I recently took a weekend trip to New York City to meet with some clients, catch up with friends, and spend some time in the city that I love so much. It was a very fast trip only putting me in the city for less than 3 days, but a great experience none-the-less. I’ve been a traveler for most of my life. My family would take trips most every summer, venturing to Wyoming for one vacation, another to Maine, and of course the beach. As an adult, my travel has grown more to mean working trips with vacation fit in on that “extra day” where the company or client has already paid your flight and you splurge on extending your hotel. One thing is for sure, in all my travels, I’ve hated going to the airport.
I am by no means a small man. I am of average height, but am a bigger guy and sometimes that can be less fun to travel by plane. You always read the blogs and posts about the people complaining about the fat guy sitting next to them. Well, I am that guy. The flight doesn’t normally bother me as much as going through airport security. I already suffer from mild claustrophobia and standing in that tube with my hands in the air while someone looks at my junk on a TV screen doesn’t necessarily make me happy, but I do it because we live in a post-9/11 America, and safety in flying is a big concern.
On Sunday, December 7th I was traveling from Newark, NJ back to Nashville, TN and walked into the airport calmly, fully expecting my security stop anxieties to begin any minute. I approached the line with boarding pass and driver’s license in hand and saw that things were quite a bit backed up.
Let me stop here for a moment and say that I have never gone through the TSA pre-screening process. I have often thought about it, but never actually done it, but will probably do it soon as travel is starting to pick up. But, it’s important for you to know right now that I’ve never done it.
I walked up to the person standing in the front of the line assigning people which pathway to take. The couple standing in front of me had just been informed that one of them could go through the TSA pre-screen line, but the other could not as he did not complete his paperwork and did not have the proper documentation. I walked up to him, he looked at me and said, “Are you traveling alone?” to which I replied, “Yes,” and he pointed for me to go through the lesser of the two lines. I thought I had struck gold. For the first time this trip traveling alone had paid off in a big way.
I walked through the line and stopped with only two people in front of me. The gentleman standing at the entrance of the security area took out a swab and whipped down the lady’s hand in front of me looking for explosive residue. It’s good to note here that she was carrying a 1 year old strapped to her back… I walked up to him and held out my hand, he motioned for me to move forward, and mumbled something to the effect of “You’re good.”
I walked up to the conveyer belt and started to take off my belt and shoes. The lady standing there said, “Sir, please do not remove anything unless asked to,” so I left everything on and placed my bags on the belt. I told her that I was traveling with 3 laptops (long story involving last minute project deadlines and failing computers) and she said that was fine and to leave them in my bag. So I laid it on the belt and walked through the metal detector. It started to beep. She did nothing. So I asked her, “Do I need to do anything?” and she replied, “No. You’re fine.”
The weirdest part was that I watched my bags go through the scanner with no one watching a screen to see what was inside.
After I got through security I opened my bag to get out my wallet and realized I had accidentally smuggled in a bottle of water. My fault for accidentally bringing it into the airport? Or the TSA’s fault for not catching what could have been a bottle full of lighter fluid? You decide.
So, that’s my story of how I didn’t go through Airport Security, right under their noses, and smuggles in a bottle of water. I expect the FBI to arrive to arrest me at any minute.