I hear a lot of complaints about the TSA checkpoints at airports, but I figure they must know more than I do about what is a terrorist threat and what isn’t, so I give them the benefit of the doubt. I fly a lot, and while it’s an annoyance to reconfigure my carry-on and my clothing to pass through security with the least amount of hassle, I’m happy to do it. I figure they’ve got my back.
Besides, I have a plan. And I’m harmless.
Before I get to “security” I take my phone out of my pocket and put it in my purse. My belt comes off and goes in there too. Ditto with a scarf and any lightweight clothing (fleece, sweater, etc.) I might happen to have on because by time you get to the metal detector you’re only allowed to wear stuff they can’t ask you to take off in public.
Removing as much as you can before you ever get to “the line” is a stress reducer. I locate my plastic bag and throw in my lipstick, the one thing I carry on that qualifies as a liquid or gel. (Actually, I’ve heard lipstick doesn’t count as anything potentially dangerous any more, so I suppose I could actually leave that in my purse. But I am NOT tempting fate for a tube of Cherry Blush that I’ve been toting around for 18 months past the time they stopped making that shade. Talk about irreplaceable!)
Boarding pass and driver’s license in hand, I approach the podium. Smile. This has to be the worst job in all of Screenerdom. Talk about boring. The only perk is a chair, and the nifty light they get to shine on your license. Fifty per cent of the person’s job is redundant. They have to check the boarding pass against the driver’s license and then somebody else farther down the line has to check the boarding pass AGAIN.
Immediately after the podium, my drivers license and my boarding pass go in my back pocket. I’ve accidentally sent the boarding pass through on the conveyor belt far too many times to make that mistake again. Just so you know, this really gums up the works because they can’t let you pass through the metal detector without a boarding pass. And you cant’ retrieve the boarding pass yourself because it’s already on the “other side.” Somebody has to get it for you and for that to happen you need to communicate its location in a loud voice the screener 25 feet away while everybody is listening to how stupid you are because you can’t quite remember where exactly you put it.
So tuck it in your pants pocket. Handy, but not in your hands, as you’ll need those for other things. Here are my other tips:
Know Your Bin Requirements
I’m a 3 for most seasons and a 4 during the winter. I need one for my laptop, one for my digital projector, and finally one for my shoes, lipstick, and light jacket. If I have to wear a coat, it covers the shoes/plastic lipstick bag, and that’s not permissible, so I up my bin usage by one. In some places that want to look at digital cameras and camcorders, add another bin.
Define Your Goals
As I see it you’ve got three major goals and don’t get your heart set on achieving all three.
1. The least amount of time spent in your stocking feet walking on a surface that has already seen a billion toes (socked and barefooted) before your tootsies ever came out of your shoes.
2. The fastest re-assembly of your personal possessions into the jig saw puzzle that is your luggage.
3. The security of your high value items strewn amongst total strangers from one end of the security line to the other while you are otherwise distracted. I have seen people mistake someone else’s laptop for theirs, that’s why I put that lovely scratch on mine by dropping it against a cement wall. (Stickers with your name on it work too.)
Personally, while the floor thing really creeps me out, I concentrate on the fastest re-assembly which actually minimizes “floor time” and decreases the time my valuables are up for grabs.
Establish the Order of Extraction
I’ve got a rollerbag, a large computer bag/purse that sits on top of it. And, I’ve got 5 things to locate, remove, and throw in my bins while the line and me are moving. This means I have to roll my bag as I dig around for things and remove them while pushing my 3 bins along, cafeteria style. Here’s my preferred order of extraction: coat, lipstick, laptop, projector, and finally shoes.
Establish Bin Order
Here’s where my plan shines. Remember that the first IN the x-ray machine is the first OUT. Also remember that the longer your stuff stays in the bins on the other side the greater the chance that they could fall off the conveyor belt, the more real estate you have to control, and the more other passengers hate you for taking so much time to put all your stuff away. Bin order trumps all. And remember, bin order has nothing to do with order of extraction. Here’s how I do it:
Step #1: Coat and lipstick in 1st bin.
Step #2: Projector and laptop in the next two bins.
Step #3: Remove purse from top of rollerbag and SEND THE ROLLER BAG THROUGH FIRST! This really pays off at the other end as I have something to set my purse/computer bag on to re-assemble.
Step #4: Purse goes next. Just hold back the bins and ignore the eye-rolling of the other passengers.
Step #5: Whip off your shoes at the very last minute and throw them in the first bin with the lipstick and coat and send those puppies through.
Step #6: While standing on your tiptoes, try to either place your stocking feet somewhere nobody else has ever thought of standing or dance around as if the floor were hot coals while you push through the last two bins (laptop and projector).
Step #7: Grab your boarding pass from your back pocket and, when permission is given, smile and boogie through the metal detector.
On the Other Side
Heave the rollerbag off the conveyor belt and throw it on ground. Jam the purse on top. Grab your shoes and try not to think of where your feet have been as you wedge your feet back into them and put your jacket back on. Throw the lipstick anywhere in the purse; you’ll find it later. Snag the laptop and projector and cram those into your purse and roll your way out of security to find your phone and belt. With practice the entire process can resemble a ballet, or controlled chaos.
This picture was taken at the Milwaukee airport by Norma B. of West Bend, WI who carries a camera and knows how to use it! (Well done, Norma!)
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Here’s the really cool part. Would this not make the best reality/game show? Contestants compete in teams, with each player going through security with a different set of liabilities, selected at random from common categories: Clothing, Electronics, Luggage, Questionable Materials, and a Wild Card.
OK, so let’s say the first contestant has to wear a wet suit and carry a camcorder, backpack, insulin supplies, and a screaming baby. Pitted against them is the second contestant wearing a hooded down parka and snow shoes, carrying a CB radio, steamer trunk, breast milk, and crutches. And so it goes. Each foray through security is timed. The team with the best all-around time actually gets to fly to some cool vacation spot.
Or, this could be played like the “reality” talent shows that spans an entire television season with the same contestants each week receiving increasingly more difficult challenges to carry through security while celebrity judges eliminate the less organized at the end of each show. Taping would take place in a different airport each week to take advantage of the quaint regional rule interpretations. Losers have to walk home. The Bonus Round could be played in another country where the security people don’t speak English!
Remember, you heard it here first.
PS: Just ordered a TSA-freindly bag. Now my laptop can stay in the bag during screening. That’s one less bin! Plus it’s on sale and then I used a coupon code for 50% off of the sale price! Hurry! Offer ends Friday (7-17-09) at midnight. For details, see my “other” blog: Find A Quilt Teacher