Tell me…. do I look dangerous to you? Apparently the TSA still thinks so.
Rapid City Regional Airport. Just another nondescript launching pad in the life of a travel writer. Or so I thought.
But it turned out to be a no-good, very bad, terrible day.
As I’m going through security in the small but deserted airport, the TSA agent stops me and declares that I’m a “random person” and has to swab my hands. Okay, no problem. I know I haven’t shot a gun or built a bomb recently.
I hear the TSA agent sigh and mutter under his breath.
“Your hands tested for residue. We have to do a complete security pat-down.”
“Seriously?!?” I say, and give him my meanest face, the one reserve for my kids when they misbehave in church. “I’m a middle-aged, blonde-ponytailed mother of two with cute luggage. You think I’m dangerous?”
He gestured to the very young female agent just off to the side.
“The only residue on my hands is the soap from your ladies’ room that I left just 60 seconds ago.” I say.
“Sometimes that sets it off,” he replies.
“Do you think it might be worth considering using a soap brand that doesn’t set off your machine?” I ask, with just a bit snarky.
“I’m in the Global Entry Program!” I scold at the younger female agent. “It’s easier to get back into this country than to move freely around it!”
She shrank an inch, I think. She clearly wasn’t enjoying the exchange.
“Well, it’s going to be in private!” I huff.
“Yes, we always do it in a private room,” she says in a soft voice.
Into the small, windowless room we go, with another, older female TSA agent. The young one pats me down (thankfully not very aggressively because I am ready to launch into my violate-my-Fourth-Amendment-rights tirade) while the older searches and dabs inside my carryon. The older one is a pro; she immediately engages me in conversation, and we get to talking amiably about my job as a travel writer and how interesting she thinks that is. Make no mistake, I know she was distracting me, and I let her. I mean, who wants to stay angry? So I was over it by the time they released me, a minute or so later.
Israel has the safest airport in the world. Why? Because they PROFILE suspicious people, take them aside, and question them. Yes, I said “profile.” Get over it. And stop harassing people who are clearly NOT a threat. I mean, who’s the last blonde female that caused a transitory problem in the Midwest, Bonnie [Clyde] Parker? Calamity Jane?
Still, if that’s the worst that happens to me today, I’m still better off than most people, right?
I walk a hundred feet or so to my gate and sit down. The Frontier Airline agent on the intercom tells everyone they have to make sure their carryon passes the “size test.” My carryon is actually a rolling briefcase, and it always fits overhead or under the seat, so I’m not worried, and don’t bother to size it. But she’s on the intercom again, and insists that you will not board the plane unless you’ve passed the check. No problem, just a formality.
I bring my carryon up to get the acceptance.
“I need to see your ticket,” the ticket agent informs me. I give it to her. “You are not authorized to have a carryon for this flight,” she declares.
“You purchased it through a third party and you’ll have to pay $50 for a normal (vs. personal) size carryon or check it.” This was after already dishing out $25 for my suitcase.
“I’m not checking this carryon!” I say, voice starting to rise. “I have a laptop and two expensive cameras in here!”
She leads me over to the sizing buckets to see if we can squeeze it into the “personal” space. Nope.
“I’m not checking it!” I say, just to make sure they understand me.
People are starting to stare.
How small IS this airplane I thought to myself. I’ve taken this carryon on some pretty small aircraft, and it has never been a problem.
Another ticketing agent takes me aside and says, “I bet if you try to repack it, you could get it to fit.” So I shift things around, so that everything fits in – the fact that stuff was sticking out the top, way over the limit doesn’t seem to bother her. “Yes! Perfect!” she says.
When I board the plane, I am flabbergasted – it’s huge! My bag slides easily in the overhead, and would have fit under the seat if necessary. Those idiots just wanted to take another $50 out of my hide! Ha! Not this time!
After takeoff, I take out my laptop and start to write about this day. You know, it being cathartic and all that. I write two sentences and then start listening to the conversation of the two ladies next to me. It’s not that I am eavesdropping, it’s just that they seemed to be having similar “travel problems” too.
Soon, the three of us are laughing up a storm and swapping stories like old friends. LaVonne and Jane are cousins who grew up together and have been meeting for a girls’ getaway in Branson, Missouri (our destination) for the last nine years.
We are interrupted by the flight attendant who asks us if we want something to drink. Except the only free drink is… water! The three of us burst out laughing much to his dismay! Seriously, Frontier, you have a problem! Not even coffee or Coke?
LaVonne and Jane gave me lots of tips on things to do, and before I knew it, we were landing, and the frustrations of the day forgotten.
All’s well that ends well.
Three days later, leaving Branson, Missouri airport. I am the ONLY person going through security in an almost empty airport. You guessed it.
“You’re rayndom, young lady,” drawls the TSA agent. “I need to swab your palms.”
Seriously, folks, I couldn’t make this up.
“This just happened a couple of days ago,” I protest.
“Wayllll, that’s a why they cawl it ‘rayndom,” is his only comment.
How many days can be like this? Don’t answer that.