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Carly Ledbetter   |   March 16, 2015    2:40 PM ET

If you weren't already aware, the TSA has an Instagram account and it's crazy. Chock-full of all the ridiculous (and scary) banned items you could ever think of, let's just say that it's definitely worth a "follow."

Even though the TSA gets a pretty bad rep for its slow service and mundane requests, we're pretty happy these fireworks, brass knuckles and assortment of medieval weapons didn't make it onto the plane with us.

Here are 10 of the TSA's most intriguing confiscated items:

1. This dagger.






2. A grenade.





3. This sword.




4. A few sticks of dynamite.





5. This anti-tank weapon.





6. A homemade avalanche charge.






7. This meat cleaver.




8. A concealed lipstick knife.





9. Some brass knuckles.





10. This gigantic pair of scissors.





  |   March 7, 2015    8:49 AM ET

Authorities say two security screeners at San Francisco International Airport have been charged with allowing methamphetamine to be smuggled through carry-on luggage at an airport checkpoint in exchange for money.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports ( http://bit.ly/1H9DtoG ) a federal complaint unsealed Friday names 30-year-old Claudio Rene Sunux of San Francisco and 27-year-old Amanda Lopez of South San Francisco, who were security screeners contracted with the Transportation Security Administration. It also names 28-year-old Anibal Giovanni Ramirez of San Francisco, an alleged drug smuggler.

Officials say Sunux, Lopez and Ramirez agreed to allow methamphetamine to be smuggled in carry-on luggage through the security checkpoint at SFO in exchange for money.

The three planned the operation in part through messages on Facebook.

All three have charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. They are in federal custody and are expected to appear in court next week.

You Haven't Lived Until... You've Had a Stroke

Harshada Rajani   |   March 3, 2015    4:24 PM ET

That is one insanely odd, oxymoronic-seeming statement, I know, but let me explain. While I was studying abroad in Spain and working in India and China, as expected of any carefree, fun-loving college girl gallivanting across the world, I had some unbelievable memories that couldn't feel real unless I wrote them down and shared them with my friends. Instead of detailing each experience through my longwinded and boring prose that only my mom would read, I titled the emails, "You haven't lived until..." and I listed about 10 of my absurd experiences. From ice-skating on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower and singing Akon's "So Lonely" with a nine-year-old boy in Morocco who spoke zero words of English, to bathing in the conspicuously dirty yet spiritually clean Ganges river and having a little too much fun at Oktoberfest in Munich, I thought these once-in-a-lifetime experiences were worthy of the title. As I grew up, and life, well, happened, I went through some even (arguably) crazier times. Having a stroke has given me some of the most unnerving, unpredictable, unnatural, yet unforgettable moments that leave me saying that, without a doubt, you haven't lived until you've had a stroke.

You haven't lived until...

10. You've had your hair searched at airport security. I don't know if it's my brown skin, my wheelchair, or my insanely thick hair that looks as if it could definitely hold some secrets, TSA gives me such an unbelievably hard time at security, which always leaves me feeling kind of violated and kind of in disbelief. They pat down every last inch of my lady parts, my wheelchair, and, of course, my hair, all done conveniently in front of everyone!

9. You've been vegetarian on a purée foods diet. Puréed peas, puréed squash, puréed brussel sprouts, and for the main course, drum roll please, puréed white beans! During the first few months after my stroke, I had a tube connecting my stomach to the outside world, through which I bitterly and silently watched the nurses, all day, every day, pour liquefied food, medicine and water into my body. Mortifying. Humiliating. Disturbing. Every time. As you can imagine, I was over the moon when my throat muscles were finally strong enough to pass the infamous swallowing test -- a test which I had previously failed miserably three times (yes, yes, the first test I had ever failed in my entire life). But here's the kicker: for the doctors to remove my stomach tube, I had to prove to them that I could consume enough nutrition by mouth by eating 75 percent of every meal. Given the fact that each hospital meal was made to satisfy the appetite of the average adult male, combined with the fact that my completely paralyzed state ensured that I never, ever worked up an appetite, each meal was pure, unadulterated torture of the most disgusting kind. Once, I forced myself to eat an entire plate of puréed beans only to throw it all back up half a second later. Ew.

