Business travel is both exhausting and exciting. I love arriving at a new destination and switching “on.” But getting there? Oy.
Like most things, you get better with practice.
Here is my system for getting through airport security as quickly and as least-disgustingly as possible.
This assumes a full-sized carry on suitcase and a laptop or tablet bag.
-3.) Before you go: Wear as few metal accessories as possible. FYI: Five or more bobby pins in your hair will set off the detector. No water bottles.
-2.) In the security line, get your ID and boarding pass ready. Turn your ID and boarding pass all the same way so that it faces the TSA agent. Plop both onto his podium. Wait patiently while the agent makes incantations with a marker and a magic flashlight. If you’re using your cell phone to check in with the infra-red scanner, be ready with self-effacing apologetic jokes about the wonders of technology. You’ll need to appease those behind you in the line, as it will take about 17 scans and lots of nervous laughter before it works.
-1.) Make faces at the agent that match your ID photo. Hopefully, you’re not scowling on your license. After the first TSA agent has scanned your ID and graffitied your boarding pass, put both of those away so you don’t have to worry about them.
0) Mentally prepare for the next step. This is a contest with the universe that you intend to win. No second must be wasted! Don’t move frantically through these next steps. Move methodically. You don’t need to make a show of going fast to benefit the person behind you. Who cares what he thinks? Little does he know, you’ve got a system. (Corollary: If the person behind you at all huffs or acts impatient, you now have my permission to switch to tortoise mode, the more comically exaggerated the better. Been there, done that and wished the guy a nice flight after TSA held him back for his improperly placed liquids. Shoulda slowed down and got it right the first time, buddy.)
1.) When you are within grabbing distance of the gray bins, pick up three. Or if you feel like people are crowding you, grab five and just leave the last two empty. It will give you space to work. Announce knowingly to no one in particular, “I need lots of bins.”
Lay out all three bins. Make a big determined show of having a system so that everyone around you leaves you alone. You’re not here to make friends.
Leave the first bin empty for now. That’s your strategic bin.
2.) Place your laptop or tablet bag between bins two and three. Extract your laptop or tablet and put it in bin two.
3.) Heft your suitcase up onto the metal table and put it behind the third bin, with the zippers facing you. Using two hands, unzip both ways. Extract your liquids baggie and place it in the third bin. Re-zip the suitcase. Use both hands like the ambidextrous champ that you are.
4.) Now your public disrobing begins. (KEEP your shoes on! Don’t get ahead of me! The less time you stand there in your stocking feet on the dirty floor, the better!) Begin to remove your accessories — watch, belt, wedding ring — as you push your bins toward the scanner. Put the accessories in the first bin or in a round dish.
5.) Take off your jacket. Throw it over your laptop, which is the second bin. Loosen your shoes. Better yet, wear slip-ons.
6.) Once you’re nearly to the metal detector, pop off your shoes and put them in the first bin, next to your accessories.
7.) Push all of your bins and your bags onto the conveyor belt. Once your suitcase (the caboose in your train) is on the conveyor belt, turn to the front. Make eye contact with the TSA agent. He’ll wave you through the metal detector. Walk through seamlessly, head high, like the obedient upstanding flyer you are. After your beepless pass-through, smile at the TSA agent and thank him. (It’s a thankless job.)
8.) Time to reclaim your belongings and dignity. Grab your shoes out of the first bin. They will come through quickly because scanning them only takes a second. Put on your shoes. Put on your watch. Put on your wedding ring.
9.) Your jacket and laptop will emerge next in bin number two. At this point, the TSA agent will be looking at your suitcase through an x-ray machine, zip-zipping it back and forth, trying to ensure that your curling iron is not a bomb. That delay will give you time to put on your jacket and put your laptop away. Then, sling the laptop bag over your shoulder.
10.) Your liquids will emerge next in the third bin. Grab them with your left hand.
11.) Finally, your suitcase emerges. Grab that with your right hand. Make your way to one of the tables. (Most airports have those now, for convenience. It took them long enough!) Put your liquids away.
12.) Cell phone? Check.
Wedding ring? Check.
Shoes tied, buckled, zipped? Check.
Zipper on your fly? Never hurts to check.
Boarding pass? Crap, where is that again? Check.
Quick area scan – anything yours on the ground? The table?
Congratulations. You’re off to Hudson News and then onto your gate!
Your tips and stories are MORE than welcome!
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