Saturday, January 14, 2017

Airport Security....Always a Fascinating Experience For Me

I am chuckling to myself this morning remembering my experiences with various airports and their security last weekend.  

Things did not start off well here in Regina airport....I suspect one of the most paranoid group of security officers in the country.  I wonder if the officer that flagged and subsequently destroyed a woman's work computer here a few weeks ago...and for no good reason as it turned out....is the same one that flagged me on our way to Kelowna last Friday evening.

I was sufficiently distracted by an interesting family ahead of me in the lineup that I missed one of the security agents motioning Dell and I to move over to a newly opened lineup to start putting our coats and belongings in the conveyer belt trays to be x-rayed.  He ended up going through one line while I remained in the first lineup.  O wow, I am never going to be that distracted ever again!!!! In the future, at least at the Regina airport, I am going to stick to my husband and his lineup like glue on a postage stamp!!

We noticed on our way into line that the case displaying what is and what is not allowed to be put into carry on luggage, showed a sealable bag filled with acceptable liquids that was the same large size that my husband and I put our own liquids and aerosol containers into.  It makes it very easy to see what we are carrying and those are the same size bags we have always used when flying since the safety regulations came into effect.  My husband went through security with no problem whatsoever, his liquids bag sitting alone in a tray so it would be easy to spot, easy to check.  In less than a minute he was finished with security and waiting for me in the lounge.

Security wasn't particularly busy that night so every third person was being flagged for a secondary check.  Of course in my particular line up I was the third person.  No problem, I assumed, since I had been so careful to ensure everything was bagged properly, all my electronics such as cell phone and ipad were in a separate tray, my coat and boots that have zippers were in a tray, my purse was in a tray,my suitcase was in a tray....it should have been ALL good, right?  Never have I been so wrong!

There are three options for a secondary check and I had my choice:
-full body scan
-pat down
-testing on palms of hands and soles of feet for possible explosive materials residue.

I opted for the full body scan because I find pat downs rather embarrassing when they are done in full public view.  As I exited the machine after the scan and picked up my passport and boarding pass from the tray, the security fellow asked me what was in my jean pockets.  I looked at him rather oddly and told him quite honestly that the jeans I was wearing do not have any pockets.  There is a series of false pockets, front and back, for decorative purposes only.  He looked at me just as oddly and told me I was going to have to have a pat down because there was something showing on the scan in my non-existent pockets. Whaaaaaa????  NOT possible!!  A lady was called out of the security office and proceeded to give me a most thorough pat down. By the time she was done I was wondering why they hadn't just called for a strip search and check of my anal and vaginal cavities and just gotten it over with!  Decision, based on the photo released to her and I of the body scan results, was that my turtle necked tee shirt had bunched up on both sides of my hips, setting off the scanner.  Good Lord!!  Now I don't even dare to wear a longer length tee shirt to the airport here.

That was not all......the only trays I sent through the x-ray that were released immediately to me were the trays containing my coat and boots and my electronics.  My purse, liquids bag and suitcase were all on the other side of the conveyer belt awaiting a secondary check.  O dear Lord, now what?  I rather liked the security fellow who was doing those checks as he seemed reasonable as well as efficient. He was extremely helpful with the family ahead of me who seemed to have quite a number of items not allowed in carry on and he was patient as he explained to them, through a language barrier, why those items had to go under the plane or be removed from the airport all together. When he was finally finished sorting out their belongings it was my turn and I was sure all would be well.  