8. Someone has mistaken you for a stripper. Before I could pronounce any words, I could only make a few sounds with my mouth. To prevent any awkward misunderstandings, I relied on the failsafe method of maintaining complete and utter silence. One day in the hospital, my nurse was excitedly telling me that her girlfriends wanted to celebrate her birthday at a strip club as a joke. I, unfortunately, got a bit overzealous and broke my own rule -- I tried to speak. I exclaimed, or thought I exclaimed, "I've been to a strip club!" However, she thought I had said, "I was a stripper!" For the next 45 excruciating minutes, I tried, desperately and unsuccessfully, to clear up this humiliating misunderstanding, but my voice wasn't clear enough to communicate anything that would help the situation. Despite my unyielding efforts, by the end of our conversation, she was convinced that I used to strip on weekends to help pay for my exorbitant medical school tuition!

7. People have talked to you as if you are not a human being, but actually a cute, little, dazed and confused puppy. This, surprisingly and kind of unsurprisingly, happens a lot. When speaking to me, people love to employ the classic baby talk or the ever familiar slow, high-pitched voice as if I'm a wounded animal. We don't realize it, but these voices drip with condescension when there is an actual adult human on the receiving end. Strangers assume that since my outsides are rather messed up, my insides (my brain) must be messed up too. It used to really bother me, but now I just laugh, hysterically, which probably just serves to confirm to them their assumption that I am, in fact, cracked, but I figure it's better than bursting into tears, right?

6. You've desperately tried to recall the steps involved in something as simple as putting on your shirt, but realized trying to remember something you never once actually thought about, is pretty much impossible. Did I put my shirt on while sitting or standing? Did I put my arms in first or my head? Did I hold the shirt with my right or my left hand or both? Did I bend my elbow or raise my shoulder to get my arm in? Did I lift my arms up or bend my neck down to get the shirt over my head? I have no idea what the answer is to any of these questions, so it makes the whole process of relearning these seemingly natural activities really frustrating and nearly impossible. There are so many questions to consider with an activity that is this simple; imagine how many complicated questions arise with an activity more complex, such as walking.

5. People touch your butt every day, and you don't even think twice about it. My therapists and trainers, male and female, are burdened with the sometimes awkward responsibility of trying to help me strengthen my gluteal muscles, which are surprisingly necessary for many functional activities. This inevitably leads to a lot of seemingly inappropriate touching, feeling and borderline groping (kidding!) that is actually only helping. One day, my best friend accompanied me to therapy, and watched, completely mystified, as my therapist helped me practice standing up with his hands underneath my glutes. Afterwards, she whispered to me, "I usually make a guy buy me dinner before I let him do that!"

4. The guy that you were dating for two-and-a-half years sends his mother to come break up with you for him. Unnerving, unpredictable, unnatural, yet definitely unforgettable! ;)

3. You've craved alcohol to actually help you walk BETTER. I have crippling (literally) levels of stage fright whenever I attempt to walk (among other things) in public, causing my muscles to physically lock up and stubbornly refuse to activate properly. Though alcohol is traditionally supposed to make your walking worse, by affecting your cerebellum which controls the coordination of movement patterns, I have a feeling that a simple shot of Goose might magically make my walking smoother, and may even add a little swagger in my step.

2. You've unwillingly developed a habit of bursting into tears as a response to anything and everything. While these sporadic episodes of exaggerated emotion can be insanely frustrating and downright embarrassing, most people don't realize it is actually a neurological disorder. I have Pseudobulbar affect, or my favorite name for it, emotional incontinence, which is an absolutely annoying side effect of my stroke, but surprisingly, the least of my problems! Whether I'm touched, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, upset, or even the slightest bit sad, I have one emotional response: sobbing.

Stranger: You're truly our hero!
Me: Bursts into tears.

Friend: I'll miss you.
Me: Bursts into tears.

Acquaintance: I'll miss you.
Me: Bursts into tears.

Ross to Rachel: I love you.
Me: Bursts into tears.

Dumbledore: After all this time?!
Snape: Always.
Me: Bursts into tears.

