Have you missed me this week? Ok, who am I kidding, have you missed the muppets? I missed them too. Iâ€™ve been traveling for work this week â€“ social(media)izing up a storm at my companyâ€™s annual conference.
I hate traveling. (Donâ€™t get me wrong, I work with a pretty great team, but I am more than ready to go home now that weâ€™ve wrapped up the show. And besides, it has nothing to do with the destination â€“ I hate the actual circus act of traveling.) But youâ€™ve got to get where youâ€™re going somehow. So it was off to the airport.
Chicago, at this current juncture in the global warming spectrum, is about 95 degrees with 142 percent humidity. (I am not making this up. Between the mugginess of the soggy outdoor air and the arctic chill of the convention conference rooms, I was relatively certain it may actually rain in the hotel lobby. But I digressâ€¦) I grabbed a taxi with two colleagues and we began our homeward bound adventure, ready to relax.
Upon arriving at our destination, we stepped out of the taxi only to be thrust toward the AC-set-to-arctic automatic doors of the airport by the late-afternoon Midwest heatwave. I printed out my boarding pass with no problem and no wait; I had only my carry-on rolly-bag, backpack and purse (because I succeeded in my personal challenge to cram every electronic device and article of clothing into a teeny little ball so the airline couldnâ€™t lose it in a checked bag). So far, so good.
It turns out my traveling companions are both smokers. So dedicated to their addiction, in fact, that they were willing to brave the heat-wall of humidity for their nicotine fix. Being a non-smoker myself, I was not so willing â€“ I informed them Iâ€™d see them at the gate and headed for the snaking amusement-park ride-like line for security.
â€œMaâ€™am, you have three items. Youâ€™re only allowed two,â€ the angry security lady barked as she stepped to block my path. I chipperly explained that my purse actually fit very nicely into my backpack, but I knew I needed to have it out for the x-ray vision machines.
â€œMaâ€™am,â€ she said crisply, glaring at me. â€œYou have three items. Youâ€™re only allowed two.â€
I stared at her dumbfounded. â€œYou want me to stuff my purse into my backpack, only to take it right back out again at the front of the line?â€
â€œYouâ€™re allowed two carry-on items. If you want to continue through security to the concourse you will consolidate your items.â€
I rolled my eyes, complied, and proceeded to immediately post snarky comments on Facebook at such incredulous inefficiency. Apparently this marked meâ€¦
Three roundabouts and 14 minutes later, Iâ€™d made it to the ride â€“ er, security metal detector. I placed my bags (two of them) on the belt and began panicking that I hadnâ€™t changed into my sneakers yet. I was still wearing my dress heels from the show. Ack! I was going to have to stand barefoot on the icky ground. Yuck, yuck, double yuck. Trying not to think of what germs may be infesting the floor at one of the worldâ€™s most traversed airports, I tucked my ID and boarding pass in my pocket, shoved my bags forward and stepped up to the fancy backscatter x-ray exam.
I placed my naked vulnerable feet in the marked squares and assumed the position. â€œYou have items in your pocket!â€ the security tech frantically informed me. I immediately apologized (sincerely) and dropped my arms to pull out the paper and reassure the tech it was a very safe, fellow security-personnel reviewed, airport-approved document. â€œArms up!â€ she screeched. â€œDo not reach for your pockets!â€ Ooookayâ€¦Apparently the technicians in the secret viewing room couldnâ€™t verify this mystery item from afar.
She reached forward and extracted the offending documentation herself. After the buzzer informed us that Iâ€™d been properly examined, she motioned me forward and grabbed my wrist as I stepped toward the metal detector to gather my belongings. â€œYou have a watch!â€
Yes. I had a watch. She examined my watch, tilting my wrist forward and back. Iâ€™m relatively certain this was a security procedure, but given that Iâ€™ve never removed my watch (and may I remind you that this was my return trip) she may have just been admiring a beautiful timepiece or trying to calculate how much more of her shift remained (if so, the joke was on her â€“ I never changed the time from Pacific to Central Time).
Then I realized another TSA agent was clutching my backpack. With great consternation they informed me that a laptop was in the bag.
Iâ€™d forgotten to unpack my potentially problematic electronic devices and send them through the detector each in their own individual bucket.
I reached to pull it out. â€œDonâ€™t touch! *I* will do it,â€ snapped the agent. Suddenly she vanished to the non-secure side of the gate â€“ taking my laptop, backpack and purse along with her. I stood helplessly on my side, speechless and shoeless but secure.
Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that, along with the contraband laptop, I had an iPad, keyboard, smartphone, video camera, digital camera, microphone and all accompanying cords and cables also stowed in the backpack.
This was a big red flag.
The next thing I knew, her female colleague was patting me down (I swear I wasnâ€™t hiding anything else â€“ it was just the watch and boarding pass on my person) and her male colleague was rifling through my carry-on rolly-bag. Why yes sir, those are in fact my underwear and bra. No sir, I donâ€™t believe the underwire is metal. The camera monopod (beating stick?) caused a bit of consternation, but my new intimate friend took pity on me and let it slide.
I gathered up my underthings and electronic toys and shuffled off to the redressing bench, limping as I was now wearing one sneaker and one heel.
As I sat down to restuff my bag and shoe my now thoroughly germ-exposed tootsies, I looked up. My two colleagues were standing at the neighboring metal detector, staring at me with giant gleeful hyena grins. They were highly amused with the events occurring at security station 3 â€“ just waiting to pounce. For several minutes, as they calmly and uneventfully traversed the security detail theyâ€™d whispered back and forth, â€œSheâ€™s still over there. Sheâ€™s still behind the Plexiglas wall. Theyâ€™re STILL talking to her. Dude! Sheâ€™s still there!!!â€
â€œWhat did you do?!â€ they laughed uproariously at a very frazzled-feeling me. It was the third bag, I explained. Clearly I got myself marked as public enemy number one.
â€œYou should have come out for a smoke with us,â€ they said sympathetically.
I hate traveling. But home I will be soon â€“ and there will be hot showers, Costco quantities of Purell, and muppets. Letâ€™s fly this bird.