Christmas miracle at the airport

Airport security

I had already taken off my jacket and placed it in the plastic tub for the x-ray machine at the airport when the TSA agent told me I could leave it on. Ok, weird, I always thought I had to take that off, but whatever. Then I started to take off my belt and my shoes and the TSA agent told me that no, I could leave those on, too. All I needed to do was put my suitcase and backpack on the conveyor belt.

“I don’t have to take my laptop out to be scanned separately?” I asked her.

“No, this is pre-check. Just put your bags through the x-ray machine and walk through the metal detector,” as if I was the person acting totally cuckoo here. I wanted to say, “Don’t you want to scan my liquids separately? Don’t you want to check my shoes for explosives? Don’t you want to take naked pictures of me with your backscatter machine?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?! ” But I did not say these things. Instead, I gleefully sent my bags through the machine and then walked through the metal detector and that was that. It was a crazy, beautiful post-Christmas miracle.

As I waited for my flight to depart, I went online and discovered I’d been filtered into one of the new pre-check security lines at approximately 35 airports in the US. I did vaguely recall Delta asking me to check a box authorizing them to share information with the TSA when I’d booked my flight. And I had wondered why the TSA agent who checked my ID also scanned my ticket, something I’d never seen them do before. There was also an agent standing next to the person checking IDs who was asking people in line random personal questions like, “Who were you visiting?” or “Are you in a rush to get home?” which in retrospect was probably a behavior screening technique called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques).

Regardless of what it was, it was TOTALLY AWESOME. It is ridiculous how joyful I was not to be treated like a criminal on my way to my departure gate. I was still buzzing on happy at least 30 minutes later. It was especially nice because in the security line before my flight a few days earlier I had remembered to take off my belt, my jacket, and my coat, to empty my pockets, and to pull out my liquids and laptop for individual scanning, but as I walked toward the nudie-picture machine the TSA agent had to remind me to take off my shoes. D’oh! I’d felt like such an amateur. And this time it didn’t even matter.

I hope this pre-check program gets rolled out everywhere and that I always, always, always qualify for it. It’s kind of sad that I live in a world where not being examined like a bug in a dish before a flight is considered a luxury, but I’ll take my luxuries where I can get them.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Natalie • December 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I’ve never had to take off jacket or shoes (only metal things like keys in my pocket) here in Australia but I am usually chosen for the random bomb-chemicals check which is done by some kind of mechanical sniffer device being run up and down beside your body. Not intrusive at all, but I always wonder why they pick me!

Last year I finally got a new manicure set for Mother’s Day after years of putting up with a pair of scissors and an orange stick. Then we went on a flight, and I put it in my carry-on case instead of my luggage. Of course the teeny tiny implements were picked up by the scanner and confiscated. They said that if I walked to the post office and brought back a padded envelope and stamps they would mail them to me, but I couldn’t be bothered. I never actually got to use it.

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KDA • December 31, 2012 at 8:51 pm

My husband, one-year-old and I traveled from Indianapolis to California and back for Thanksgiving. I have to say that every single TSA agent we encountered was nice and very helpful. I don’t know if they pitied us b/c we were traveling with a child, but I couldn’t have asked for better treatment. Of course, I’m the type of traveler who is willing to do just about anything to travel more safely.

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JenFul • December 31, 2012 at 9:28 pm

@Natalie – Obviously you smell like da’ bomb :)

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schmei • January 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Wow – this makes me very happy to read!

We haven’t flown anywhere in… two years? In part because the security process gets us (especially my usually-cool husband) SO ANGRY, and the naked picture cancer-causing backscatter machines feel like such a violation, and I’ve heard horror stories about small children being manhandled by TSA agents and I would get arrested if someone did that to my kid.

So… do you really only have to check a box to not get terrorized by the TSA? I need to look in to this further… this is the first I’ve heard about it.

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JenFul • January 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm

@schmei – The process by which you qualify for pre-check is kind of vague. It’s only available in select airports, not everywhere, and it looks like only a few airlines are working with the TSA to qualify passengers. In my case, I signed up with the Delta frequent flier program and I’ve flown Delta several times before. So they probably used that information to infer that I’m not likely to blow up the plane.

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Pam • January 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Jennette, I went to NYC in November, and they did the full-check there. Course that was a month earlier, perhaps the laws got less strict since then? But then I’m also thinking at NYC (LaGuardia) they may never relax their rules. Hubby also had to take off his belt (and both of us had to remove our coats and shoes) at the NBC Studio Tour and the 9/11 Memorial Tour. I could see doing it at the 9/11 memorial, but the NBC Studio Tour???

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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

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