On the other side of all this, I laugh just as easily as I cry, so I pretty much laugh at every joke, even if it is not really funny. Basically, my stroke is good for YOUR self-esteem. #yourewelcome

2015-03-03-blog.JPG

1. You've become your own best friend. Though me, myself, and I are total besties, my parents, my brother and my dog come in at a close second. For so long, I was trapped alone inside my own head. But I could hear something else -- something loud, something dying to get out, something dying to be heard. It was the fear building up inside me, screaming with pain. But there was no escape, no exit, and no way out. I had to learn pretty quickly that those fears, thoughts, and questions that were haunting my every second, were locked forever inside me. I was hopelessly trapped inside myself. Instead of letting my mind self-destruct, I embraced it. What I mean is that, I somehow embraced being locked inside myself. I became best friends with myself. I went dancing with my thoughts, singing with my fears, and playing with the answers to my own questions. I learned an irreplaceable lesson during those first few months: you can always find security, comfort and peace deep within the recesses of your own mad mind.

  |   January 21, 2015   10:44 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a former air marshal who was fired after leaking plans to the media about security cutbacks can seek whistleblower protection.

By a 7-2 vote, the justices said Robert MacLean did not violate federal law when he revealed that the Transportation Security Administration planned to save money by cutting back on overnight trips for undercover air marshals.

Larry Neumeister   |   December 23, 2014    8:22 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) — A brazen scheme in which guns — even an AK-47 rifle — were taken onto passenger jets for years in carry-on luggage was described by a Brooklyn prosecutor Tuesday as a terrorism threat that should cause the airline industry to end the practice of letting some workers enter airports without security screening.

"I hope this is a wakeup call for the nation," Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said at a news conference. "This was an egregious breach of our nation's air traffic security."

Thompson's comment came as he described a case brought against five people, including an airline baggage handler who was charged a day earlier by federal authorities in Atlanta.

Thompson said he was not trying to scare anyone. But he said it's "truly frightening" what investigators learned after a probe that started as a way to reduce gun violence in Brooklyn.

He said Mark Quentin Henry, 45, who was fired by Delta Air Lines in 2010 after three years for abusing its buddy pass system, took guns aboard at least 17 commercial airliners this year as they traveled from Atlanta to both New York City airports.

The prosecutor said Henry was given the guns, sometimes in airport restrooms, by Eugene Harvey, 31, an Atlanta baggage handler who worked for Delta before he was fired as a result of the investigation.

Three others were arrested on gun charges in the probe.

Henry's lawyer, Terence Sweeney, said his client, held without bail, "maintains his innocence and he's looking forward to his day in court."

Henry was arrested Dec. 10. Investigators videotaped him in the Atlanta airport prior to a morning flight to Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he was videotaped leaving the airport and was followed to his residence in Brooklyn.

Thompson said when Henry was confronted by investigators, he said there were guns in a knapsack in his apartment.

"He said: 'I just brought them from Atlanta on the plane. He made that admission," Thompson said.

The prosecutor said investigators discovered that guns were individually wrapped and that ammunition was in the bag next to them "that he could have just put together and started shooting."

He said the scheme "really poses a threat in terms of terrorism."

"They can put guns on a plane, they could easily have put a bomb," Thompson said.

Thompson said 153 guns, almost all of which were bought in Georgia, were seized during the seven-month gun trafficking probe, which led investigators to Henry and his frequent flights between Atlanta and New York.

The prosecutor said investigators believe he has been transporting guns on planes for at least five years, using companion passes available because his mother had worked for airlines for years before retiring.

On Dec. 10, Henry flew with 16 weapons, including four 9mm pistols, a .380-caliber pistol and ammunition and magazines, Thompson said. The prosecutor said he flew with the AK-47 in November.

He said it was likely he chose airplanes for the speed and ease of the travel.

"We didn't know for sure that he was transporting guns on a plane until Dec. 10," Thompson said, though he added that Delta was notifying investigators each time Henry boarded a plane.

Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said Delta has cooperated with authorities.

"We take seriously any activity that fails to uphold our strict commitment to the safety and security of our customers and employees," he said.

In a statement Tuesday, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport spokesman Reese McCranie called safety and security its "highest priority."

He said all employees must pass extensive criminal history record checks, security threat assessments, and security training prior to being approved for access to secured areas and employees are subjected to continuous vetting and random inspections.

