You Dropped A Bomb On Me, Baby
Rusty Mitchell


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.