Travel News: My Experience with TSA Regulations

Airport Delays

On December 28, 2010, I woke at 3:30 a.m. to prepare for the drive to Detroit Metro Airport. My flight was scheduled to leave at 7:05 a.m. and I wanted an early start, anticipating the long lines through security. What I had forgotten was that the airports were still inundated with travelers whose flights had already been thwarted by heavy snow that hit two days earlier.

It’s not that the late December snowstorm had not affected me indirectly. My nephew, Jeremiah, was supposed to fly out of Norfolk, Virginia the morning of the storm with a layover and plane change in Philadelphia. The news that he could not reach the airport because of snow covered roads came via a phone call, before the news of the cancellation even reached my email.

At 5:30 in the morning I was not about to drag myself out of bed to check the notices sent by the airlines, but anticipated that I would be rearranging his trip to visit cousins in Minnesota. I was grateful for the foresight of buying travel insurance.

Flights Cancelled

Personally, I’ve never had much luck with the Philly airport system. I travel frequently, and after having numerous cancellations between Norfolk and Detroit, opted out of changing planes in that particular area. No matter what the season they seemed prone to storm systems and shut downs. I knew I was taking a big chance having my nephew fly through there; however, I did not have many choices given his schedule.

Later, that morning, I was amazed to receive this notice from the Philadelphia airport: We regret to inform you that your flight has been cancelled and re-booked for Monday, December 27th at 7:05 a.m. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope this re-booking is agreeable.

Well, it was not. I sat stunned. My nephew was expected to fly out of one airport into an airport that was snowbound, while all their flights were being cancelled? No way. It made no sense and I thought they were crazy to even suggest it. With a state-of-emergency called in both Virginia and North Carolina, I wondered why Norfolk airport was not affected.

I didn’t have to wait long before I received additional emails from both Norfolk’s airport and a day later, from Philadelphia. The first cancelled the original flight to Minnesota, the second eventually cancelled the re-boarding of the Philadelphia link and did not attempt to reschedule. Apparently, the powers that coordinated all flights realized the futility of this endeavor.

With Jeremiah safe at home, that left me, the sole holiday traveler, trying to return in the aftermath of the storm and, according to one source, between storm systems. What faced me in the airport was the reality of the ravages of the winter white.

Stranded at the airport

Stranded December 26th
Stranded December 26th | Source

Travel Delays

It wasn’t just the long holiday lines, the kiosk system was down prohibiting the ease and convenience of getting the boarding pass quickly and moving into the security line. I had wondered why I was unable to print my boarding pass from home and assumed it was because of the airlines overbooking the flight.

Overbooking was an understatement. People in front and behind me were attempting to reschedule their original flights from three days ago. I later met numerous passengers who had been stranded in the airport on that fateful Sunday morning. I had it easy in comparison to them. At least my adventure was just beginning, and with no precipitation on the horizon in Detroit or Norfolk; a direct flight; and an early start…well, I thought I had it made. Never mind that there were only two agents working the desk for, um, a hundred passengers in front of me? I felt confident that my journey would not be hit with any weather related delays.


TSA Rules and Me

My troubles, and annoyance, began when I attempted to go through the security checkpoint. In the course of packing I had forgotten about the security rule of no liquids and placed my nephew’s present in my carry-on. Had I realized it beforehand I would have mailed the gift the day before. Instead, after searching the enclosed box, the six foot four, 250 pound TSA worker informed me that he would have to confiscate the beautiful, (and expensive), Christmas snow globe I was bringing home to Jeremiah. I balked. He offered an alternative, notifying me firmly that sending the luggage through baggage claim was NOT an option. His alternative was to have someone from the ‘outside’ take it back to with him.

I looked at him dumbfounded. Apparently, I thought sarcastically, he lives in the airport and has no drive to make. On the other hand, my transportation was a forty-five minute drive from the suburbs by my daughter who was most likely already home by this time.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said perturbed. “I have no one waiting for me out there…I was dropped off. It’s a snow globe. It’s a Christmas present,” I said in hopes of appealing to his compassion.