"In light of these recent events, we are reviewing the security plan and will make the appropriate changes to prevent future incidents of this nature," McCranie added. The airport is considered among the world's busiest.

The Transportation Security Administration, which is responsible for screening airline passengers, said in a statement that it takes "potential for insider threats at airports very seriously."

It said security threat assessments and airport criminal checks made before people are hired is an ongoing process that includes random checks.

"TSA continues to closely partner with law enforcement on this investigation and, where possible, will use the findings from the investigation to improve current processes," it said.

___

Associated Press writers Phillip Lucas in Atlanta and Joan Lowy in Washington contributed to this report.

PHILLIP LUCAS   |   December 23, 2014    7:32 AM ET

ATLANTA (AP) — An Atlanta airline baggage handler suspected of helping smuggle firearms onto passenger jets to New York City has been arrested by federal agents, authorities said Monday.

A FBI affidavit said there was enough evidence to charge Delta ramp agent Eugene Harvey, 31, with trafficking firearms, violating airport security and aiding others in the scheme.

ERIC TUCKER   |   December 6, 2014    9:49 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agents who guard the border and screen passengers at airports would be exempt from new racial profiling guidelines that must be observed by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. The Obama administration is to announce those guidelines in coming days, but officials say the changes would curtail numerous federal agencies from considering factors such as religion and national origin during investigations.

A U.S. official familiar with the guidelines said Friday night that the new rules banning racial profiling exempt the Transportation Security Administration and also do not cover inspections at ports of entry and interdictions at border crossings. The official was not authorized to discuss the guidelines by name and spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement expected soon.

Renee Jacques   |   November 26, 2014    7:00 AM ET

Tis the season of holiday travel, folks, and you know what that means. There is a solid slight chance that your luggage might go missing.

That's why we're bookmarking this "TSA Lost & Found Map" created by mapping technology company, Esri. The interactive feature allows you (assuming you have lost your bags) to simply plug in the three-digit airport code of any passenger airport in the country and immediately find the Lost & Found department's phone number and website (if it's available). If you don't know the airport code, you can simply look at the map and click on the icon where the airport is located.

Check out the map below, and share it with anyone who is struck with some bad holiday-travel luck this year.

Thanksgiving Travel Tips: Airport Security

Sonia Gil   |   November 24, 2014    8:49 AM ET

Thanksgiving is undoubtedly the busiest travel time of the year. This year, let's strive to not get yelled at by TSA officers and not get dirty looks from the people behind us!

To get through security as quickly as possible and become a TSA Jedi master, all you have to do is follow these tips.

Have your I.D. ready

This means actually having it in your hand, folks! Not in your pocket or your wallet. Also, if your I.D. is a passport, make sure you have it already open to the I.D. page.

Pro Tip: When you hand your documents to the officer, take off your hat, glasses and anything that covers your face. They'll want to make sure it's actually you.

Have your laptop handy

Yes, you will have to take it out of your bag and put it in its own container. Do everyone a favor and don't stick it down the black hole of your overpacked suitcase!

Pro Tip: This is why carry-ons with a zipper on the front are the way to go. They make taking computers in and out a total breeze.

Wear smart travel shoes

Make sure you pick shoes that are easy to take off, and put back on. This will buy you a lot of time!

Also, I highly recommend you travel with shoes you can wear with socks. This way, your feet won't freeze on the plane and you won't have to walk barefoot through the metal detector (yuck!).

Pro Tip: If you must travel with a belt or random things in your pocket, don't wait until the last minute to take them out! Use your time in line and place them in the container with your shoes.

Pack liquids wisely

Each container can have a maximum of 3.4 fl ounces or 100 ml.

This:

2014-11-22-Bottle.jpg

is what 3.4 fl. ounces looks like.

Also, all of your containers must fit into one clear, quart sized bag.

2014-11-22-Clearbag.jpg

You can fill out your bag with as many containers as you want as long as each has less than 3.4 fl ounces.

All you have to do if grab your toiletry bag from your carry-on, put it with your shoes and other loose items, and voila.

Pro Tip: There are exceptions to this rule. These can include things like baby formula and certain medicines. The only downside is you will have to declare these items. If this is the case, plan to get there a little earlier so you have more time to do so.

