I’m heading to Peru on vacation soon, and I’m afraid of nothing on the trip more than encounters with the fine people of airport security.
Standing in line to go through security checkpoints, I turn into a stressed-out witch. Some of you might say I’m always this way. But you’ve never seen me at the airport, when I turn into a snarling harridan, just until I pass through those magical gates that let me board the plane.
Then I relax and turn into the wonderful, mellow human being that none of you have ever seen in your lives. Wait, that’s after takeoff when the cocktail service begins.
Last week, I wrote about fear of airport security and past experiences. It included an episode in the Cairo airport where an Uzi-toting army guy going through my backpack could not figure out what to do with my dangerous box of tampons. He kept waving one around and shouting at me, asking what it was.
Since then, I’ve heard from other women who were harassed for carrying illicit feminine hygiene products through security, including one who said that, when she was searched, her tampons fell out of her jeans onto the X-ray conveyer belt and went through the machine, proving that there were no weapons of mass destruction concealed inside.
A couple of readers had a single word that epitomizes airport nightmares: Heathrow. This is odd, because everything else in Great Britain is uber-polite and well organized — albeit damp, chilly and badly seasoned.
Still, I’ve never had a good experience in London’s Heathrow airport, which can be surprisingly chaotic for a place that is purportedly in England.
A few years ago, on the way to Kenya, we had to fly through Heathrow right after a major terrorist plot was discovered.
Even though we were merely changing planes and already behind the security barriers, they had hastily created additional security screenings that seemed to be manned by people who were so panicked, they acted like cats in a room full of pit bulls.
They let me go through the screening with my backpack and purse. No problem.
But they stopped my friend and refused to allow her to bring her camera case and purse, claiming she could only bring one item.
If you’ve ever been in an airport, you know that arguments with security people are futile. So she regretfully gave them her favorite purse — which her friend had brought her from Machu Picchu — stuffed its contents in her pockets and camera case, and went on through.
The guards then threw her hand-woven purse into a 10-foot-high mountain of other such hastily abandoned items behind the checkpoint.
For reasons I won’t describe, except that it’s Heathrow, we actually had to go back through this same checkpoint an hour or so later.
This time, we had different screeners and we were all allowed to take what we liked through the checkpoint. My friend spied her favorite purse, still atop the mountain of discards. She walked over, picked it up, put her things back into it, and, this time, they let her bring it through. No problem.
And the TSA here at home has got me into a flopsweat on more than one occasion.
When my kids were smaller and it was a nightmare to fly anywhere alone with them because they outnumber me, I remember one wonderful day when I flew out of Atlanta. I got to the airport at 6 a.m., two hours early to fly home. I still missed my plane, because of excessively long lines going through security. There was no orange alert. There was no special problem. They were just disorganized.
Standing unmoving in that nightmare line, I kept imploring the TSA, saying, “We’re going to miss our plane! Please let us through!”
No one cared.
I even went over to the special frequent flier gate for people who pay extra, which was completely empty, pointed to my two little kids and said, “Please, for the love of God, I beg you, let us come through this gate. There’s no one here. We won’t be inconveniencing anyone. We’re going to miss our plane.”
They told us to go back to the regular security. So much for Southern hospitality.
Guess what? We missed our plane. By five minutes. And we spent the next 12 hours trying to get a flight home. Highlights of the day included hourly treks to the bathroom hauling two kids and three suitcases, and spending $63 a minute on healthy delicious airport snacks.
This trip, I’m not bringing the kids. I’m going without them.
While I’m gone, don’t bother trying to rob the house.
Buddy the Wonder Dog will be on guard in case any burglars need to be licked to death.
It’s going to feel weird to leave the kids at home with a babysitter while I fly off to South America. I’ve never really been away from them. But they didn’t want to miss school.
One thing I know they won’t miss by staying home: The airport security.
Marla Jo Fisher was a workaholic before she adopted two foster kids several years ago. Now she juggles work and single parenting, while being exhorted from everywhere to be thinner, smarter, sexier, healthier, more frugal, a better mom, better dressed and a tidier housekeeper. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://themomblog.freedomblogging.com/category/frumpy-middleaged-mom-marla-jo-fisher/.