Travel News: My Experience with TSA Regulations
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Poem related to this hub: The Kindness of a Stranger
- The Kindness Of A Stranger
Read this beautiful, original poem, and the story that preceded it, to discover that the kindness of strangers does still exist.