Random Search

April 5, 2013

in Airport Stories

Last May, I traveled to Saint Louis to visit my daughter. I’m a very nervous flier and had not traveled by plane in almost 10 years. One reason I dread flying is that I am always selected for a random search. So, to avoid problems, I paid to check my bag and only took my purse as a carry-on. I breezed through security on the trip to Saint Louis, the flight was on time and uneventful, and I was happy that I didn’t have any problems. The return trip was a different story.

I asked my daughter to drop me off at the airport early so I could sit and relax before having to board the plane. The TSA agents, however, had other plans for me.

The security line wasn’t long, and in less than five minutes it was my turn. I dutifully took off my shoes, made sure my pockets were empty (they were), and placed my purse and shoes on the belt. I went through the full body scanner and waited for my belongings to come down the belt. As I reached for my shoes, a TSA agent rushed over and said, “Don’t touch anything! We have to re-scan your items.” At this point, the security line was getting crowded, and re-scanning my items meant waiting for other items already on the belt to be scanned. Ten minutes later, my things come back down the belt, and the same TSA agent tells me that they have to empty items from my purse and re-scan everything.

It’s important to note here that I had the same items in my purse as I did on my original flight: wallet, keys, pen, Kindle, cell phone, MP3 player, sunglasses, reading glasses and a small zippered bag with ibuprofen, lipstick and chapstick. The agent removed my Kindle, cell phone and MP3 player and placed them in a bin, then took everything back to be scanned a third time.

The security line was now even longer, and again I had to wait my turn before my items were sent through. Another 15 minutes went by. As my items were finally being scanned, the TSA agent came over and said I could leave when my things came out. Finally! I reached for my items as they came down the belt, and a different TSA agent rushed over and shouted, “What are you doing? I have to re-scan those items.”

Up to now, I hadn’t said anything, knowing that it was pointless to argue. However, I was getting tired of standing there in my bare feet on the grimy floor, so I asked if I could at least put on my shoes. (Yes, I foolishly wore sandals and didn’t have any socks on. Another lesson learned.) Well, this created an international incident. The agent had to go ask her supervisor and another agent if they thought letting me have my shoes was permissible. They conferred for a few minutes, then decided that it would be OK.

I put on my shoes while the agent removed my sunglasses and zippered bag, along with everything inside the zippered bag and placed them in the bin. Once again, my items were sent back for re-scan, and once again I had to wait my turn. As my items came back down the belt, both of the agents who had taken items from my purse walked over to me. They said that I was cleared to go, but that I couldn’t put the items in the purse myself. The first agent picked up an item from the bin, checked it thoroughly, then handed it to the second agent who also had to scrutinize it before placing it in my purse. They proceeded to do this one item at a time and then allowed me to go.

Needless to say, my close to 60 minutes getting through security had me completely unraveled. Not to mention the problems with my return flight — but that’s a story for another time! I probably won’t fly for another 10 years.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

chuck harris April 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Exactly the reason that I do not travel by air. TSA is full of jerks.


Lucy May 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm

You are a absolutely correct… why do we let these A**hole comandeer our lives — another reason…


lachicadecafe April 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

If the TSA would only be consistent in its application of "The Rules"… I hate flying because of TSA!


Flying Bridge April 7, 2013 at 7:33 am

I've flown a few times in the recent past and never had any problems with TSA. I'd rather have them checking people, than face the terror of someone with a weapon on board the plane!


James April 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm

It really does differ from airport to airport, and sometimes even airlines within an airport. I've not (yet) had a bad experience in San Francisco, but never had a good one in Newark, for example.


Lucy May 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm

You are lucky.


Kate April 9, 2013 at 11:45 am

That's the thing about random searches-they're random. There's nothing you can do/not do to make it more or less likely it'll happen to you.

Although this situation does seem pretty bad. And I hate that if you politely try to ask a question or something, many of them act as though you've committed a crime.


sports bra lady April 30, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Really, really, really? I ask again, really? While they are spending so much time and personnel on this one women, who is clearly not a threat, how many suspect passengers are getting through because of all the time and effort spent on her. Was this a drill or something? I cannot understand the concentration of effort put on this one women who was clearly not a threat. SO many of you say you would rather have this happen than to let a terrorist through. Well, they are laughing at us behind our backs. Random checks? How about less random and more spot on? Oh, you can't profile because that is not politically correct? Well, the profile was already made because of past actions. Not because a woman tried to board a plane with a purse and a few meager possession's. Put the medicine where the pain is and you will find the suspect passengers! Don't waste the resources! This was a rant, and I am me and I approve this rant.


James May 1, 2013 at 6:43 am

While they are spending so much time and personnel on this one women, who is clearly not a threat, how many suspect passengers are getting through because of all the time and effort spent on her.


That's the real crime of the TSA overkill. Since 9/11 there have been about five billion passengers screened since 9/11, and the number of "suspicious passengers" is less than ten… So, odds are good that no one who would cause a problem even went to that airport that day.


Barbara Fuhrman May 23, 2013 at 10:35 am

I had the same thing happen to me on a return flight from South Dakota, only my things were only scanned & rescanned four times , but I had two patdowns plus full body scanner. The item in question turned out to be a 1" tiny souvenier horse I'd bought for a horselover friend. I am a senior, 75 years old. Guess I must look like a Terrorist!


Lucy May 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Sad times for all of us


Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post:

Next post: