Thursday, March 27, 2008

Delayed By Lipgloss During A Period Of Elevated Security: A Travel Debacle Ensues

We were hours early. In fact, we slept in the airport parking lot the night before. We checked in for our flight, received our boarding passes, had lunch and then shopped and relaxed in the airport, or what I like to call the mallport since they are indistinguishable these days, until our flight was scheduled to leave at 1:35 pm.

At one o'clock, we headed to the gate. As we rounded the corner and approached the security checkpoint, we saw the line; the long, snaking, slow moving line. And we freaked out. Along with everyone else in line who was complaining and talking about how they were never going to make their flight. The line started moving and I felt a little better about the short amount of time we had before boarding the plane. Then it happened.

I got called to the side to have my bag searched. They saw something. The very cranky TSA agent took me aside, weaving me through a few exam tables until he found one that we could use for the search. I stood on one side of the table, he on the other. I found myself wandering around the corner of the table, looking into the bag he was searching, trying to help him find what he was looking for. He kept saying, "Could you please step back Miss", as if the four inches I moved forward was a threat to national security.

He said it was a mascara or lipstick. I was certain it wasn't, since I had put all my items in the required clear one quart bag. He took things out, put them back in, looked at my camera, my camcorder and a little oddly at my bag of Blow-Pops and when I tried to explain that I was sure I didn't have any other lipsticks or mascaras in there, he insisted I pipe down. Then, out of the belly of my carry-on, his rubber encased hand came up and produced two brand new packages of lip gloss. He looked as if he had just captured Bin Laden.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh! I had forgotten about those!!" I said. I had tossed them in just before heading to the airport; I bought them for Vicki and Mina and figured if they were on my person, I wouldn't forget to give it to them.

The TSA agent said, "Do you know why we perform this search?"

I said, "I don't really care why, but feel free to dump the rest of the contents of my bag and look at anything you like."

He scolded me with a "Well, you should care" comment. I still really don't. As a truck driver, I see up close and personal the farce Homeland Security is. And personally, I think airport security is the most lax, as evidenced by the fact that my very close friend just recently made it through two security checkpoints and got on a flight with a wine corkscrew.

After leaving the "secured" area, we headed to our departure gate only to find out that our plane had already departed. Without us. Oh. My. God. I knew at that moment that I would never hear the end of this from Ed, since he is always the one who is late and I am always the one on time. And because of my miscalculation of time needed to get through security, along with my errant lip gloss, I was clearly the reason we were late. (Even though I maintain it was the TSA agent who delayed us by taking his damn sweet time looking through everything. Instead of refusing my help when I insisted I knew what he was looking for, he could have sped up the process by just looking where I was pointing.)

I have never missed a flight in my life. Never. So Ed with his loud sighing and me with my contraband lip gloss, made our way to the customer service desk to be re-booked on the next flight. The good news is, they were able to book us on the 3:15 pm flight. The bad news is that the flight would be getting into Charlotte at 9:59 pm. Why is that bad, you ask? Because our connecting flight to Louisville was scheduled to leave at 10:15 pm. Since they close the jetway door ten minutes before the flight leaves, that would give us six minutes to land, deplane and run from Gate D11 to Gate C9 - which, of course, is in another terminal.

I am not a runner. Not even when I have to. If I were being chased by a theif, I would stop, offer to buy him a latte if he promised not to make me run anymore and then hand him my purse. So Ed was the chosen runner for this airport marathon.

Our only hope was for him to make it to the gate before the flight took off, but we had to get there first...

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