth over my hand and analyzed it to see if I’d been handling any chemicals. Which, boringly enough, I hadn’t, so they sent me and my ready-to-explode suitcase on our merry way.
So even though I didn’t get to experience any extreme security measures, at least I made it to California and back in one piece over the busiest travel weekend of the year. Which I guess means that whatever the TSA is doing, it’s working. Even if they ARE leaking almost naked pictures of people on the internet.
Which, if it happened, would probably be good for my writing career, publicity-wise.
I’m so wearing an “Everyone Loves a Muslim Girl” shirt the next time I fly.
Although knowing my luck, I’d get a security guy with a sense of humor and be waved straight through. Oh well.