I was getting nowhere fast and, with all the patience of Mother Theresa, the big guy reiterated my options. Glancing at my watch, and doing a quick calculation of time, I chose to step out of the security line and back to the entrance in hopes of finding someone to take the gift. Although I was greatly disappointed that the globe would not get to Jeremiah, I was determined that the department of TSA ‘confiscated items’ was not going to receive this gift. I would rather give it to a total stranger than to give it up to them.

Upset, I called my daughter. I did not expect her to return to pick it up, nor would I even ask. I merely wanted to vent. She was unavailable and I left a message. In the meantime, I looked around carefully in hopes to find someone who was seeing a loved one off. In the course of my maneuvers I had inadvertently moved myself to a quiet place in the international boarding area.


Stopped and Searched by Security

Long lines during holiday travel
Long lines during holiday travel | Source

Stranger and the Act of Kindness

Approaching one woman who looked like she was from the Middle Eastern region, I asked if she was traveling. Making a slight shake of her head and touching her lips she did not respond. Her eyes were wide watching me, confused to my purpose. I attempted to inquire once more and again, she did not indicate understanding any English. I was feeling increasingly frustrated.

Just as I was about to set off for the outside of the building an American looking gentleman walked by. I approached him and explained the dilemma, offering the gift up to him in order to move on. He immediately recognized my frustration and understood the situation I was in. Instead of taking the gift for himself he offered to mail it out to me-an option I had not even considered. With just a moment of hesitation for inconveniencing this stranger I took him up on his kind gesture, remembering that it is a token of love and self worth to humbly receive favors bestowed upon us. I certainly felt deserving of this unexpected gift.

I thanked him profusely, quickly scribbled my address, tucked that into his hand along with some cash for postage and pulled the box out of my suitcase. In less than five minutes this total stranger had eased my mind, helped to resolve a seemingly, irresolvable problem, and allowed me to move forward with my travel. I said a quick prayer of gratitude and blessed him on his way.

Whether the package ever gets to our home or not is beside the point. I believe it will. The kindness of this stranger is the act that will be remembered over and above all of the other events that occurred during my return trip.

As I sat in the warmth of my own home watching the evening world news it was obvious that I was one of the lucky ones. I arrived safe and unharmed. Contrary to my momentary belief that I was being inconvenienced, my journey was nothing in comparison to all that was observed around me. And, along the way I met some wonderful people.


Christmas Presents

A Christmas Snow globe
A Christmas Snow globe | Source

The Gift Arrival

Here is the update to the question, "will the stranger really send the package?" which I promised to report.

YES! It arrived safe and sound on Monday, January 3, 2011. My nephew was pleased and surprised. It is the ending to a beautiful act of the Spirit of Christmas. Thank you for sharing this story with me. If you would like to read the poem I sent off to Mr. Unknown as a thankyou, follow the hub below which is linked to that site.

More by this Author


Comments 21 comments

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 5 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

The kindness of the stranger was very touching! Last year I traveled for the Holidays to Florida to spend it with my sister, and I hope to avoid holiday traveling again; it was not a pleasant trip as planes were overcrowded and an agent was rude to me, and I almost got lost in the LA airport between planes. Glad your trip had the hand of kindness touch you easing the stress; its something you will always remember.

Rated up!


carrie450 profile image

carrie450 5 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

My heart went out for the travelers stuck at the airports this Christmas. It must have been so frustrating for them. Weather is so unpredictable at this time of the year. Glad you finally made it home Denise. Happy New Year to you and your family.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

I don't know how people do this, I don't fly so this is something I will not experience, however it sounds like a nightmare. On top of the problems your facing on the ground, the weather in the sky's would really scare me to take off and land in ice. Yuck...very great hub, come visit my hubs when you find time. rate up and have a great New Year love & peace darski


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

Ahhh.. how sweet and Christmassy :-)


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Happy ending to a frustrating experience story! When my son was young he had gone into a store to get his Dad a gift. He wanted to go all by himself. I think he was 8 at the time. When he got to the cash he didn't have enough money and was short by about ten dollars. The man behind him kindly paid for the gift. He will always remember this and maybe some day he will do the same for another person.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Wow, what a wonderful, frustrating story of what the world we live in has become. I'll bet the gentlemen, was good on his word, and that Snow Globe will arrive safe and sound. Thanks for sharing.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

I love the way you wrote this, especially the part about the kind stranger which was very touching. I bet he does send it out as promised.

