We’ve been in the road more in the last thirty days than in any given month of our marriage. *1* When you’re young, and in college, traveling all over the country seems like the life. Tokyo, Paris, Sri Lanka, all of these foreign sounding places that would be amazing to visit anyways, and to get to paid to do so? Well, that would just be a bonus. Never mind that most people who travel for work just hop from cities like Jacksonville and Houston, staying in an airport hotel that maybe has an indoor pool. Even if your job does allow you to travel to far off places, these trips are rarely leisurely, almost never involve any real sightseeing and almost certainly involve 12+ hours sitting in a seat that would only be comfortable for those who represent the lollipop guild. *2*
But, I’m still new enough to traveling that I get excited whenever I get to fly. Or, at least, I used to.
Two weeks ago, Donnette and I were standing in line for the security check when I made the comment to Donnette about how much I loved to fly. She responded by saying that, after all the traveling we’d be doing in our current line of work, I would probably have a change in my affections.
Rarely has she been so right, so quickly. *3*
I am a novice flyer, having only gotten on a plane a few times in the post 9/11 era. I was totally unfamiliar with the new body scanners, which can, apparently, detect anything at all in your pockets, even a receipt for a cup of coffee purchased earlier that afternoon. I was also unaware that the presence of said receipt would cause you to undergo a more thorough examination, consisting of a light pat-down and a swabbing of the hands to make sure that no dangerous materials are present on your hands. It’s bad to fly with explosive residue on your hands.
I had explosive residue on my hands.
They put the swab in the machine, and after a few seconds a notice, in big red letters, appeared on the screen. EXPLOSIVE RESIDUE DETECTED. I thought to myself, well, that’s not good. Donnette had gone ahead of me in line, and had her shoes back on before she realized I was still in a state of undress, with three TSA agents going through my luggage. She wasn’t paying attention when they took me to the private room either, so when she looked up again, I, and my luggage were gone, and I think she did, for a second or two at least, worry about me.
Fortunately for me, the agents assigned to the task of clearing me for flight were both very professional, and though the machine seemed to indicate otherwise, did not treat me as if I’d really done anything wrong. I did get a very thorough pat down, which though a little awkward, didn’t bother me much, as I’m not a very private person *4* and the guys doing the investigation seemed to be enjoying the experience even less than I did. Plus, I wasn’t really worried. It’s rare to feel truly righteous when confronted by authorities. I don’t speed like I used to, but there’s always a chance the speed limit has changed and I didn’t notice, or I have a tail-light out. I don’t cheat on my taxes, but if I got a call from the IRS, I might still be a little nervous. But here, well, I’ve never been involved in that sort of activity, and didn’t worry in the least that this was going to go any further. *5*
I was curious though, as to what had set the alarms off. After swabbing the bottom of my feet, (yeah, that happened) the guy took the swab to be examined once again for explosive residue. The other agent waited with me, and so I asked him what it likely was that set off the detectors. He said don’t worry, the machines are really sensitive and it could have been anything. Certain medications, fertilizers, anything really. But I knew what it was, as soon as he’d said it. We’d taken my sister Emily’s car to the airport. The day before we flew, Emily had taken her car to the farm to take care of her horse. Farms have fertilizer, which had gotten on the trunk of the car, which then transferred to my hands when I got our suitcases out, which then set off the airport detectors and allowed me to become more intimately acquainted with TSA security procedures. I was finally cleared to go, and after getting all my stuff together, found my wife, who was at this point, ever so slightly worried about me. *6*
So it turns out mom was right. It is important to always wash your hands, especially before going through airport security. Lesson learned.
Thank you all for your prayers and support.
*1* I think this is true. I haven’t really done the math.
*2* This is not a jab at short people. If you’ve ever had to fly for more than 2 hours, then you’ve certainly wished your legs were a little bit shorter.
*3* She’s usually right, it just doesn’t normally happen that fast.
*4* When you have ten surgeries before your 10th birthday, you tend to get used to being poked and prodded.
*5* Time wasn’t even an issue here. Donnette is a nervous flyer, so we were at the airport a good two hours before we were scheduled to take off.
*6* Fortunately, we never saw the movie Rendition. No need to cause extra worry. Or sit through a bad movie.