I used to enjoy flying, even after the tighter restrictions put in place because of 9/11. I never minded the increased security or the need to arrive at the airport earlier than I would have preferred. I understood the fine men and women of the TSA were simply doing their jobs and I did not begrudge them. I let all the things that seemed to annoy my fellow travelers roll off me as best I could and always tried to smile. That all changed in 2003 when I made the mistake of flying from New York to Boston on a one way ticket.
I was going to attend a conference in Boston, but I couldn’t fly directly there since my company wanted me to stop off in New York to visit our office there for a day. That’s where the problems started.
Usually when I had to go to New York, I would fly from Nashville to Baltimore and then take the train in. Our NY office was only a couple of blocks from Madison Square Garden, so I could avoid cab fare (plus I enjoyed the normally relaxing train ride). I always flew Southwest since they had a direct flight. Southwest doesn’t service Boston, so the company travel agency originally scheduled me on another airline completely. This would not have been a problem, except they routed me through Detroit (Still with a train ride and the need for a taxi). I didn’t need a map to know this was both inefficient and illogical.
We also had someone from our New Hampshire division who was driving to the conference, so I saw an opportunity. I could fly Southwest to Baltimore and take the train, fly from NY to Boston on a different carrier, and then have our New Hampshire guy drop me off in Manchester, NH (which Southwest does service), and fly back to Nashville. It took a little coaxing to convince the travel agency when I told them my plan.
“You don’t want to do that,” said the voice on the phone from Missouri.
“Actually, yes, I do.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes, I . . . wait, we’re not three year olds. Why don’t I want to do that?”
“Because you can’t use the same airline for the entire trip.”
“Well, if you can’t use the same airline, you’ll have to fly on two different carriers.”
“Yeah, I get that. But why is that a problem?”
“Because you can’t fly the same airline for the entire trip.”
“Uh yeah, I get it. I don’t get why it’s a problem.”
“Because you’ll have to use two different carriers.”
I literally had to bite my tongue. Eventually I asked, “Do you like circles?”
“Never mind. Could you please just do it the way I asked.”
“Sure, no problem.” Really? Then why did we just have that ridiculous conversation? I chose to verbalize anything which crossed my mind at the moment and settled for a simple, “Thank you.”
The first leg of my trip was uneventful. I had a smooth flight with quiet seat mate. The day in New York was productive and I was looking forward to Boston. The NY Division Manager and I used a car service to get to JFK in plenty of time to get through security. It’s a good thing we left early.
The trouble started when we were getting our boarding passes. He went in front of me and, got his boarding pass, and headed for Security. I then handed my ticket to the woman behind the counter who looked it over for a moment, then stopped. She peered at it for a moment and then slowly reached down into a drawer, pulled out a stamp, and applied it to my boarding pass before giving it to me.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Nothing to worry about.”
“But he didn’t get one, why do I?”
“It’s really no big deal.” Spoiler Alert:She was totally lying!
“What was that about?” asked my traveling companion when I caught up to him.
“I don’t know, but I don;t think it’s good.”
We got in line for Security where my fears were confirmed. He was quickly pointed to one of the long lines after the agent checked his boarding pass. I handed her mine with a feeling of dread.
“I’m going to need you to step over to that line.” She pointed me to a completely empty security line. I walked up it and met a TSA agent that came over especially for me.
“Come with me.”
He led me to a “room” that consisted of tall glass walls (frosted up to about shoulder height) with no ceiling. Please begin undoing your pants and set your luggage on this table.
As I pulled off my belt I asked, “Is this because I have a one way ticket?”
“I cannot say, sir.” But he shook his head to let me know that was exactly why I was there.
I endured. That is, I endured until I looked out to see the NY Division Manager not even trying to contain his laughter as he snapped pictures with his cell phone and sent emails to our company (for the record, not that he could tell from his vantage point and regardless of his version of the story I was not wearing a thong).
I knew I shouldn’t bother talking to the agent, um, assisting me, but I couldn’t help it.
“Is this really necessary?” I asked as he began frisking me.
“Yes, sir, it’s procedure.”
“But isn’t this usually done to make sure I’m hiding something under my clothes?”
“Yes, sir, it is.” I refrained from pointing out he should be frisking the table beside us seeing as how it had my clothes.
“Shouldn’t you at least buy me dinner first?” His expression let me know it was time to shut up.
I finally got everything back on and then had to repack my bag myself. I exited the room and accepted the mostly good-natured ribbing I knew I’d be getting for the rest of the week. At least I had a good story to tell. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize my security woes had only begun.
To be continued!