Is this normal for a bag check?

Discussion in 'Aviation Passenger Security in the USA' started by phoebepontiac, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. So, my family and I just returned from our first flying vacation in two years. It was a much needed break from this frozen hunk of rock up here, and my kids were not molested at the airport, which was my primary objective. But I found the checkpoint experience harrowing enough not to want to do it again, ever. Next trip is by ferry or through Canada, until they totally ruin those, too. Then perhaps we go ahead and expatriate.

    Ironically, it was scanner-free TUS where we got hassled. I was on guard and successfully took control of the situation when my 5 year old son tripped the random alarm on the metal detector. The Uriah Heep-looking guy at the WTMD told him to "stand right there" by the baggage x-ray, no explanation as to what was going on, but stopped being all cryptic once I demanded to know what was happening. They took my son's backpack, swabbed the handle, and that was fine.

    But then things got all complicated. They wanted to run my bag through again, and then take it for a bag check. I turned to see if my husband was coming with us, and he was in the process of getting frisked by Uriah Heep for no apparent reason. Maybe he took the random grope that my son alarmed, and I was immune because I was carrying a baby? Or maybe it's because he has a nice bushy beard and that makes him a domestic terrorist. Which he is, in fact, bought me a gun for Christmas, and donates to Ron Paul and everything. He said it all happened so fast and he was trying to keep his eye on us so he didn't ask why he got frisked. But anyway, there I was, holding a baby, keeping an eye on a five year old, freaked out that my husband was getting frisked, and a guy was going though my bag.

    The guy was young, cute, friendly, and polite. And, I think, newer to the job. He was perplexed by the lock on my backpack, and then seemed uncomfortable when I stared daggers at him while he took my stuff out. Apparently there was something "dense" in my bag the x-ray girl couldn't deal with. He suggested it was probably the baby wipes (seriously, baby wipes?), but then asked about another couple things -- Flip camera, is this dense? Purse, is this dense? I was like, dude, I don't know. Your job to know about density, not mine. But then, he laid out my suspicious dense belongings in a bin, including my purse, in which I had tucked away my expensive jewelry, and took the tub of exposed things and my backpack back to the baggage x-ray to run through again.

    This was the part that bothered me. Dude was timid and friendly enough that I think I could have made a case out of him walking off with my stuff all out of my backpack like that, but my attention was spread too thin at that point -- baby, five year old, husband off taking the grope, and then separated from my belongings to a point where I couldn't keep them in view, even when I tried. He came back after a while, everything was fine, and I was pretty snappy with a "no" when he asked if he should pack up my stuff for me. Then I made a point of checking my purse to make sure nothing was missing.

    I'm good at judging people, and this guy was not a thief. He has all my best wishes in a job search once he realizes he's too good for that job. But the principle of it bothered me. All this stuff I had locked up, and for good reason, and he spread it all out in a bin and took off with it.

    So there's my question -- spreading someone's stuff from their bag all out in a bin and walking off with it to go through the x-ray, is this normal? Or was this guy kind of dopey about how to proceed?
  2. N965VJ

    N965VJ Original Member

    I don't think this guy was following SOP. First, I've never had a screener ask me to help them identify something that triggered a secondary while they were going through my stuff. This is a key difference in how things are done by the TSA versus other countries. Also, I've never had all the contents separated from my bag and run through in a tub.
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  3. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    I haven't flown in a year, so I'll be up front about that, but that said, I haven't ever had my stuff spread out in a bin and then carted off where I couldn't see it.

    I have had the experience with a dense object - but it was weird. The screener ran my bag through the x-ray and then said that there was a dense object in my bag and asked me if I knew what it was. I said no (I really didn't know) and that he could search the bag and find it. The guy said 'no, that's okay', and handed me my bag. I was confused by this. I honestly didn't know what the dense object was that was in my bag, the screener didn't know what was in my bag and was okay with that. It turned out the object was a lead crystal paperweight that I had gotten as a gift. I had forgotten that it was still in my bag. :rolleyes:
  4. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    I've had many. But all of the dense objects were wearing TSA uniforms.
  5. Lisa Simeone

    Lisa Simeone Original Member

    They do what they want, when they want, how they want. There's no "normal" and there's no reliable SOP. SOP is whatever they say it is.

    Scan the Master Lists to see how many people have had stuff stolen because they were separated from their belongings. I, too, was separated from mine.

