Wednesday, September 5, 2012

an open letter to Terminal B.

It wasn't my fault.

I know it's uncommon to believe young adults these days, but believe me--TSA was to blame.

Like any frequent traveler, I packed lightly and compactly. I didn't have any giant bottles of liquids in my luggage, and I made sure to keep those prohibited items at home. I took my shoes of, and my jacket, and emptied my pockets. I removed my laptop easily from my backpack and prepared to see my items through the x-ray: one backpack, one laptop in a tray, another tray for my shoes and seater, and my carry-on suitcase.

"It's okay, I'll get it," a short, plump TSA agent with glasses and curly hair assured me. I insisted I wait (a TSA agent at Dulles yelled at me once for trying to go through the medal detector without watching my items enter the machine), but she sternly instructed me to go through the detector. I complied, then everything went wrong.

I walked through the detector effortlessly, then waited on the other side as items went through the machine. Finally, my backpack emerged, then my laptop, then my shoes…but no suitcase. I looked up and saw the young TSA agent at the computer signal to another agent, and they stopped the belt. I looked around the machine and didn't see my suitcase. It was stuck inside the x-ray machine.

A few agents circled the machine and tried to dislodge it with a stick. People around me started getting irate.

"Someone," the young agent said, glaring at me, "put their suitcase in wrong."

I bit my tongue to keep from correcting her from her improper use of the plural pronoun, and said loudly for other passengers to hear, "I'm sorry, an agent told me to go and she said she would put my luggage through!"

Apologies don't matter when it's 5:45 a.m. and people are mad. I'd never wanted to disappear more, and the yellow sweater I was wearing wasn't helping. The woman who's stuff was behind mine was insisting the agents let her items go through another line. She had done nothing wrong, she kept saying, and had a flight to catch at 6:30--the same flight as mine.

By 6:05, my suitcase was still stuck, and they finally let the lady go to a different line.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," I pleaded. "They said they'd put my suitcase--"

"Yeah, yeah," she snapped and shoved past me to go back to retrieve her things on the belt.

I glared at the agents as they continued to poke for my suitcase with a stick. Were these machines not equipped to handle this? Was there no escape hatch?

Finally, a minute later, the conveyor belt began to move again and my luggage emerged. The same agent who had promised to see my suitcase through grabbed it and brought it back to the front of the machine to send it through again. I closed my eyes and prayed it wouldn't get stuck a second time.

It didn't. And it was fine. And I grabbed it and fled the security line before the angry lady who was behind me could catch up to me.

I got to the gate right before they were about to announce passengers on the overhead who were missing. As I stood on the connecting walkway to enter the plane, I heard an exasperated sigh behind me. I slowly turned around. It was the angry lady.
I scurried down the cabin and hoped she wasn't sitting near me. She wasn't, but I could imagine the angry lady complaining to passengers around her about me, and knew she'd be telling the story to her family and friends for days to come. In my rush, I sat in the wrong seat, broke a nail, and nearly decapitated an old man with my suitcase as I struggled to lift it into the overhead bin.

PS- You all heard me apologize profusely, right? :(
PPS- Angry lady, you made your flight. Stop hating me, please.
PPPS- TSA, I hate you.


  1. We always say bumps on the grand or not so grand travel road make great stories to tell. Did you feel better after posting this letter?

    Ralph or otherwise known as Mr. E.

  2. At least they didn't pat down your bosoms like the security people in Austria did to me.