Becca Jane St Clair

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How The TSA Stole Christmas

I flew back to the UK from the US on Christmas Eve so I would arrive back in the UK to spend Christmas Day with my husband. My aunt gave me two small containers of Christmas cookies before I left – one was a small round tin filled with about a dozen and a half peanut butter cookies, and the other with some of my favourite cookie of all time, pinwheels. Since she packed the containers tight I packed them into my checked bag along with loads of Christmas presents for other people, including 6 packets of a McCormick Buffalo wing mix my FIL likes and some peppermint Hershey Kisses, so my bag smelled pretty interesting.

I checked my bags in Philadelphia and headed to security. Security in Philly was a LOT tighter than it was in London*. In Philly I was required to remove my laptop from it’s protective case, remove my kindle from it’s case, and remove my shoes. Oh, and could I step to the side even though the metal detector didn’t ping for a personal pat down?

Yeah. Don’t wear a dress when travelling through Philly or they will have to give you a pat down. Fortunately, there wasn’t many people present and the woman doing my pat down was very apologetic and explained to me that it was required because a dress/skirt doesn’t show the contours of your body so they have to pat you down. Nice. Here I thought I was making it easier by not wearing trousers that might have bits of metal all over them. The agent patting me down did not touch me above the waist, did not pat down my rear, and did not pat higher than mid-thigh. I thought the whole idea of the pat down was to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything? Not that I’m complaining. It just all seemed pointless, especially considering my dress was fairly form fitting to begin with and the fabric was clinging to my tights. I wonder what happens to people who go through wearing baggy clothing. Soon we will have to fly wearing form-fitted bodysuits.

Funny enough, I went through security with my 1-QT bag of liquids and yet in the bottom of my carry-on I later discovered two items that had fallen out – a small container of hand sanitizer and a breath spray, neither of which were detected by their machines. I also had a packet of mustard my mom stuck in the bag with the lunch she packed for me and that didn’t get flagged, either.

First trauma over, I headed on my merry way to the gate, boarded my flight, and was soon landing in London (LHR). The UKBA was on the ball and I didn’t even have to answer any questions on my return to the UK, she just told me “welcome back” and stamped my passport on the page opposite my spousal visa (unlike when I landed in the US!**).

I noticed the “cleared by TSA” sticker on the outside of my suitcase and found the “Notice of Baggage Inspection” buried inside as soon as I got home. I didn’t really think anything of it and assumed the combination of the peppermint Hershey Kisses and the Buffalo wing spice caught the attention of the baggage inspector. But it wasn’t until this morning that I discovered something was wrong with my luggage.

As I mentioned above, my aunt sent me home with two small containers of homemade cookies. The first container was a square vintage Tupperware container that contained my beloved Pinwheels. No problems there. The second container was a small tin she was re-using that contained some peanut butter cookies. When I opened the tin this morning, I discovered HALF MY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES WERE GONE, and the remaining cookies were broken and crumbled due to being shaken around the half empty tin.

I am NOTimpressed. Thank you, TSA agent for stealing my little bit of a homemade Christmas. I hope you were allergic to nuts.

*Security in London consisted of taking my laptop out of the bag but not the case, having my kindle out (but in it’s case), and I was able to keep my shoes and cardigan on.

**Oh, this is great, too. When I got up to the desk at US Immigration I was GRILLED by the agent. Excuse me, but isn’t it the right of an American Citizen to be able to freely leave and return to the US? No? I got asked when I was last in the US (I was vague and said “about two years ago”, why I moved to the UK, why I was returning to the US, who I was staying with in the US, and the best one? When was I leaving the US. Again, I thought American Citizens are allowed to stay in the US for as long as they’d like. Apparently not. I suppose I should consider myself lucky I didn’t get a time limit visa stamped in my passport!

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Shuttle Atlantis Takes off!

On Monday, 11 May 2009, I had the opportunity to go down to Cape Canaveral with my mom and aunt to watch the shuttle launch. None of us had seen a shuttle launch live before, and we managed to score a really good view at Jetty Park!

Video of the launch: