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Friday, September 3, 2010

Airport Insecurity - Letters from an Anonymous Friend


I hate airports. Airports to me as a kid meant having to move because I had no choice and had to follow adult rules. Airports to me now as an adult mean arriving at a place I don't want to be at three hours in advance, removing my clothing and shoes in annoying lines, crappy handfuls of peanuts, aggravating seatmates, and airlines that nickle and dime with stupid rules about luggage. Basically I hate rules. I'm a non-conformist. In short, I'd rather take a road trip with my screaming kids. And here's another reason I hate airport rules, as reminded in a letter from my anonymous friend written in an email to me after she took a trip to Mexico to celebrate a friend's quinceanera (aka big fifteenth birthday party):

On a recent trip to Mexico, my mother and I decided to take only carry-on bags to make our life easier on our whirlwind 5 day jaunt to the south. As a minimalist while traveling, I packed only clothes, my journal, scriptures, very few pieces of jewelry and the necessary toiletries. After some debate, I found a small generic soft plastic bottle (the kind you can get in the dollar section at Target) and filled it with the limit of 3 oz. of hair gel. If they let it pass, great; if not, no big loss. The sharpest thing in my bag, besides a pen, was my 100% plastic hair pick.

Guess which item they confiscated at the airport? Yep, the gel, even though the security officer asked me before my bag went through the X-ray if I had anything to be concerned about; when I said, “I have a little bit of hair gel,” he waved it aside as if to say, “Give me a real concern.” Three minutes later, he threw it away. Go figure. Oh well.

I met my mom at the airport (she flew in from another city) and we were off!

At one point during our humble stay in the Yucatán, I thought out loud and said, “I can’t wait to get home and get some tweezers on these brows.” And do you know what my mom said? She said, “Oh, I brought mine. They’re in my bag.”

Maybe I don’t understand the rules for carry-on luggage well enough (after all, I had the audacity to try and smuggle 3 oz. of hair gel on board), but I was under the impression that sharp items weren’t allowed. Of course, tweezers weren’t exactly in the form of a knife or anything, but if you saw her industrialized pluckers you might change your mind! And it gets even better- as I was searching for her tweezers, I found a dental pick. Yes, that’s right, a dental pick, the kind the dentists use to scrape plaque off your teeth. Oh, and what’s more, she had two 6 oz. bottles of face lotion (one with SPF included, one without) in the zipped portion of her carry-on.


How did she get through security with those! In two American airports! (Man, I guess
that hair gel was more dangerous than I thought.)

Clearly, I am missing something here. Oh well. Whatever.

We flew out of Cancún and they did pause when they found her tweezers, though they
ended up letting it pass.

When we passed through Mexico City on a layover… that’s when I thought everything would finally be taken away. After disembarking the plane from Cancún, we went through a brief X-ray security and passed with no problem. When we went through a manual check before boarding our next plane… well, that was an adventure.

They rifled through my mom’s stuffed carry-on and asked her questions (I had to translate as she is 100% gringa) about the lotion; she said that they could keep it if they wanted. I tried to stay with her, but other airport security was directing me to move on, so I did. They went through my stuff and took away my barely touched water bottle that I had bought in the Mexico City airport (grrr!), but left everything else alone.

I walked down the glass walled hallway enough to be out of everyone’s way and then
turned around and watched the Mexican police try and communicate with my mother who was limited to, “No Español,” and numbers 1-10. I don’t know how, but they let her go without taking a single thing. Not the tweezers nor the dental pick (they didn’t even find those, they were buried under all her stuff), not even the 2 bottles of lotion. But they did do a full body search (every passenger got that privilege) and patted down her sandals before letting her pass. They did, however, zip tie her luggage shut.

So, the moral of the story is to pack your carry on until it bursts and then pretend not to speak the language. Then again, we did see a Mexican guy on the plane who somehow smuggled his Subway sandwich and water bottle…

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