On any given day my purse contains:
- a month’s worth of receipts
- a wallet
- some feminine items
- a pouch with lip gloss, eyeliner and mascara
- my journal
- a pair of sunglasses
- a pair of prescription eyeglasses
- 3 flash drives
- a few bills/letters
- a compact mirror
- a set of keys
- a camera
- pens and highlighters
- a pouch of bobby pins and a hair roller or two
- 2 mini calendars
- a change purse
- a bottle of aspirin and vitamins
- a few pair of earrings
- a bandage holder
- a cell phone charger
(Geesh! I dug through my purse to give the most accurate description. I didn’t realize it had magical powers to look small, but hold so much! Since writing this post, I’ve upgraded to a backpack for daily use, so the randomness of what I carry around has grown. :-))
On travel days, I’m more conscious of what’s in my purse to avoid going through extra security measures.
Since I’m always racing the clock – I hate waiting around so I try to arrive at the gate right before boarding – I don’t have time to be held up by security.
Mostly, I get through checkpoints okay. I’ve had hair product or food tossed on occasion. And, of course, all of TSA wants to put their fingers in my big, poofy hair, but beyond those quick pats, I’m through the line quickly. Most of the time.
When I’m stopped, it can be the most tedious process (and embarrassing because my suitcase is old and looks worse on the inside than the outside). Usually, the x-ray reveals something that is hard to decipher, TSA checks it out, and I’m sent on my way.
But sometimes, the process can get a tad more interesting.
Travels On 9/11
So, it’s 09/11 and I’m traveling from Washington, DC to Norfolk, Virginia. After my boarding pass is checked, I expertly performed my usual travel screening procedure.
I grabbed two gray bins, threw my purse into one and slid it down the x-ray machine belt. Next, I took off my earrings, shoes, and belt, tossed them into the other bin and watched them as they went in the x-ray machine. Then, I waited in front of the passenger-screener-thing until I was called.
I stepped through without a problem and looked over to realize that the x-ray belt was going in reverse which meant that they were taking a SECOND look at my purse. When that happens, my mind always goes over a mental checklist of everything in my purse. I think: Yes, I removed my mace and stun gun. No, I didn’t have any bottles of water stowed away. What could it be?
I hoped they weren’t planning to take my lipgloss or compact mirror. I’ve had those items confiscated before although most TSA agents let them through screening.
It turned out to be much more serious than beauty accouterments.
TSA Bomb Testing
Mr. TSA beckoned me over and asked if the purse he’s holding was mine. I confirmed. He said follow me and we walked to a machine with as many knobs as an airplane cockpit.
The Agent then asked for my right hand and wiped a rubber wand over it. After a few rubs, he pushed the instrument into the machine and focused on the screen.
I asked, “What is that?” He replied, “An explosives detector.”
The laugh burst from my lips before I realized how inappropriate it was. Why the heck was I being checked for explosives? Of course, he didn’t seem amused.
I didn’t ask what triggered the extra security measures, but I vowed to downgrade my purse’s contents before every future flight. Maybe even ditch the purse altogether (Done).
Staying Safe In Airports
While TSA can be a minor annoyance, they are instrumental to our safety and security.
Unlike fellow European travelers, who are constantly having Marmite sandwich spread (London) and Guinness wholegrain mustard (Dublin) confiscated, American airports are filled with guns. In fact, security regularly confiscates nearly 100 loaded guns each week from various CARRYON bags around the country.
So, any security measures – even those seemingly ridiculous tests – keep everyone safe.
A few steps I’ve taken to prevent undue screening, besides staying away from any bomb material, is to declutter my travel items – especially the carryons. I love backpacks and purses that have compartments to keep all the smaller items in one place making it much easier for me and TSA to quickly inspect them as needed. Packing as light as possible saves me time and effort during travel.
I also dress light and comfy. My go-to travel outfit is a pair of dark leggings, a t-shirt dress, and flats. If you pack a suitcase full of leggings and tees, you can pack lighter, mix-n-match, and look cute without bringing your entire closet.
When I first started traveling, dressing nicely for a flight helped you get a free upgrade. Now, the upgrades go to those who pay extra or who are frequent flyers and so there’s no need to dress up – unless you’re trying to catch the pilot’s eye.
Need more proof? Recently, a TSA agent commented that I had on the perfect security outfit and I agree. Form-fitting with few layers, it’s easy to do a visual and manual inspection. Not to mention, this clothing combination is so comfortable for long travel days.
Another easy way to avoid extra screening and get through the process quickly is to choose travel times wisely and monitor wait times.
Travel times are not created equal.
Peak times, like Friday afternoon, should be avoided to reduce stress and the time you spend waiting in line. Traveling in the early morning is also a good bet for less crowded airports and runways. Apps like GateGuru help you stay on track of what’s happening at your gate so you know if you have time to make breakfast at home or if you’ll need to grab a snack to go.
Even though I know the importance of enjoying the journey as much as the destination, travel days don’t come without their share of anxiety. Thankfully, a few quick changes in the way we travel can reduce the hassle!
Have you ever received undue attention from TSA? Share your story in the comments! BTW, if you want more travel tools, tips, and tricks sent right to your inbox, join my newsletter!