Friday, July 8, 2011


As you may recall from my hasty post on the morning of my and Sister's departure for France on June 23, we were into Plan B from the start. Our plane was going to be two hours late departing for Paris, thus missing our connection to Marseille and our planned pickup there. There were other missteps along that madcap adventure which I'll leave for later.

I'd come up with a brilliant plan a few flights ago for speeding my progress through the security line at the airport. Instead of "stripping down" as I make my harried way along the conveyor belt, I get prepared ahead of time. I take a nice seat before entering the screening area and put all the loose items I'll have to put into a dish or tray (watch, ring/jewelery, cellphone and pocket items) into one of the pockets in my rolling backpack. My quart bag of permitted liquids is poised to pull from another pocket and my laptop is accessible from its own compartment. Once past the people who check passport and boarding pass, I put those back into my dorky neck-dangle ID holder. When I reach the conveyor belt I have fewer separate items to remove and load into the trays for screening.

This trip I even told Sister what a swell system this is. There's still a rush at the end of the line, when all the items on the belt come crashing together and I'm hurrying to get out of the next person's way. Nevertheless, the system helps and doesn't leave your valuables sitting out in a bowl at the end of the screening to be grabbed by just anyone while you fumble to gather your goods together.

Good plan.

So at screening at San Francisco airport, why did the warning noise blare when I walked through the screening thingy?

"What's in your pockets?"

"Kleenex." In the cargo pocket down on my thigh, "A box of No-Jet-Lag." Whispered, "Could it be the Pak Safe money belt under my clothes? I don't know whether it has a steel cable in it."  (It didn't cause any untoward effects traveling in May.) Could it be my pedometer that I'd forgotten on my belt?

I tried the walk-through again with the Kleenex and pedometer in a separate bowl. The bowl didn't blare but I did, again, I think at least three times in all.

They shook their heads. "Pocket area. A female screener over here," one of the men called.

I was put behind a little fence to await the female screener. I leaned my arms on the top of the fence and chatted with the young screener "guarding" me while we waited for a woman. I asked him whether I could go through the full body scanner in the next line.

"Too late for that," he said.

A woman finally came and asked me if I wanted a private screening. (As opposed to what, a public pat down? I was wondering.) "Well, yes, I guess so."

Before taking me away, they assured that I was traveling with someone who would take charge of my belongings from the conveyor belt. Sister waved that she had them.

Then an additional female screener was called and we all marched past the screening lines into a little room with all its windows covered over. I suppose everyone was wondering what kind of desperado I was.

The first woman explained in detail how and what she would do. All the stuff from all my pockets went into a bowl. I was thoroughly patted up and down, around the waistband ("Lift your blouse but don't show any skin"), around the edges of my bra. Backs of hands used for some areas of the body.  My hands were "wiped" for . . . explosive residues?

When she returned with the bowl of my belongings, it turned out to be the No-Jet-Lag that had set off the alarm.  Huh?  I always travel with No-Jet-Lag without any problem, hadn't thought a thing about considering it the source of the problem.

But the pills are on a card with blister pop outs, and the pop-out layer is a thin foil, which you can't even notice is foil until a pill is popped through.

That was a good laugh. I realized that heretofore I'd carried it in my jacket pocket, which went through the X-ray machine in a tray, instead of the people-screening thingy.

"We knew it was something low on the body," they kept saying. Cargo pants pocket.

Except for the fact that I consider my error a big waste of screener resources, the private screening was no big deal. So chill, people who worry about it out there. They're just doing a job and were very professional about it.

The culprit. Reinactment picture,
so embarrassingly awful that I
wasn't going to use it.

See you later.



  1. I "got" to be frisked on this trip too. Yours and mine sound quite a bit alike, except that my frisking was right there for all to see! No one asked me about privacy. Incidentally, have you noticed that chewing gum manufacturers have responded to incidents like your "No Jet Lag" bubble pack foil by wrapping the sticks in paper instead of foil?

  2. Penny, did they have any particular area of suspicion they were looking at, or random check? I wonder whether the "No Jet Lag" people know about this. They should put a label on the box. Or maybe one is there already and I just don't read the box!

  3. You started causing trouble right off the bat! I'm laughing because I know how unflappable you are.