Glad you made it home faster than most and that your nephew didn't get stranded in Phillie.


Danette Watt 5 years ago

The stranger was indeed kind and generous to offer to mail the snow globe to you and like you, I believe it will arrive in the mail soon. Small acts of kindnesses to other travelers makes a big difference in all our lives.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks everyone for your comments and support. It was a nice end to a frustrating beginning.

Violet-I know what you mean about vowing not to fly again during the holidays. I found myself saying that same thing-but, with grandkids in the picture, I hardly think I'll keep that promise. I'm sorry your trip was so unpleasant as well. Not every airport is awful, but I find some airport personel more rude than others.

Darski-I understand your reluctance to fly. I used to LOVE to fly and now it is more unpleasant than not.

Carrie-my gosh, I hear you. I was one of the more fortunate travelers & trust me, I was really counting my blessings.

De Greek- thanks :) Yes, it was a true 'gift' of Christmas.

Susan-what a wonderful experience for your son. Thanks for sharing. Any act of kindness between two strangers is sweet enough...it's particularly memorable when it involves a child.

B-thanks for reading and commenting. I agree. I am hopeful and will be delighted when it arrives. :)

Hi Gail-Thanks so much for your feedback. I think more people than not sense the good in this stranger.

Danette-so true. It's the little acts of kindness that help each of us get through the rough parts of life, isn't it? Thanks for your feedback.

As for the infamous snowglobe...I will have to add an addendum to the story to let everyone know how it turned out.


MonicaRobinson profile image

MonicaRobinson 5 years ago

Denise, I am glad you made it home safe and sound. There are times in our life when we have a chance meeting with someone like your stranger, and then there are times when we have a chance to be that stranger. Happy New Year!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Monica-good to see you back here again. Yes, you are absolutely right-we each have many opportunities to be that stranger of kindness, don't we. Great point! Happy New Year to you as well. :)


cookingdiva 5 years ago

Traveling during winter time is always crazy. Now, I like to avoid it. I have my parents in east coast and I am west coast so we travel but always try to see if we can avoid the hassles and stress during holiday times.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

I agree. I LOVE California and miss it very much. If I had my choice I would live there. However, my children/grandchildren live in Michigan so I am staying put on the east coast for now. Thanks for visiting the site and commenting. Happy New Year.


CarolineVABC profile image

CarolineVABC 5 years ago from Castaic

Hello Denise!

Sometimes unfortunate events lead to opportunities or favorable events such as meeting up with the stranger who, incidentally, had helped you with your situation. It also means that there will be times when we have to "reach out of our own inner circle" whether we are the ones needing help or vise versa. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful hub, which made Christmas/holidays even more meaningful and making us realize what Christmas is all about. Beautifully written-keep at it. Have a wonderful and blessed New Year!:-)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi CarolineV-nice to meet you. Happy New Year to you too. Thanks for visiting my hub.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

Beautiful, heart warming, brings out the true spirit of Christmas.

Voted up.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hello Vellur-thank you for reading this hub and leaving your comments. I appreciate it.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Posting your experience has enlarged the scope of the kind stranger's generous and selfless response to your predicament, giving me a smile today--thanks! :)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi RT-thanks for reading this and offering your feedback. It really was such a kind gesture that was a perfect solution.


Allysa 24 months ago

I always love reading this story! Especially since the stranger is my dad. :)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 22 months ago from North Carolina Author

Oh, Allyssa...really? How wonderful for you to offer this information here. I hope you have also read the poem I wrote about the incident. My goodness. You have a wonderful, and kindhearted father. :) Tell him 'Thank You' from me once more. I just put away the Christmas globe several days ago until the next season.

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