I've been doing a lot of traveling lately, almost every weekend for a while now. In addition to a terrible case of jet-lag, I have picked up some tips on how to approach the complications of the TSA without sacrificing your dignity.
With summer travels upon us, many of us are preparing to brace the security lines of airports around the world. Some of this advice would seem obvious, but based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, it seems that it still needs to be said. Perhaps if we all adhered to some simple Security Manners, our lines will move a little swifter.
Don't try to go through the metal detector with sunglasses on, only to be told to take them off and go through again. No one, let me repeat, NO ONE is that cool. They're going to have to come off. Don't pretend you forgot you were wearing them and force us to wait while you get reminded that you're just like everyone else.
Be prepared to take it all off. If you're wearing an unflattering shirt under that jacket and hoping no one will see it, change. If you're wearing a see-through camisole, prepare for an appearance as an exhibitionist. If you're not wearing a bra, you have no right to be mad about anyone looking at your nipples. Have a bottom layer on that you are not embarrassed to bare. And per common sense, please let it be more than your new Victoria's Secret purchase.
If you're carrying it on, these are coming out. There are no secrets when it comes to the TSA. Any weird creams you've ordered, any anti-aging Chinese herbs, any embarrassing prescriptions, any old retainers, whatever it is, it's going to be exposed. Be prepared for the TSA officers, any nearby strangers or any traveling companions to see them.
I learned my lesson on this one the hard way. Just six weeks into dating my boyfriend, he took me on a romantic weekend in Mexico. At that point we were still getting to know each other, and I had not yet slept over his house so he had not seen the big embarrassing nightguard I wear to prevent teeth grinding when I sleep. The whole time we were there, I went to great pains to keep hiding it from him, waiting for him to fall asleep till I snuck back into the bathroom to put it in. I thought I had made it through the whole trip with my secret safe till we were going through security on the way back.
TSA went through all my stuff, holding up my retainer as my boyfriend cracked up, asking why he'd never seen me wear it before. Luckily, my shame was no more than teasing fodder for my boyfriend. But if it's going to cause you more serious consternation, take the extra 10 minutes to check your luggage. Standing by your stuff, hoping to shield your toiletries from prying eyes not only holds up the line but plainly doesn't work.
4. Never Flirt First, But Feel Free to Flirt Back If They Start It
Even if you think he's looking you up and down, never never under any circumstances initiate flirting. The situation is too rife with potential dangers for you to test the waters. However, if your TSA agent starts it, feel free to joke back. In two recent times I've gone through security, an agent has joked with my boyfriend about me, and pro forma my boyfriend attempted to joke back. It happens, same as anywhere else. The obvious difference is here the consequences are potentially a lot more serious if your rejection is rude. So if you have to take off your jacket, it is inappropriate to point out to the TSA agent that it was so tight in the first place, there isn't any room to hide anything. (I literally saw this once.) On the other hand, if he's asking you for a date as you're taking off our shoes, all bets are off. Which brings me to...
Boots that require laces are simply rude. Don't make everyone wait for you to wear the one pair of shoes you have that take five minutes to put on. Essentially, any shoe that takes more than 10 seconds to remove needs to be taken off before you leave the house. Seriously, if you're sitting on the conveyer belt imploring your husband to use both hands to tug your boots off, is it not obvious you've made a serious travel blunder?
If you can't walk well in your heels (that means heel to toe without holding on to anything) keep them in your luggage. Really this should be true of every day but it's especially irritating when you're holding up people with flights to catch because you can only take one step every five seconds. And lastly, if you only have one pair of socks without holes in them, let this be the day you use them.
As a general rule, you must be able to get it on and off quickly. I thought belly chains were a lost relic from the 90's along with Ace of Base, hair wraps and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Until my most recent jaunt through security, that is. The girl in front of me went through. She beeped. She took off more layers. She beeped again. She got felt up. They made her lift up her top and expose the culprit: a belly chain. What are you doing wearing a belly chain under three layers of tops? You knew you were going to being flying that day! If your outfit requires a lot of jewelry, leave it in your purse that day and put it on after you've gone through. Pieces with simple clasps are preferred as it's inappropriate to ask the TSA gentleman to help you take off your necklace as you sweep up your hair (see #3).
As a writer, I understand a woman's attachment to her laptop. But come on, do you really think you're the first person to try to keep her iPad in her bag and argue that you didn't think it was a laptop? If you want it to be the last thing you send down the conveyer belt, I understand. But there is nothing cute about trying to hide your laptop in your bag. And speaking of bags, if you know you're going to have to take it out, why is it in the bottom of your oversized over-stuffed Louis Vuitton bag?
8. If A TSA Agent Asks For Your Phone Number...
Of course, you don't have to give it. But you might want to let him down with deliberate gentleness. Perhaps, smile and say thank you but you have a boyfriend is my recommendation. Even if it feels like just another guy asking for your number, he's still a member of the TSA and if he wants to, my guess is making you miss your flight is one of the nicer things he could do.
9. Be Polite
I'm so sick of seeing people roll their eyes because TSA asked them to take off another layer of clothing or put a watch in a bin. They're just doing their job. If you tried to sneak something through and they catch you with five ounces of hair gel, stop giving them attitude. If you have to throw away the commemorative special edition hot sauce you just bought, it's not their fault. Don't expect them to make a special exception for you because you're a cute girl and then be irritated with them for simply trying not to get fired.
10. Differentiating Between Pick-Up Lines and Security Instructions
I know that sometimes it's hard to tell but here's how to differentiate between some of the more popular ones I've heard:
Ma'am, you've set off the metal detector - no.
When you walk through the metal detector, you make my heart beep - yes.
Belts off please - no.
I handle the belts around here - probably yes.
Wait, till I'm ready - probably no.
Where you heading to today? - unclear, need more information.
You getting on a plane to paradise because that's where I'd be taking you? - yes.
Shoes and Jackets off - no.
You can take a lot more off if you prefer - probably yes.
Only three ounces of liquids and gels are allowed - no.
You don't need to bring any liquids when you're with me - yes.