A Welcome Inspection by the TSA

Recently, the TSA inspected the suitcase I checked with the airline.  The funny thing is, I wasn’t the least bit unhappy about it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a bag inspected.  It won’t be the last.  I’ve done a lot of travel in my time, including nearly a decade as an international consultant, traveling 3-4 weeks a month.  I’ve had security officials inspect my bag at the security checkpoint, at Customs, even at the entrance to the jetway.  Once, years ago, a TSA official inspected my suitcase so carefully that she unwrapped all three of the cough drops I had in my toiletries case.  (She attempted to rewrap them and put them back in the case, but I decided to let them go.)

The recent inspection was the best one I’ve ever had.  As soon as I got to the hotel, I could tell that the bag had been opened.  I always zip my bag from bottom-to-top, so that I can stuff in the last minute items.  So the first thing I noticed that the bag had been zipped from top-to-bottom.

I opened my bag a little trepidatiously.  Previous inspections led me to suspect that my carefully packed items would have been stirred into a sort of luggage-soup of loose socks and wrinkled clothes.

Imagine my surprise when it was perfect.  And not only perfect, but there was a little preprinted note from the TSA.  It told me that my bag had been inspected as part of a routine check.  It told me that my bag had been inspected for any prohibited items and that any items that were inspected were returned to my bag.

I knew it was going to be inspected

I was glad they were “on top of it”.  Here’s the situation… We were headed out on a family vacation, and there are two things you need to know:

First, when we go to the mountains, we split up the cooking duties among the families who attend.  For our hosted dinner, I was making curry chicken, so I brought prepared curry paste along with me.  It comes in a plastic bag of semi-solid paste, inside a round plastic container roughly the circumference of a baseball.

Second, when we go to the mountains, my family walks back and forth between all of our cabins.  It’s a distance that might be as short as 100 feet or as far as ¼ mile.  Most nights, there are deer and sometimes moose walking around out there in the dark, on rare occasions, there have been bears.  At best, there are rocks and branches to avoid as you walk.  So… I bought ten small flashlights to share.  These flashlights are straight tubes of metal, about four inches long.

We were on the plane, waiting for the rest of the passengers to board, when a thought occurred to me.  If I were a TSA agent, screening luggage, and saw ten metal tubes, four inches along, nearby a medium-size mass of something semi-solid, I would stop and open that luggage.

I would have been disappointed if my luggage HAD NOT been inspected.  I’ve done a lot of traveling in the past fifteen years.  Just like many of you, I’ve been frustrated by the intrusive nature of TSA inspections.  But, I want them there, doing their job, stopping suspicious luggage and taking a peek.  When they opened my luggage, they might have wondered what I would do with curry paste and ten flashlights, but they just did their job, repacked the suitcase and put the tidy, polite note on top of it all.

When it works, this system is great, and on my recent trip, I think they did a remarkable job.


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