Choose the right line

This means not getting in the one with all the babies! They're cute, but they take up the most time.

Rule of thumb: get behind a business traveler (or me)! They tend to know the ropes.

"TSA Pre"

Ahhh... Music to my ears. If your ticket has "TSA Pre" written on it, consider this your golden ticket to a magical line. One where you need not take off your shoes, or your belt, or take anything out of your bag!

How to get this "TSA Pre" magical stamp? You can apply directly through the TSA website. You will have to physically go to an enrollment center, but, who knows? Maybe you live close to one! Doesn't hurt to check, and it is definitely worth it.

Pro Tip: If you are a member of a miles program for an airline, call them! Many can just enroll you themselves!

All Pictures Courtesy of Mariana Hellmund

Steven Hoffer   |   November 14, 2014   11:35 AM ET

Today's special: Raw meat with a kick.

Transportation Security Administration agents working at the Mineta San José International Airport made a hefty discovery recently -- "three vacuum-sealed packs of cocaine ... concealed in raw meat," the TSA said in a statement.

The drugs -- approximately 3 pounds of cocaine -- were found Nov. 8, packed inside the luggage of a 24-year-old male passenger flying to Seattle.

The TSA notified the San Jose Police Department and the suspect was removed from his flight and arrested on criminal charges.

Perhaps the agents would enjoy some cocaine cookies to go with that cocaine meat? Probably not.

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  |   October 28, 2014    8:31 PM ET

HONOLULU (AP) -- An airline passenger flying out of Maui checked in with a weapon not often seen in baggage - the barrel of a cannon.

Transportation Security Administration officials confirm they spotted the cannon barrel last week in the checked luggage of a passenger at Kahului (kah-hoo-LOO'-ee) Airport.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser ( http://bit.ly/1waHy8G ) reports the cannon barrel was found Oct. 20 in the checked bag of a United Airlines passenger traveling to San Francisco on a late evening flight.

The cannon wasn't loaded.

The TSA says the passenger was cleared to fly but the airline made separate arrangements for transporting the cannon barrel.

---

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Suzy Strutner   |   October 18, 2014    7:00 AM ET

Take off your shoes, remove your belt, chug that half-empty bottle of water -- we know the general rules of airport security all too well.

But what's going on behind the scenes, and which hacks will get you through security faster? Allow us to share some of our most riveting security secrets.

You can get through without ID (most of the time).
Apparently, the Transportation Security Administration knows the pain of leaving a driver's license at home. "We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, because of losing it or inadvertently leaving it at home," the TSA website reads. "If this happens to you, it does not necessarily mean you won't be allowed to fly." Security agents will use other public "databases" to confirm your identity, after which you'll be good to go, in most cases (unless you're from D.C., in which case things can get real squirrelly).

An app can tell you how long the security line will be.
The My TSA app lets you check approximate security line wait times at a number of airports and add your own wait time for others to see. WhatsBusy will also predict your wait time in minutes.

Jam and salsa are NOT acceptable carry-ons.
These squishy substances qualify as "liquid and gel items" according to TSA carry-on rules. That means that unless you have a super-tiny salsa jar containing less than 3.4 ounces (the limit for liquids, gels and aerosols), you will not be having a chip-and-dip fiesta in midair. The TSA also famously confiscated a cupcake in 2011, citing concerns over the frosting (which, to be fair, may have been of the "cupcake in a jar" variety). In any case, it's probably best to snack before you pack.

...however, there's no limit on breast milk.
As long as you keep it to "reasonable quantities," you may bring more than three ounces of breast milk onboard an aircraft. Just be sure to declare it at the security checkpoint. (Be forewarned, though, that the TSA has had some issues with it in the past.)

Undercover air marshals fly among you.
"Federal Air Marshals must operate independently without backup, and rank among those Federal law enforcement officers that hold the highest standard for handgun accuracy," reads the TSA website. These marshals -- who try their best to look and act like regular passengers -- board flights and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Yes, their numbers have decreased in recent years, but there are still roughly 3,300 around, according to a former federal air marshall who spoke with USA Today.

