Thursday, April 14, 2011

The 411 on the 3-1-1

A couple of weeks ago when I was flying off on my chick weekend, I saw signs like this everywhere at the security checkpoints at the airport.

I understand the reason for all the security restrictions, and I have to say, I'm fine with them. I'm willing to do with a little extra inconvenience if it helps keep us safer. (I realize the actual safety factor might be debatable, but that's a subject for a different post.) I'm not particularly thrilled with the possibility of full-body scans (something that I didn't have to endure on this trip), but I would definitely choose them over the extremely thorough patdown alternatives. No one's giving me an intimate patdown without buying me dinner and some really expensive bling first. (Hey, I'm not easy!)

I do have a confession to make about the above signs. I think I'm the reason for the final "1" in the 3-1-1 equation.

I think I've mentioned before on the blog that I'm a little high maintenance. What I mean by that is, it takes a lot to put together the whole package in the mornings. In addition to the body wash, the facial cleanser, the shampoo and conditioner, there's also the facial moisturizer, the face cream, the body lotion, the powder, the hair gel, the mousse, the hairspray, the hand lotion, etc. You get the idea. What can I say? I put a lot of effort into making myself look ... really average.

I'm also brand loyal. I refuse to use any old bargain brand of product. I'm not insanely outrageous about the beauty products I buy, but as I've told my husband many times, I can't look this good for free. Although I do sometimes think I should be getting a better return on my investment.

At any rate, several years ago my husband and I were flying out of Birmingham, Alabama, for a weekend in Florida. There was a church down here that was considering Indiana for their pastor, and they wanted to meet the wife. (We've lived down here for the past four years, so you can guess the outcome of that particular weekend.) While packing for our trip, I dutifully filled little 3 ounce bottles with the various liquids and gels I needed to make me look like me. That took a lot of little bottles. And I ran into a some trouble when I pulled out my ziploc bags.

In the first place, my bags weren't quart-sized, they were sandwich-sized. At the time, I didn't realize how big a difference that would make. Plus, I didn't just try to pack all my little bottles into the ziploc bag, I tried to pack all of our toiletries. That included our deodorants, toothbrushes, Q-tips, etc. I've always packed all our toiletries together, and I saw no reason to separate them. Except that I quickly discovered that everything would not fit into one little ziploc bag.

If I'd been thinking, something I clearly don't practice on a regular basis, I could have put one ziploc in each of our carry-ons, and that would have helped. But not completely because I couldn't fit everything into two ziploc bags either. Or three.

Try five.

My husband frowned at the five ziploc bags I was tucking into my suitcase and commented that he didn't think security was going to let them through. "But I need them," I answered, as though the logic of my argument could not be refuted. Apparently he felt I would take rejection better from a TSA agent than from him because he didn't argue further. He only commented that, if they didn't allow all those plastic bags, the excess would have to go in the garbage can. If that was the case, I wasn't to say a word in protest, he cautioned. I guess he figured missing our flight because we were suspected of possible terrorist activities wouldn't make a good impression with the candidating committee. Point taken.

I'll just be casual and quick, I decided. If I acted like I and my five ziploc bags of beauty products were supposed to be there, perhaps no one would notice.

Birmingham is not the biggest airport in the country, and we were the only two people going through the security line. We piled our jackets, laptops, shoes and my purse onto the conveyor belt and then swung our suitcases up on the line. I quickly unzipped my suitcase and pulled out all of my ziplocs, sliding them into a nearby tray. I was casual. I was quick.

Perhaps if I hadn't been standing directly across from a TSA agent ...

She said, "Whoa!" and the entire belt stopped. Two other agents came over and the three of them inspected my multiple bags of beauty products. When they stopped laughing, (I'm sure they were laughing at my packing stupidity and not at my delusions about the effectiveness of my beauty regime), they explained as though talking to a young and not particularly bright child that one bag per passenger was allowed.

I think sometimes it helps to encourage people's belief in your own stupidity. I frowned and looked confused until one of them suggested that one bag could technically belong to my husband. Eventually, with time running out, they hustled me through the metal detector--Indiana had already gone through and put his shoes back on--and then took me over to a garbage can. I was mentally bracing myself to toss everything when one efficient worker grabbed my purse. She proceeded to toss into it everything from the ziplocs that didn't actually need to be in there. She then consolidated the rest and managed to fit it into two bags, one for me and one for my husband.

I smiled gratefully at her and started to thank her for saving all my stuff, but there was no answering smile. "You might get away with this stuff here," she warned me sternly. "But if you pull this stuff at Orlando's airport, they'll nail you."

By the way, she used another word for "stuff".

I have learned my lesson. For my chick weekend, I had one quart-sized ziploc bag in my carry-on. I did, however, have to pay to check a piece of luggage.

What? I told you, I can't look this good for free!


  1. How do they expect us to look good on ONE ziploc? It's outrageous I tell ya. Glad they had mercy on ya.

  2. Thanks for the reminders on travel regs. I'm hoping to avoid the body scan/pat down. I'll let you know how that works for me. Blessings, SusanD

  3. Maybe it's a good thing I never get to fly! Nah, I really only use shampoo and body soap. I'm just a Plain Jane I guess.

  4. You were SOOOO lucky! I have had numerous things dumped in the trash. My own fault for not putting it in the checked luggage. I draw a line at wine. I'll stand there and drink the whole bottle before I let them trash it.


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