Don’t play Playtex with the TSA

By Marla Boone

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and to expect a different outcome. This is why I started packing my luggage differently.

When absolutely necessary, I fly commercially. Flying commercially is not the unmitigated joy that is used to be. The airlines used to love to have you on board. Or at least they tolerated you. Now the airlines act as though you are really sort of an inconvenience and if they could find a way to fly empty jets around for profit they’d do that instead of hauling us hither and yon. One of the ways the airlines show their dislike of us paying passengers is to make us pay more. What an exit row seat? Pay more. Want a bulkhead seat? Pay more. Want to board first? Pay more. Want to bring along a change of clothes? Pay more.

Since I am willing to sit anywhere on the airplane with the possible exception of the lavatory, I don’t pay for seat upgrades. And since the people who get on the airplane first arrive more or less at the same time as the people who get on last, I don’t pay for early boarding. The luggage thing is a little trickier. It just rankles me to the nth power that airlines change for checked luggage and they charge a lot. Anyone who has been in an airport recently knows that many passengers now opt to forego checked baggage and use only a carry-on. Carry-ons are supposed to fit underneath the seat in front of you or into the overhead bin. Ha ha. This is just a little travel humor. In an effort to avoid paying baggage fees, people have begun to claim ever-larger pieces of luggage as carry-ons. They (the bags, not the people) are approaching the dimensions of steamer trunks.

Because I am a law-abiding citizen and because I don’t want my luggage confiscated and hurled into the belly of an airplane to be named later, I use a very modestly-sized carry-on. Then I cram it full.

The problem with cramming a piece of luggage full is that when the fastening device is undone — or sometimes before that if I have over-reached the structural limits of the zipper — clothes tend to pop up out of my bag like a jack-in-the-box. Often, the last thing I pack are, er … indelicates. So when the nice TSA man asks me to open my bag, he is hit, full-force, with a catapulting bra. Or worse.

Now I realize getting hit in the face with a bra is not as bad (or at least drier) than getting hit in the face with a contraband bottle of water. But it does confer a level of intimacy I am not willing to initiate with someone who already has the authority to strip-search me.

In an effort to avoid delays, injured TSA agents, and extreme embarrassment, I started packing differently. I began putting the more personal items in the bottom of my bag. Reasonable, right? Frustratingly enough, however, ineffective. No matter where my underwear start out in my carry-on, they rise to the surface like fat on broth. They seem to rearrange themselves to be where they will cause the most unease, right at the top of the bag. It’s as if my bras are filled with helium.

And, in hindsight, warning the agent he is about to be assaulted by Playtex does no good at all.

Through the miracle of modern medicine, I have new knees. These knees, locally acquired, are two of the best things that ever happened to me. They allow me to bike, walk, climb stairs — essentially live life — pain-free. What they do not allow me to do is get through an airport security check with any degree of certainty, speed, or privacy. Even though I am a sure-bet for the body scanner, I am still almost always treated to a hands-on, intimate pat-down of various body parts. Oddly enough, it is rarely my knees that trigger a detailed search. Sometimes the offending object remains a mystery. Once it was a zipper. And on one especially memorable occasion, it was the TSA agent’s own watch over which she repeatedly ran the wand, setting up a merry cacophony that irritated every single person in the terminal.

So, the next time you are held up in the security check point, look up to the front of the line. If there is a woman up there surrounded by underwear cascading to the floor to the tune of a wand on full alert, be patient. It’s me.

By Marla Boone

Marla Boone lives in the Miami Valley and writes columns for Aim Media Midwest.

Marla Boone lives in the Miami Valley and writes columns for Aim Media Midwest.