You should totally follow the TSA on Instagram.
Their hilarious feed includes such confiscated wonders as ninja stars, batarangs and WAY too much marijuana.

You can be a security VIP.
If you qualify for TSA Pre✓, you'll head to a separate security lane for quicker screening at participating airports. In this lane, you won't have to take off your shoes, belt or jacket, and liquids can stay in your carry-on bag (no dumping into those plastic bins necessary!). To join, you must be a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident and visit a designated application center to pay an $85 fee. Or sign up for Clear -- for $179/year (for individuals), you'll get to skip long lines at nine U.S. airports.

You can bring a screwdriver on a plane.
As long as it's less than seven inches long, you may pack a screwdriver (or wrench, or pliers, for that matter) in your carry-on bag. The more you know.

But snow globes? They're a bit more dramatic.
The Internet rejoiced during the 2012 holiday season, when updated TSA regulations announced that snow globes would be allowed in carry-on bags (provided they contained less than 3.4 ounces of liquid, of course). Gone are the days of those nasty, joy-sucking "no snow globe" signs.

Bag inspection wasn't mandatory for all passengers until the 1970s.
The era of bag X-rays and metal detectors didn't emerge until serious concerns erupted after a bomb scare and hijackings in 1972. The Air Transportation Security Act made weapon-detection screenings mandatory for all passengers and their carry-ons.

You CAN carry more than three ounces of liquid onboard.
...but it's gotta be from the duty-free shop (womp, womp). Oh, and you have to be traveling "internationally into the United States with a connecting flight." And the liquids "must be in transparent containers." And the store must pack them "in a secure, tamper-evident bag." Still... things are lookin' good for you and that liter of tequila.

Paige Lavender   |   October 16, 2014   10:51 AM ET

John Pistole, administrator of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, will retire, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Thursday.

Pistole's retirement will be effective Dec. 31. According to a press release from the TSA, Pistole is expected to work in academia beginning in early 2015.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to have served as TSA Administrator. No words can convey my deep gratitude for the hard work and dedication of the thousands of men and women committed to protecting the American public,” Pistole said in a statement. “I could not be more proud of all that our employees have accomplished together, particularly what they have done to help enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation security while improving the passenger screening experience.”

Pistole is the former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has served as TSA administrator since 2010.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson released the following statement on Pistole's retirement:

I thank John S. Pistole for his four and a half years’ service as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and 31 years of service to the nation.

Since assuming his role as Administrator in June 2010, John Pistole has led the TSA workforce of over 60,000 and has overseen the security operations of more than 450 airports throughout the United States. Under John’s leadership, TSA launched its “Trusted Traveler” program, TSA Pre ✓™, which over five million passengers per week now use at 120 U.S. airports. John brought to TSA extensive experience in national security, counterterrorism and fighting organized crime.

John Pistole has been integral in leading TSA’s transformation to a risk-based, intelligence-driven counterterrorism agency dedicated to protecting our transportation systems. Because of his efforts over the past four and a half years, our country’s transportation systems are more safe and secure. I am grateful for John’s contributions to DHS, TSA and our country. I congratulate John on his career as a selfless public servant and wish him and his family the very best as he leaves TSA. I also thank John for his friendship, counsel, and devotion to duty.

This story has been updated with quotes from Pistole and Johnson.

Best Airport Day Ever!!!

Kevin Richberg   |   September 27, 2014    2:13 PM ET

Today has been the most amazing day I've ever spent at an airport ever in my life!
And I've only been here for 40 minutes.

2014-09-27-image3.jpeg

Let's start at the beginning... And forgive me, I'm still a little bit excited. My breathing is heavy -- I'm looking around wondering if I'm in some sort of a dream.

It all started when I dropped my rental car off at the Phoenix-Sky Harbor Airport for a 11:50am flight to Newark, New Jersey on Southwest Airlines. The Payless Rental attendant who checked in my car scanned the bar code, looked me in the eye, looked down at his electronic info-gun, looked me back in the eye, and said:

"I can tell everything is going to be fine." - he smiled.

Without any stress, without checking my gauges, or looking over the car (there was nothing to find of course, I'm a stickler for checking things on my own before I set off), he simply gave me a look and a smile -- and that was my rental car return.

