A few months ago, I wrote an angst-ridden blog post about how I was incredibly nervous about “enhanced pat-downs” and those “look-at-you-naked” new full-body scanners at the airport. I was so nervous, I was considering driving or taking the train to Florida from Utah.
A little bit of research revealed how untenable train travel is in this country (a 3am departure, 5 days of travel, and $2000 if we wanted a tiny little room to contain me and my children rather than sitting on a reclining seat the whole time, which we could have done for more like $1000). And the idea of a solo road trip across the middle of the country during February with my two kids in our compact car seemed like a bad idea even before the snow storms in Texas.
So I bought the plane tickets and hoped for the best.
We went through security at two airports, SLC and Tampa.
At SLC, we were in a rush. Our flight through Dallas had been cancelled and we’d been put on a different flight through Minneapolis. The new flight was on a different airline with a much longer check-in line (because they were, unlike the first airline, running flights) in a different terminal. When we reached security, we barely had time to be crestfallen at the sight of the long line there when a TSA agent opened up a portion of the dividing tape stuff and let us take a short-cut because we had kids. The shortcut for kids involved the traditional metal detector rather than the scanner. I wore yoga pants and a tight top, hoping that this would convince any agents enthusiastic to do a pat-down that it was unnecessary. I don’t know if it was the yoga pants or something else, but we weren’t patted down. And my sleeping son didn’t even wake up when I took him out of his mei tai carrier or when I put him back into it at the other end of the line. We made it to the plane with four minutes to spare.
On our return trip through Tampa, I was even more impressed with the TSA agents. Once again I wore my tight clothes and had the baby strapped to my front. As we were loading up the bins before the metal detector line into which we had placed ourselves, a young male TSA agent came up next to me and said quietly, with a slight Southern accent, “I’m sorry, Miss, but there are two ways to do this with the baby. You can either take him out of the carrier, run the carrier through the x-ray machine and carry the baby through the metal detector with you, or you can leave him in there, and we’ll have to give you a pat-down. I’m sorry, but that’s the regulation.”
“They’ve always made me take him out of the carrier to go through security, so I was just going to do that,” I explained.
“Well, they’re not supposed to make you take him out,” he replied. “You shouldn’t have to take him out of the carrier.”
I was incredibly impressed that he came up to me personally, spoke to me quietly and courteously (and called me “miss” instead of “ma’am”), and explained my options so clearly.
I really like the Tampa airport. They’ve got good restaurants and lots of bathrooms, too.
So, after a lot of worry, it all worked out fine in the end.
Well, the first leg of our return journey ended with paramedics meeting our flight in Dallas because of a medical emergency with one of our fellow passengers, but even that seemed to go smoothly (and the ill passenger was able to walk out on her own, which seemed promising).