There are 99 reasons I hate flying out of a certain airport, and 98 of them involve the inevitable flight delay we will encounter.
Yesterday I added the 100th – the random security check that goes awry.
When we left my son’s soccer camp in Charlottesville, Virginia for our drive to the airport, our flight was on time. By the time we reached the highway, it had been delayed 15 minutes. Then 30. Then 45.
Then 2 hours.
We stopped along the way at a shopping center to stretch our legs, kill some time, and get something to eat (because the airport food, or lack thereof, accounted reasons 52-58 of my aforementioned dislikes.) A sporting goods store anchored the mall, and recalling the smell coming from the boy’s soccer backpack (goalkeeper gloves and cleats in a bag after four straight days of steady wear in the heat are…powerful), fresh sneaker balls to put in his cleats and in the bag sounded like a brilliant idea. Upon our return to the car, we broke open the package of sneaker balls and dispersed them throughout my son’s bags with hopes that his bag wasn’t subjected to a random security check, because they might think he was transporting a dead animal. That liked perfume.
This may or may not be important later.
It is also ironic.
As I opted against the prepaid fuel option, we stopped at a gas station just outside the airport to refill the tank before dropping off the car, then checked our suitcases at the airport counter and headed for the security line. A bathroom pit stop was needed after the drive, but looking at the time we decided to take care of that after going through security.
That was our next mistake.
The Richmond airport does not have a dedicated TSA screening lane like some airports, so we were handed cards that allowed us to keep our shoes on and were told to take any and all electronics out of our bags – as well as all snacks.
We must have looked as confused as we felt because she repeated the importance of removing ALL SNACKS. Several times, all the while unloading the crab chips my son was hoarding, tiny bags of almonds and cashews and my M&Ms. I understand where my snack bags of almonds might be dangerous to those with allergies, but beyond that, I couldn’t grasp the urgency as the TSA agent repeated “are you sure you have all your snacks?” as we emptied our food items into it’s own bin.
Yes, I like my snacks, lady. No need to be pushy.
My son headed through the x-ray machine first and then I followed, but when I did, a buzzer sounded. The TSA agent said, quite apologetically, “It’s your lucky day, you’ve been selected for a random security check.” He took me aside and asked me to hold out my hands. After swabbing my palms, he fed the swab into a machine, which buzzed. “This came back positive.” He turned to the agent manning the X-ray machine. “The other machine is uploading right now. What do I do?”
The what-to-be-done was a full body pat-down. Apparently, that buzzer signaled explosives on my hands.
Well, crap. Was it the gasoline I pumped?
A female agent took over, snapped on a pair of gloves (thank you for not patting me down after digging through others stuff) and gave me a very thorough patting down, although why they call it “put down” befuddled me, because it felt more like she was trying to brush clinging dog hairs from, well, everywhere.
I could sense alternating restrained laughter and concern coming from my son, standing somewhere behind me.
They took the swab to another machine, which buzzed as well. “It came back with something else, though”, a female TSA agent called out.
Hmm. I eyed my fourteen year old over my shoulder. What WAS in those sneaker balls, anyway?
Another female TSA agent came over. “We have to do another pat down. In private.”
She picked up all belongings, scattered across the table from her search, and carried them into a small room. The first TSA agent snapped on a new pair of rubber gloves.
Happy birthday to me.
“This one will be a little different. Instead of the backs of our hands, we need to use the front, and we need to pat down your chest and the bottom of your backside.”
I may have grumbled something to my son about this being his last camp out here. She asked me if there was anything she needed to know. “Well, I really do have to pee, so don’t press too hard on my bladder because I’m fifty.” While she didn’t get TOO personal in the search, I don’t like anyone touching my food baby belly. I vowed to lose 50 pounds then and there.
Search over, she said I was fine (what did they expect to find on the second search, anyway?), and left me to pack up my belongings. The remaining agent said that any number of things, any kind of solvent or chemical, including gasoline, could trigger the machine, and since anyone could be hit with a random check, the best thing to before hitting security was to hit the loo and wash your hands – even if your only purpose is to wash your hands with soap and water.
Unless you actually enjoy full body pat-downs. Which I do not, but who am I to judge?
While it was suggested to me that the REAL moral of the story is to bite the bullet for the pre-paid fuel option for your airport car rental (or to pass on that last cup of coffee for the road, no matter how tired you are), I’m sticking with “always pee before going through security”.