Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Woe is Me -or- Going through TSA with a broken finger...

Sorry it's been so long since I've written - I had a broken finger!  It's mostly better now, but for awhile there, I kept my typing to mostly work specific activities. Typing when down an index finger is not the easiest thing to do, especially since I've been touch typing since I was 12 years old, not to mention the finger just plain hurt.

What does this have to do with the TSA you might ask?  Well, I did this on my way to the airport when I was coming back from a trip to Fort Wayne, IN.  Being rushed, talking to my sister on the phone, and my dad and a friend in the car, while getting out to get a coffee... something fell through the cracks. Well, or got stuck in it... slammed that finger right in the door! The folks at Starbuck's were kind enough to give me a bag of ice, but that was not something I really needed at that moment. While I didn't know it was broken, I did know it hurt like nobodies business.

Fast forward 20 minutes and we're going through TSA. The Fort Wayne airport, while very small, seems to have the most well provisioned TSA division in all of America.  If there's a new process or tool, they have it.  Plus, they don't really have any lines, so what's the rush?

I'm not a big fan of the new scanning machines. I think they were rushed into the airports, aren't well studied, and are a great example of industry lobbyist pushing "safety" standards, so I wanted to opt out.  One of my traveling companions has recently had a lot of radiation (treatment for cancer) and also opted out.

This airport isn't really set up for this - as the line just puts every single passenger through the scanner, so anybody that opts out has to go through an unusual procedure.  As my friend was also a female, she had the one female agent on pat-down duty totally occupied, so I had to send all my luggage through the x-ray and wait on the outside of the metal detector.

Even though my finger was in excruciating pain, I waited until my friend cleared.  My pat down was uneventful and no worse than I've gotten before when setting off the metal detector. I was neither embarrassed nor threatened, the TSA agent was respectful and friendly, and she screened her gloves for explosives after the pat down.

But then I set off an alarm.  Hrm. Even though my finger was in excruciating pain, I had to go to another room and get another pat down, this one slightly more invasive. After awhile, the agent and her supervisor took pity on me and brought me the ice my husband had gotten for me, which helped a lot.

But then I set off the alarm again.  This time nobody knew what to do next. They decided they needed to double search my bags (by rescreaning, hand check and check for explosive residue), but that's where there was another pickle. In all that time where I was not able to get to my luggage, my husband had repacked it for me. And since he was standing with our traveling companions and TSA didn't know, 100%, if something may have been handed over - my companions all got rescreaned. They (and all of our luggage) were negative for any residue or suspicious items.

I finally thought of what might have been causing the alarm: I'd gone to an antique store with my Dad that day, and he'd looked at antique guns. Was it possible I actually *did* have residue on me?

Two TSA agents and two supervisors later, we were all on the airplane!

Coming home, my husband thought of a more likely cause: I'm always fertilizing things in our garden and may have done so in those same jeans right before I left.  Word to the wise, don't wear clothes to the airport that you may have worn in your garden! Or go antiquing ;-)

As I was walking away, one of the TSA supervisors asked the other, "Did you write down her name?", and I heard, "Yes, it's right here."  Which, of course, means I'll be sure to be extra early for all of my future flights.

Now, why is this all so frustrating? I'm sure you've all heard of the guy last month that was flying around with expired boarding passes.  He wasn't arrested the first time he was caught, but the second time.  Are we really spending our efforts in the right place?

This post is syndicated from Thoughts on security, beer, theater and biking