Steve kept checking the time on his iPhone. When he wasn’t checking the time, he was checking his airline app. His flight was still on time. His flight would be boarding in 15 minutes. Five minutes later the TSA agent returned. “You’re cleared. Have a nice trip.”
Steve said, “Thank you.” He didn’t mean it, but he didn’t want to be held up for a bad attitude. He could still make his flight.
He went to the next stop. He took off his shoes and put them into a plastic container. He removed his belt, wallet, watch, and pulled out loose change and put them in a different plastic container. He sent the two containers forward. He removed his computer and put it in another plastic container. He placed it on the rollers and gave it a push. Next, he sent his backpack through separately. He placed his suitcase on the moving line and waited his turn to go through the X-ray machine.
Steve stepped into the X-ray machine, he stood on the footprints, and placed his arms over his head and watched the machine make its circle. He stepped outside and the TSA agent motioned him over to the side.
“Sir, do you have any metal on you?”
“No,” said Steve.
“I am going to have to perform a pat down.”
Steve resigned himself to the pat down. The agent’s hands went down each leg.
The TSA agent said, “Do you have any metal on either of your wrists?”
“No,” said Steve.
“That’s not consistent with the information from the X-ray. Please stick your arms out to the side,” said the TSA agent.
Steve thought, it’s the grunge, my tan, they’re profiling me. That’s what they’re doing. They think I’m from the middle east.
“Excuse me, I’m not from the middle east,” said Steve.
The TSA agent who was slowly working his hands along Steve’s right arm said, “I didn’t hear anyone ask you where you were from. Don’t speak until someone asks you to speak.”
Two minutes later, the TSA agent finished. He said, “Go figure. You’re clean. Have a good flight.”
Steve nodded and went to get his bags. He picked up his shoes, then he retrieved his belt, wallet, watch, and loose change. His computer came through. His suitcase was next. He felt confident he make his flight. He watched his backpack make its way toward him. He was about to reach for it when …
“Sir, is this your backpack?” asked a TSA agent.
“Yes?” Steve said more with a question in his voice than as an affirmative statement.
“We’re going to have go through it. Is there anything in the bag that can explode, injure another person, or be used to inflict harm on a passenger or crew member?”
Steve wanted to tell the agent she was nuts, but now knew he had five minutes until his plane boarded. He said, “Nothing. I have an iPad in there, ear plugs, Kleenex, nuts and protein bars. I have a pen.”
“Is that all you want to declare?” said the agent. She gave him a I don’t a word you said look.
“Yes?” Steve said knowing he wasn’t sure exactly what was in his backpack. He always got through security before, why should it be different now?”
The TSA agent motioned Steve to a table. She put on latex gloves and unzipped the backpack. Over the airport PA system, Steve heard, “Flight 6437 for Boston, is now boarding.”
“Could you hurry? My plane is boarding,” pleaded Steve.
“No. We don’t hurry. Our first concern is the safety of passengers and crew,” said the TSA agent.
The agent’s hand froze inside Steve’s bag. A look of victory slowly spread across her face. She removed her hand. She was holding three protein bars. “What are these?” she asked.
Steve wondered if she was serious. All she had to do was read the wrappers. He said, “Protein bars.”
“Are you sure they’re protein bars?” said the TSA agent.
Before Steve could answer, he heard, “Last call for flight 6437 for Boston.” Then he said, “Yes.”
“I have to have my supervisor check them, stay right here,” the agent said. She turned and walked to a burly looking guy inside a windowed booth.
Steve watched the agent show her supervisor the protein bars. The supervisor said something to her. She turned and pointed at Steve. The supervisor got out of his chair and stood, getting a better look at Steve. He said something to the TSA agent. She nodded and returned to Steve.
“We are confiscating your material. It will be examined. If there is an issue you will be reported. Here is your bag, have a happy trip.”
Steve didn’t answer. He stuffed ear plugs, Kleenex, and assorted things back into his bag. He grabbed all his other gear and ran toward Gate 6. When he reached Gate 6, the airline employee was returning from the plane.
Steve held up his iPhone. Can I get on, I was help up at security.”
The airline employee said, “Sorry, I the plane is boarded. I gave them the list of passengers.”
“But, but it’s right there.”
“Sorry sir. Why don’t you go to the check-in station and get on the next flight to Boston. It leaves in two hours. Of course, you’ll have to go through security again.”
Yes, Steve did on the next flight. Yes, he made it to Boston on time for his presentation, but he missed a nice dinner with colleagues. You can’t make this stuff up.