How to not lose your temper at airport security
Last week while waiting at the gate for a flight to San Francisco, the man seated next to me opened up his computer and lost it.
It wasn't the usual explosion you hear when a passenger gets bumped from a flight. This was more like sheer panic. "This isn't my computer!" he shouted and then took off running to the security checkpoint.
Losing it at security checkpoints is not unusual. A couple of years ago, passenger Don Heise left his camcorder at security. Apparently he got singled out for a more secure check. His movie camera was packed in his carry-on. But while keeping track of his briefcase, his shoes and his computer, he lost track of the camera. Someone else got the picture and took off with it.
"It's pretty common," said one security agent. "People get rattled with keeping track of their stuff and things get left."
The problem is airports are stress factories. Security lines at major airports often mirror the lines at major amusement parks. Passengers fear missing their flights while taking off jackets, shoes, belts and pulling their computers out of their bags. And if they get called over for an additional search, keeping track of those items is nearly impossible.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) collects hundreds of items every day at the major airports and holds them for 30 days. If not claimed -- and many aren't -- they're sorted and sold through various secondhand locations.
But there are ways to avoid having your carry-on carried off by someone else. Here's what to do:
• Label your goods.
Some computers are fickle and will go with anyone. Tape your business card to your electronics. If someone accidentally picks up your laptop, it has a better chance of coming home. And if it's left at the airport, someone will try to contact you.
• Pack your jewelry in your carry-on.
When my 90-year-old mother flew to New York, she pinned bags of jewelry on the inside of her blouse. It was an alarming situation. When the bells went off, agents insisted she remove the jewelry. Trying to keep track of all her necklaces and pins while they searched her was nearly impossible.
• Use baggies.
Before you go to the airport, place loose change, watches and any other small metal items in a plastic bag. Put the bag in your carry-on when you approach security.
• Wear slip-on shoes.
When my Aunt Dorothy flew to Detroit, she tied one on. It wasn't that she was fond of the bubbly. It was her shoes. While concentrating on tying her shoes, she lost her purse. Keep your wardrobe simple.
• Keep a checklist.
Make a list of the items you're taking through security. Before you leave the area, review the list.
Finally, if you do find you're missing something, contact your airline immediately. You want to be left holding the bag.
• Gail Todd is a freelance writer who worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.