I took the leisurely elevator upstairs to the leisurely comfortable airport-rental car bus which in a few minutes time had me placed directly at Southwest's Terminal 4. If it had all stopped there I would have taken it as a sign from the Travel Gods that I was doing their good work, and had been quite content... to my surprise, the pleasantness continued...

I approached the totally vacant Southwest check-in line where I presented my already pre-checked-in electronic-phone boarding pass, and with a smile and a wave the attendant motioned me to a counter just past a large placard reading "Two Checked Bags Free." I had just the one checked bag, almost never choosing to travel with two unless it's absolutely necessary for work (the money to send your luggage with legacy carriers so quickly balloons out of control as their greed for more and more fees expands exponentially). However, in the here and now, just the thought that I had the power, the raw freedom, to check two bags if I so chose, it was so alluring.

For this next part let me give you some quick background. I'm a travel videographer, and with the thrill and excitement of traveling to mysterious and exotic places to capture them on video comes the uncomfortable and often emasculating task of convincing the TSA (or their foreign equivalent) that I'm a legitimate law-abiding freedom-loving person and my electronics (all 30+ gadgets) pose no threat to the outside world, airplane or otherwise. During my last flight this involved an uncomfortable pat down of my nether-areas. This is a burden I've filed under occupational hazard.

Today was totally different, and for the first time in my adult professional life, I felt free. I felt like the terrorists had truly been defeated, and my personal honor as a man with ten cameras had been restored.

Less than an hour ago I presented myself to the first TSA checker, who motioned me, upon glancing at my electronic pass, to the short queue in the front with only 4 other people in line. A TSA employee with those funky little pads they use to check for chemicals and gunpowder residue then uttered words I honestly never believed I'd ever hear: "You can keep your shoes on today."

I WAS CHANGED! Had we turned a corner as a society? Had something happened I wasn't aware of? Had the United States' decade plus 'War on Footwear' finally come to a conclusion (and if so did we win)?

I couldn't contain the excitement, "Tell me more!" I almost screamed it.

She explained that today was a special day at PHX airport and that we were a special set of folks. For today we'd be testing the world without terror, the world without fear. As she swabbed my hands for incendiary residues she hinted that it might just be possible that I was glimpsing the future. It seemed too good to be true.

"Keep your laptops in your bags, don't bother with your liquids, leave everything in your bags," I heard from another agent towards the metal detector. I've never used this acronym in my writing before but it's too applicable to escape: OMG!

The screening took mere moments, and my fellow travelers were as shocked as I was.

"Are you sure?" uttered one woman.

"YES" replied the TSA gentleman.

This traveler was obviously so taken aback by it all that she'd forgotten that, in reality, her shoes were of no threat to the plane. She'd been conditioned for so long to believe there was some form of dire evil lurking inside those birkenstocks.

I saw the "Naked-Machine" just ahead of the scanning belt (the pro-vision x-ray I'm-looking-at your-privates-in-the-other-room-machine we've heard so much about). That must be the key to all this, I thought.

It wasn't! The "Naked-Machine" was out of commission, it was simply the metal detector and the officer manning it. "You're all set," he said to me as I walked through.

"What's this?" The TSA scanner asked, referring to my camera case, which can appear to the untrained eye to be plucked right from the set of an old episode of 24, the ones where something blows up.

"It's my camera equipment."

"Ok." ... again I was stupefied.

My hands have finally stopped shaking and I think i've calmed down enough to realize the accurately qualitate how this has transformed the people around me. Several individuals speaking to loved ones have already begun chatting about the experience. People are smiling, parents are laughing with their kids, and an adorable miniature dog is going to town on a bone half his size in the seat across from me.

My point is, that this was a VERY GOOD day here at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport:

1) That feeling of 'abuse' you can get at an airport doesn't seem to be in the air today.

2) That feeling of 'guilt' you might internalize when traveling, isn't really here either.

3) And that feeling of 'nervousness,' that naturally comes from a fixation on the concept that a bottle of travel shampoo could kill us all, has evaporated away for the day.

The only thing that can ruin this day now is if I let myself believe this may never happen again. So for now I'm going to enjoy my flight, and memorialize this day, September 27th 2014, The Best Airport Day Ever!