I was raised to understand that life has consequences, be they positive or negative. If I lied, I got a spanking and some sort of punishment. When I did my part in school (kept my grades up, no behavioral issues), I got rewarded with privileges and opportunities. Well, Monday I had a lesson in consequences that, well, frankly, I’d like to forget.
We all know I think of myself as a professional traveler. I know what to pack, how to pack it and in what order to pack it. I had a business trip this week, and packed my things very carefully. When I arrived at the airport and went through the security gate, I was feeling very proud of myself, because I had put everything in such perfect order that I was about to go through a flawless security experience. The TSA agent asked me, as I put my things on the belt, “Do you have any change?” “No.” “Do you have any liquids?” I pointed to my durable quart sized plastic bag already in the container. “You’ve got it all covered, I see.”
I walked into the full body scanner thing, placed my feet in position, put my hands up and stood until I was told I could step out. I stood at the end of the carpet confidently, knowing I had passed the security scan with flying colors. “Ma’am, do you have anything in your pockets?” “No.” “Do you have anything in your left back pocket?” I reach back, thinking, “I just said no.” There was nothing in my left pocket. In my right rear pocket, though, were two quarters. “Okay, they’ll pat me down and I’ll be on my way.”
The TSA agent pats me down, then sends me to another woman who swabs the palms of my hands with a little cloth and runs it through the machine. The screen lights up red and reads, “Alarm.” I’m standing there thinking, “Really? Their machine must be broken.” I have a seat in the chair as they ask if I have on lotion. “Of course. I don’t like dry hands.” “Lotion will usually set off that machine.” As I sit in the chair, they proceed to go through my very carefully packed suitcase and purse. Every nook, cranny and article of clothing was searched and re-run through a scanner. It took 10 minutes to complete. The TSA agent then asks me to follow her.
We go into another room that has frosted glass, where there is another TSA agent waiting. They frisk me from head to toe. I stood there, helpless, as they literally rubbed my entire body to see if I was carrying contraband. I could feel tears behind my eyes, but refused to cry. Instead, I stared at the blank wall in front of me, praying it would all be over soon. The only thought in my head was, “All of this for 50 cent?”
They finally released me. I put my shoes back on, repacked my suitcase, and proceeded down the hallway towards my gate. Never in my life have I felt so frustrated, helpless, and treated less than a person. I get that these are TSA rules. Rules are in place to create structure. And the agents didn’t do anything wrong, they did their job. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to check my pockets and make sure I had removed everything. Not assume that, because I always get it right, this time would be no different. The result? A humiliating experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Sometimes, we need to listen when we have an opportunity to get things right. We just need to slow down, and stop being a know it all. Had I bothered to check myself when the first TSA agent asked if I had any change, none of this would have happened. Every action has a consequence. The question is, will it be something you want or something you wish you had gotten right the first time?