Welcome to the Gates of Hell…Err TSA checkpoint.

My Personal Experience With Airport Security.

When I was about four years old my mom went to college at FSU in Tallahassee, I was four hundred miles away in Fort Lauderdale.  I remember standing at the gate which consisted of a chain link fence right on the tarmac.  The jet landed a few hundred feet away.  The gate person stood there and looked down at me nodding to me, letting me stand just outside of the gate like boundary while I eagerly waited to see her step off the jet.  Then the hijacking and bombings started. The airports for good reason started increasing security and at the age of 18 my grandparents had to say goodbye to me at the concourse, they were not allowed to walk me to the gate to say their farewell.  At the time it was the hardest goodbye, but for me it was reasonable.

Then 9/11 came, the planes stopped for days.  I was working by an airport and my supervisor and I were outside.  Both of us noticed the most profound silence that we had never known.  Sometimes we heard the wind, even the birds and not the giant metal ones that screamed and left trails of vapor.  It was the melodic chirps and calls of the blue jay, the mockingbird and the sparrow.  The quietest days of my life.

What also came was another increase of security, X-Ray machines, body scanners and bomb sniffing dogs.  I don’t mind it, I would much rather get home in one piece then being scattered over a field so large that there is nothing that my family cannot identify me.  But there is one terrible thing I hate, and that is the wait.  The wait at the TSA security checkpoint.  Most people blame the slowness due to TSA.  In my new job that has me travelling at least one a month to once a week, it’s the travelers that are the problem. They are never ready to go through that checkpoint.  Its either there are a majority of people that are ignorant that are traveling or I just have bad luck and get stuck behind that one or two people that seem to have absolutely no clue how to get through that checkpoint as quickly as possible.   One has a ton of jewelry on and strappy high heels and a one gallon leather makeup bag. That’s the female version.  The male version has sneakers or some tie up shoe, a jacket and all their liquids scattered throughout their carry on.  Both genders have their laptop shoved in the middle of the luggage to protect it from damage by surrounding it in their clothes. So guess what happens, a delay. They have to unbuckle, untie or yank off their shoes, open their liquids bag and dig for their laptop.  I try to keep myself occupied by peeking and seeing if there is anything amusing that they may be carrying, haven’t seen anything interesting yet except for the man who had a toothbrush, a bare and uncovered toothbrush in a shoe. Okay, it was not interesting, just gross.

Sorry about the long intro to this article but I just wanted you to know how I grew up watching how air flight has evolved.  As I sit on this jet on the way to Milwaukee the flight part really hasn’t changed, just getting to it has.   Anyways here are some tips and tricks on how to get through that TSA line as quickly as possible and the people behind you wont hate you.

  1. Shoes, belts metal anything in pockets.  Blame this on your maniacal individual that wanted to make a statement by hijacking a plane. First carry minimal stuff in your pockets, many of the body scanners will even pick up pieces of paper in your pockets.  I shove everything in my carry on except my ID and boarding pass for the flight that is leaving the air port I am departing from.  I try to wear the easiest pair of shoes I can depending on climate.  It has been late summer so I have been getting away with flip flops.  They are easy off, easy on. If you are meeting someone at your final destination just change out of them after the check point or when you land and before you leave the concourse because they cant see you til you get past it.  It is fall now so I am wearing a pair of zip-up loose fitting boots.  Once I get 20 feet away from the actual checkpoint I unzipped them and laid them on my suitcase. I had to wear a belt because all my pants have gotten too big to wear without them. (YAY! to successful diet) Did the same thing with it, I laid it on top of my bag and boots.   Then held onto a belt loop and prayed they didn’t fall down.
  2. Laptops. Unless you have one of these special butterfly cases that are TSA approved that I have never seen, have your laptop in a very accessible place.  I carry it in my backpack and I just unzip the top and BAM! Yank that out then the liquids bag that is right next to it.  The laptop needs to be in a separate plastic bin from everything else or you will get told to move it.   Throw shoes, belt, laptop and liquids in separate bins. Then put the bags on the track and you are done.
  3. Most of the time your liquids bag need to be in a separate bin or bowl as well but this time I got away with having my boots, belt and liquids bag in the same plastic container. I politely asked though before I pushed it on the track and the TSA person said it was cool.  BUT that does NOT happen at every airport.
  4. Liquids bag- This seems to be the most confusing part of the whole thing and I really don’t see why.  If it is a liquid. Something that can flow or you can smear with your fingertips it should be in this bag.  I got a really cool TSA approved pull-type 1 quart zip bag with various squeeze bottles and containers with little lids on clearance for $6 it came with little labels but I couldn’t separate them from the backing.  So, I used a sharpie marker.  If you are cheaper than me (good luck)  go to the dollar store and get a bag zip locks and little containers of samples. Shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer.  Wal-mart has empty little containers with crew on caps for containers in their travel section for a set of three for .98.  The largest needs to be 3 fluid ounces or less.  If you do change out the contents use a “Sharpie” marker to write what is really in it. You may give yourself a terrible harmful surprise if not. Heavy duty spot acne medication instead of moisturizer can burn your face in a night.  OH and lotion in your hair instead of gel. That’s a funny one.  Have this bag ready to go, put it right next to that laptop or get it out as soon as you hit those bins.   Again I have mine next to my laptop and then once I get to the gate I rearrange and put it in my roll away carry on, less weight on my back.  (In a future post I will show you how I get the most out of my one quart bag and products that I take with me.)
  5. What to bring?  OR what can I bring?  Not going to do the list because I am that lazy.  First, use common sense, anything possibly harm someone is a no-no. Second, and most important, visit this web site.  Just type in the green box what you are not sure about. It will give you a straight up answer 98% for the time.If you are not sure, still contact TSA.  If you are still not sure, bring it and expect it to be checked.  But really if you don’t have to bring it, just don’t. Once I bought a package of powdered milk bath crystals and put it in an easily accessible place on my carry on.  I watched as my bags contents were scrutinized through the xray then it was yanked off the rail and placed in a “special” area.  It was the crystals and it was that they glowed a bluish-green, and that is a bad color in the TSA world. They still checked my whole bag but they were very polite and I was very polite back to them.  So, I have been a victim of the Minor “Special Search” that I think 100 people stared at me, waiting for me to be hauled away, or find out what the color my underwear was but I have seen people be jerks and then they get the “Super special, pull you aside or inside a somewhat frosted glass cubicle and get looked at really good.” They probably miss their flight in the process.   Lesson:   Don’t be mean or smart mouthed to people that can make you miss your vacation and have the permission of homeland security to do a cavity search.
  6. Be nice to TSA, they have to go through a background checks and they get paid crap and work crappy hours. A smile and a “Have a good day” will most of the time get you the same in return.  Karma point.