Aug 21, 2016
TRAVELING ALONE, PART 5—Getting Through Security, or Not...
Traveling by air has changed a lot over the years. It is harder. Much, much harder.
There are more rules, and everything can take a lot longer. This blog is not about comfort (like how crowded the seats are now). It is about security.
Security is good. I have no complaints, but I have a lot of stories. When I travel, I have come to expect to be stopped going through Security. Always. However, that has taught me a lot, so here I will share a few tips that may help you, Dear Reader:
1) If you plan to use a money belt, don’t put it on until after you go through security—
It shows up in the x-ray as you walk through, and when they ask you if you are wearing a belt and you say, “well, yes, it’s under my shirt”, (because, when they say to take all belts off, you never think of that as a BELT), you get whisked off to a privacy booth so they can have you take it off. And then, when they swab the inside pouch checking for ?, you continue to chat with one of the women in the booth, until the swab comes back positive…
Long story short, they assured me that a new belt—which it was—can show a false positive for any number of things because of the factory chemicals, and I was allowed to go my merry way. We had bonded.
Now when I travel, I keep it in my purse until it goes through security, and THEN I put it on. But well worth the trouble.
2) Paints do not go into your carry-on luggage—
I knew this. I KNEW this. But in carefully packing for my 2013 trip to Tunisia by way of Rome (another blog, for sure), and making sure I had my ESSENTIALS in my carry-on, I added my container of oil paints I would be using in Tunisia. I don’t know why…I think it had something to do with too much weight in my checked luggage, and not wanting to pay $100 for being over the weight limit. It was late at night and I had to get up at 3 a.m. So, I shuffled a few things around, and went to bed.
The next morning I was up early, at the airport by 5:30, luggage checked (underweight, boarding pass and passport in hand, going through security by 5:45. Feeling VERY smug that I had been so efficient in packing, planning, and in general being far superior to most of the travelers around me. And being early. Very, very early. Why, there was no one ahead of me in Security when I walked through!
I hoisted my carry-on onto to the feeder belt that carries everything through the X-ray scanner, and waited at the other end for it to come out. And when it did, so did a security guard.
“Ma’am, would you mind opening your suitcase?” Sure.
“Ma’am, are those paints?’ Sure.
“Ma’am, you can’t take paints onto the plane in your carry-on.” A sudden stillness came over the universe. “But I have to carry them on. I’m going to an International gathering of artists and I have to have my paints!”
“Yes, ma’am, but they can’t be in your carry on.” And then the ‘duh-h’ factor hit me. I knew that, and I knew there was no negotiating. “Well, what am I going to do?” Sounding a bit desperate.
“Well, we can pull your checked luggage off the line, and you can put your paints in it.” Again, a silence descended all around me.
Now, to understand my reaction to this option you must also understand that when I packed the night before I had to literally SIT on the suitcase to close it. I could not have fit a paper clip into it, much less a plastic carrier 8”x10”x3” that weighed at least 5 lbs (I know, I weighed it).
Also, even though I might have been able to switch things out, the thought was just overwhelming. NO way was I going to do all that. And it would have taken so long—I was loosing my time edge, and I really wanted to get a good seat at the gate.
Thus my response: “I cannot do that”. Calm belying my rising panic.
“Well, you could check your carry-on. You would have to pay a fee for the extra luggage”.
I quickly reviewed all my options, and the time, and the line that was growing behind me (because I was no longer the only person going through Security). Loosing my paints was preferable to having to pull my checked luggage off line.
Again, long story short, I went back to check-in, checked my carry-on (after I took out my make-up, contact solution, computer and cords, and the back-pack that was IN the carry-on), paid $50, and went back through Security.
Best. Money. Spent. Ever. I breezed through Security. Greeted the security personnel, with whom I had now boned. I got onto the plane without the hassle of pulling that case behind me, and having to get someone to hoist it to the overhead.
Got a great seat at the gate, and I was very happy with the paintings of Rome and Tunisia. paintings and more info
3) Pack you small, loose stuff in luggage ‘cubes’—
Zippered small bags you can put your underwear in, your cords in, you medicine and sundries in. Then, when security goes through your luggage (and they will), you can hear them say, “This is the neatest packing I have ever seen”. Than makes it all worthwhile. Good thing they won’t see it in a week.
4) Never admit your luggage has been out of your sight—
When I was leaving England (after painting in St. Ives, Cornwall), I brought my luggage down from my room so I could have breakfast and then leave for the airport. Very efficient. I left my luggage behind the concierge’s desk (I didn’t want to take it into the dining room), ate, and took a cab to the airport.
Lovely people, the Brits. So polite, so pleasant. Really, a delight. As I was waiting in line in the Bristol airport, I was chatting with the officer checking everyone BEFORE they got to check-in. I told him I had been painting in Cornwall, had seen Stonehenge, loved walking the streets of Bath and Bristol. In short, we bonded.
And then he asked me the question:
“Ma’am, has your luggage every been out of your sight?” “Well, yes, when I took it down to breakfast, I put it behind the desk, but, of course, that’s not really out of my sight, I was just in the next room…”
Come to find out, that pretty much IS the definition of ‘out of your sight’.
“Ma’am, come with me.”
We rolled my suitcase to a SPECIAL area of security, they opened it, checked my paints, I told them they were water-mixable oils (and had a tube with description to show them), checked everything else, and I was on my way.
Or so I thought.
In line to get onto the plane, we were going out onto the tarmac, and I had my backpack and purse to carry on. They were pulling people off to do random searches of baggage, and yes, they stopped me. And it was the same lovely gentleman who had questioned me before, but he did not do the search. They had women for the female passengers. I think they knew I would not complain.
Well, we had bonded.
It was a non-event, and the rest of the trip was easy and lovely. And, I got TWELVE gorgeous plein air paintings out of the trip! see paintings
Worth the trouble. ALL worth the trouble.
In future blogs I will be posting more security recommendations.
Next blog: What to do when your ride in Tunisia is not there to meet you at the airport….Or "No, I will NOT get out of this cab in the middle of the desert!”
Elaine Bankston says (Aug 22, 2016):
As a flight attendant for 28 years I can attest to the fact I've seen a lot of changes! But when I was to bring supplies to teach Art on a cruise naturally I didn't want to take the chance that they would lose my bag! So here I have 75 little watercolor pan sets and they get all concerned. I assured they they are Water based and further showed them my airline retirees card. After much ado they let me thru with them but they has me very nervous for awhile. Ha! Elaine
Linda H-B says (Aug 22, 2016):
Elaine, I would have NEVER expected pan watercolors to be problem—I know lots of artists who only take watercolors to avoid the hassle (and weight)! Well, it's still worth it. Thanks for commenting!