You Dropped A Bomb On Me, Baby


I'm not very well traveled. As a matter of fact, I rarely go further than 75 miles from the small town where I grew up. Last week I boarded an airplane for only the seventh time in my life. My 21 month old daughter Brook and I were headed to Orlando to meet up with my wife and visit family. It was the first time I had flown since September 11, and I was not fully prepared for the experience.

Although I haven't flown since September 11, I wouldn't say that I have remained completely sheltered. I was well aware of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and the security changes that have taken place in airports. Heightened security throughout our country has become a necessary inconvenience that most reasonable citizens are more than willing to cooperate with.

My wife flew out on business the day before my daughter and I. The evening before she left, I decided to boost her spirits while she packed and prep myself for the trip by reading some of the more interesting TSA horror stories that have been posted online. Stories such as "Coffee, Tea, or Should We Feel Your Pregnant Wife’s Breasts Before Throwing You in a Cell at the Airport and Then Lying About Why We Put You There?", "Woman Faces Prison After Run-in With Airport Screener", "'Humiliating' Airport Searches Irk Female Passengers", and "A Taste of the System". Little did I know that a couple of days later, Brook and I would experience our own small scale bit of drama while at the Nashville airport.

After one of the quickest and smoothest check-ins that I can remember, Brook and I said our goodbyes to our ride and headed to the security check-point on our way to board our Southwest flight. I was doing my best to read all of the signs and take in the procedure from the people around me, but I had an increasing number of distractions.

First was the sheer volume of things I was carrying on the plane (a camera bag, diaper bag, and a car seat). Next was the previously mentioned daughter (who we often refer to affectionately as "Psycho Baby") trying to writhe away from my grasp at her first opportunity. Last was that tiny device which has the power to become such a huge distraction for so many people, a cell phone.

I juggled the bags into the plastic bins, placed the car seat on the rack, and emptied my pockets while doing my best to keep Brook by my side. I thought we were set to pass the checkpoint and move on. Then came the distraction that tilted everything into motion.

At the last minute, after I had already placed my cell phone into the plastic bin with the rest of my belongings, I noticed a phone call from the person who had just dropped us off at the airport. Since we had just left his company only minutes before and he was driving my car, I assumed it must be important and instinctively reached into the bin and answered the phone. We resolved his problem quickly, ended the call, and I again hurriedly headed towards the metal detector hand in hand with Brook.

As we passed through the detector, the infamous beep rang out and we immediately stopped. At this point, I'm sure you are prepared to hear that I was pounced on and promptly beaten like Rodney King by the LAPD. Hey, I probably even deserved it after answering the stupid phone. But everything remained calm. The person running the metal detector asked us to step back, take off our shoes, empty my pockets, and try again. I was extremely embarrassed at this point that we were holding things up, so I quickly complied, grabbed Brook's hand, and stepped back through the detector.

Beep, beep, beep. The detector rang out it's grating song again. My head was spinning as the TSA officer motioned my daughter and I to step aside into a holding area. I was franticly trying to figure out what could possibly be making the detector go off, patting myself down, when I hit my pants pocket and realized what had happened.

In my rush to get off the phone and not hold up the line, I had thrown my phone back into my pocket instead of into the bin where it belonged. As I realized my mistake, I produced the phone and held it up so the TSA officer could see. However, it was too late at this point. We were going to have to wait for a more advanced search. None of this took more than a few extra minutes, and as innocent as my blunder had been, I fully understood why we were now in this predicament.

After a short wait, the officer motioned for me to step over to another area with white shoe prints painted onto the carpet. As I waited to be checked by the handheld metal detector wand and patted down, the officer was even nice enough to get another officer to watch Brook.

But then it happened. And it happened so quickly, that I was too stunned to even respond. A female officer walked up, sheepishly looked at me, and explained how she needed to pat down my 21 month old daughter. Before I could even respond, my little girl had been patted down by the embarrassed woman in the rubber gloves.

Yes you heard me correctly, my daughter, who has yet to celebrate her second birthday, was graced with the TSA's special infant pat down. Lucky for all of us, I had left her dynamite vest at home. We were promptly cleared, and after a brief moment of astonishment, I put on our shoes, refilled my pockets, gathered our bags and the car seat, grabbed Brook before she could cause a true terror alert, and continued on to our flight.

Thanks TSA for making a stress free experience even more enjoyable. I can't wait for my next flight.

By the way, if you are prepping for some travel of your own with your child, be sure to check out the governments beautiful and informative site, TSA Summer. You might find the section for kids, TSA Kids (with a backwards K), especially enlightening. I am most fond of this statement, "Screening isn't hard – and is actually kind of fun." Happy trails.

mark, Aug 12 2005 9:49AM

many years ago, my father took me to the airport. in those days people were allowed to accompany travellers to the gate. at the security checkpoint, my dad inadvertently set off the metal detector. a snivelly security person approached my father and asked him if he had anything metal on him. my dad was certain no. the determined security man waved his wand all over my dad and stopped when he heard a beep near my dad's front right pants pocket.

my dad dug deep and produced a money clip that he had forgotten to remove. the triumphant guard proclaimed "i knew you were carrying something metal" and let us go on our way.

at the gate, my dad dug into his other pant pocket to give me a little travelling cash. he came out with some loaded bullets he had forgotten about. we laughed.

when i arrived at my destination, i called my dad to tell him i had made it safely. he answered the phone nervously and told me that on the ride home he could not get comfortable because of an object in his back pocket. that object was a loaded gun which he often carried and had brought right to the gate with us.

watch out for old people and infants.

welcome to GUTSY and thanks for sharing the story.

Ann, Aug 12 2005 1:48PM

I've got a 15-month-old, but I've never taken him on public transportation before. I can't imagine him being patted down. But I guess there are occasions where people try to load their own kid's diaper with something other than what it was designed for.

Sandie, Aug 12 2005 2:18PM

People have been loading up kids' diapers since the Civil War! Or at least that's how Scarlett saves the O'Hara fortune from the Yankees in Gone With the Wind (this was my guilty-pleasure book this summer.)

Ann, Aug 12 2005 3:02PM

Hmmmmm...sounds like a good way to smuggle cheap candy into the movies! Or maybe not....

rusty, Aug 12 2005 3:16PM

If the O'Hara fortune could fit in a child's diaper, I'm not sure it can rightfully be referred to as a fortune.

Honestly, I'm not sure if they even patted down the diaper area. They did pat down her chest though. That is when my 21 month old calmly turned to the lady and said, "Stop feeling me up. How would you like it if someone did that to you?"

Oh wait, I'm getting the stories mixed up...

guido, Aug 15 2005 1:33PM

wait and see when you travel oversees...

mark, Aug 15 2005 5:33PM

it looks like babies are also being prevented from flying because their name has landed on the no-fly list.

when will you parents learn that babies ARE a genuine threat against civil aviation.

Matthew, Aug 16 2005 1:43PM

One of my colleagues was caught up in a no-fly list. He is a research scientist at the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory, his name is Mohammed Ahmed, was born in Pakistan, and went to visit his parents. His father has been a US State Department employee in Pakistan for 20+ years, so Mohammed thought he wouldn't have any problems. He was stuck in Pakistan for OVER A YEAR submitting and re-submitting paper work for his return to America. The university administration tried to expedite his return through a Congressional inquiry, and were told by contacts in the federal government that an inquiry could only delay his return, as his paper work would be frozen and have to be re-submitted at the conclusion of any inquiry.
The best part is that a large portion of Mohammed's salary is paid for by the US Department of Energy. Democracy at its finest.