    Again, they do what they want.
  6. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    There's a clause somewhere that they will trot out when they need that basically says everything is at the discretion of the screener present.
    Their SOP is secret, they don't really tell us, the passengers much on what the procedures are for us. And their reasoning is 'to keep the bad guys on their toes.'
    Does it all sound vague? Yes, it does.
  7. Caradoc

    Caradoc Original Member

    It does nothing to keep the real bad guys on their toes - the ones wearing blue shirts and tin badges. Whenever they're caught out in a lie, that clause gives them a too-easy out.
  8. Thanks for the replies, everybody. You know, the idea that it was screener discretion makes sense -- I'm pretty sure my eyes got wider each time he took something out, and he noticed it. In my head I was like, is he going to go through my purse? Will he discover my sanitary napkins? Will he find my journal and read it? (In which I'm working on a few short stories that would have made him blush!) I don't really care if all that stuff sees the light of day, but here was a young cute boy going through my lady things, the situation was just untoward, especially with my kids right there and my big, burly husband not far behind. Plus, I had my backpack packed very tightly with misc. because my suitcase was almost too heavy, so there was the potential for things spilling all over the place. I do suspect he felt like running it through the x-ray the way he did would save one or all of us the embarrassment of the situation, he just unwittingly took off with my hidden jewelry unsecured.

    I could have, of course, been friendly about it and diffused the situation, taken the bait with his friendly chit chat. But ever since scope-n-grope prompted me to learn about TSA abuses, I'm convinced that if I can't directly oppose the police state, the best thing I can do is visibly show that I'm shocked by it and refuse to accept it as normal. I'd rather my kids see my shock and disgust than acceptance, too.

    Oh yeah, and ETA: It strikes me that the suspect dense package of baby wipes was about the size and shape of a brick of heroin. At least, the size and shape of any brick of heroin I've ever seen in a movie. For whatever that's worth.
  9. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    Be careful with this one. At the individual screener's discretion could mean "hey that diamond ring of yours is a sharp object that could be used as a weapon, you must surrender it with me."

    "hey that ipad of yours could have information on it that a bad guy could look up to take down this plane, you need to surrender it to me."

    "I don't like the looks of those pills you're taking for your cancer recovery, the doctor's note might be a fake so you'd better surrender those pills to me."

    "I need to make copies of your credit cards, their numbers and your license because you could be up to no good."

    "The cash in your wallet could be used to bribed someone to take down the plane you'll have to surrender it to me."

    You might think I'm being extreme but take a look at the documented cases where these lines have been pulled.
    FetePerfection and Lisa Simeone like this.
  10. Oh, I know! Not saying I approve of it. I just think discretion explains why he spread my stuff out in a tub and ran it through the x-ray, which would appear to be non-SOP.
  11. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    Heh. I guess I'm past the age of caring and with the way these smurfs push the boundaries of society;
    I pack my sanitary item on top of my luggage on purpose now. Regardless of the time of month.
    And I hold my breath hoping they find them. To amuse myself, I try to predict which ones will blush and which won't.
  12. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    Pack them used. They deserve no less for the invasion.
    Lisa Simeone likes this.
  13. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach


    I purposefully put a nice, ripe dirty pair of undies right on top. Even on the outbound when everything else is clean.

    I find it shortens the length of the search dramatically. Dramatically.

    I know I feel safer.
  14. N965VJ

    N965VJ Original Member

    Hmmmm, maybe a "skidmark" made with a piece of chocolate is in order.... :eek::p:D
  15. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    Well.... when I was flying....

    I'd always put something gothy on the top - something made out of PVC with lots of hardware. I have one particular black PVC mini-skirt that has these big black clasps up the front and up the sides. Apparently you can't tell what it is when it goes through the x-ray. So funny when the men pull out the skirt, can't tell that it's a skirt, then blush when I innocently tell them how it works. I know you aren't supposed to touch your stuff when they're searching through it, but this one time, the guy was so flustered, I just reached over and showed him how to undo the clasps. He looked like he wanted to tell me 'don't touch', but he couldn't get the words out.

    (I wish there was a devil smiling face emoticon for me to use) :)
    lkkinetic and Lisa Simeone like this.
  16. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    I enjoy this, and Affection's story about the corsets-- I just don't get beyond my anger at anyone's intrusion in my life. It is no one's business what I have in my bags unless you suspect me for cause.
    barbell and Lisa Simeone like this.
  17. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    I'm right there with you, but since I don't really have a choice at a checkpoint, at least I can make them squirm. And that brightens up my day.
    Lisa Simeone and KrazyKat like this.
  18. FaustsAccountant

    FaustsAccountant Original Member

    I probably have some items from my club days (I was 'industrial,' so a slight shift from you-we're more angry :) but knowing my luck, I'll probably get the freak who will try to strike up something with me. My goal is for them to leave me alone, not incite.

    KrazyKat likes this.
  19. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    Oh, I like industrial too - Combichrist is high on my list these days. Here's my favorite. Raaar!

    I didn't really have any desire to engage with any of them either - I really wanted to just get out of there as fast as I could. My usual strategy was to hope I blended into the walls, and if that failed, then at least embarrass them.
    FaustsAccountant likes this.
  20. N965VJ

    N965VJ Original Member

    Here ya' go [​IMG]
    Sunny Goth likes this.

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