Wrong again!!  He walked away from security and a rather loud woman took his place to do my items scan.  Aiiiii yiiiiii..........first my purse was scanned with an interior camera.  The problem?  I had my toothbrush in a small plastic bag in my purse....so, where was the toothpaste, eh?  Where, where where?????  I pointed it out to her in the liquids bag, which is exactly where it was supposed to be.  She growled at me and pulled out my liquid mascara from the purse. That WAS my mistake.  I had not realized there was sufficient liquid in my mascara to qualify for the separate liquids bag, so I learned something new.  She said she would have me add it to that bag.  I picked up the bag and she nearly lost her mind.  What on earth was I doing putting my liquids and aerosols in a bag that big?  Remember this is the same size bag, with about the same amount of bottles and jars and aerosol cans as my husband's bag...the one that had cleared security all ready with no questions and no problems.  I received the lecture of my life about what size bag is acceptable and she proceded to hand me a teensy tiny airport example bag.  I had to be able to get everything into that bag and seal it and whatever did not fit had to be disposed of immediately!!!  I am not a genius in the area of spatial relations at the best of times, let alone when I am feeling attacked for no reason.  I jammed tubes and jars and bottles in as best I could as the line up of others chosen at random for secondary checks grew longer and longer behind me.  Talk about frazzled.  I fiddled and fiddled trying to get everything into the bag while the security lady was ogling the original x-ray of my suitcase. Finally I decided to dispose of my little bottle of foundation makeup, now that the mascara tube had to be added to the bag, and asked the woman where I should dispose of it.  She eyed the bag I was clutching, grabbed both it and the bottle of makeup out of my hands rather unceremoniously, jammed the bottle inside the bag, seemed to take no notice at all of the sides of the bag starting to split, forced the seal shut and said, "There!  That's how you make everything fit in these bags!!"  Scolded once again....sigh.  I wasn't happy because if that bag split I would be fishing small bottles and jars out of who knows where in my suitcase when we finally got to Kelowna.  Hopefully if that was the case I would find that none of the lids had come off any of them!

I managed to maintain my cool and not cry in frustration as my husband finally clued in that I was not with him in the lounge and that he had not seen me in some time.  He wandered back over closer and stood near me looking at this women rather quizzically, trying to figure out what she was really up to and why this performance, this determination to let me know she was in charge was really about.  She next took a second scan of my suitcase and said, "AHA!!!"  Seriously, she actually said that.  Just inside the lid of my case was a brand new pack of wet wipes that I always carry when I travel.  Again, I should have remembered myself that there is liquid in those little bags of wipes, but I have never before been questioned or detained in airport security because of them.  She whipped my case open grabbed the package, flipped it over to see what was in it and her response was a very subuded and disappointed, "Ooooh, wet wipes..."  Her disappointment that it was not a package containing plastic explosives was so obvious I would have laughed my head off if I hadn't been so angry and embarrassed by this entirely unnecessary performance.

She zipped my suitcase up again as if it was responsible for personally insulting her by not containing contraband, whipped the tray it was in back over to my side of the conveyer belt and told me to go catch my plane.  I have never grabbed my belongings and gotten away from anyone so quickly before.  I wanted to get away from her before she changed her mind and thought of some other reason to detain me and hold up the now dozens of people waiting behind me for their turn with this crazy woman.

By the time we got to the Kelowna airport security two days later I was about as paranoid as I could get about it.  We arrived extremely early just in case I had another similar fiasco to endure before heading to Calgary.  Well, good grief, what a difference in experience there:  I soared through security, no problems, was actually asked if I wanted a LARGER bag to put my liquids and aerosols into so they wouldn't be so crammed into a bag that was starting to split, and then, THEN I WAS CONGRATULATED by their security people for the great job I did separating the items in the trays so they could be easily seen and x-rayed. I was told by one agent she wished everyone could remember to put all those items into the trays in advance and to organize them as well as I did!!!!  TAKE THAT REGINA AIRPORT SECURITY!  TAKE THAT!!!!!

And do you know, the same thing happened at the Calgary airport security, same praise, same congratulations.  In neither place was I required to declare a pack of wet wipes even though it showed up as a block with liquids on their scanners.  They knew exactly what that package was and that it was not explosives just waiting to blow their airplanes to smithereens!

I remember the last time our son was here.  A small pack of tiny liquid paint bottles that had easily passed both LaGuardia security in New York and Pearson security in Toronto, two cities with more reason than most to be extremely paranoid about terrorists, was refused by Regina airport security. My husband and I had to take them from our son, thanking God we had remained at the airport watching him go through security so we could save them before the airport destroyed over five hundred dollars worth of paint, then packed them properly at home so he could have them mailed to him.

I stand in awe of Regina airport security and their extreme paranoia.  In fact, I am so in awe that next time I need to travel anywhere that is far enough away to require air transportation out of here, I am going to leave a few days early and ride the Greyhound bus instead!!!!

2 comments:

Susan Erlenbach said...

Wow!!!!😣 Some people sure have a bee in their bonnet!
Love how you tell stories 😉

Susan said...

Well, there is lots of humour in reality sometimes, if we can step back from the other upsetting emotions long enough to see it. hahaha