Okay, listen. I am an avid traveler, and I work in the airline biz, so I do get rules. I even get the stupid, annoying, non-sensical rules that government bodies insist you enforce against all your best judgement. I get that that rule was likely developed for a particular safety-related reason, and so, I am happy to oblige and follow those rules, just to keep things easy and seamless for myself and the airport staff as I (in my favourite Louise C.K. reference) sit in a chair in the sky, participating in the miracle of human flight. (If you don’t know this reference, shame on you. Fix this immediately by watching here. Even if it means you click off this blog. Just promise to come back, ok?)
So, I hope you can now see that I am a relatively patient and understanding traveler, with lots of juicy back end knowledge and sympathy for anyone working in this industry.
I cannot freaking stand airport security.
Now, this is not specifically the airport security staff (although some are particularly grumpy or, as we all do, are crotchety when having a bad day). It’s not specifically one airport (although again, some tend to be worse than others). I have not yet been able to determine whether the problem is mostly person-to-person, an issue of giving the wrong people too much empowerment to boss others around at their own volition, or if it is on a higher level–up with management–in how things are communicated, rolled out and enforced. All I know is that it seems to me that every airport, and possibly every staff member working at every airport, has different freaking rules for how you are to proceed correctly through your security experience.
If rules were the same each and every time, I could get into it. I could get behind it. I would be amply prepared to execute swiftly, efficiently and with a patient and friendly traveler demeanour. But alas, this is not the case. In one airport, in middle America perhaps, I am asked to take my mid-sized luggage out of the bin as it proceeds through the belt (with a subtle eye roll) and then, not long following, I might be passing through an airport in Western Canada where my bags are stopped, as a visibly frustrated staff member stomps back to the start of the line to fetch an additional bin while, with a tone not unlike how my parent’s accountant spoke to me, probably envisioning me as a pesky, incompetent little child, when I was considering hiring him to work for me, lectures me on how ALL BAGGAGE MUST GO IN A BIN… eyes burrowing holes deep through my soul.
(No, I did not hire the condescending AF accountant, by the way.)
I’m sure you have felt this, even if you travel half as much as me. Perhaps you attributed it to “different countries having different rules”. This is not the case. Same countries often have wildly different rules. Perhaps you attributed it to the fact that you hadn’t flown in almost a year and probably forgot how the whole thing was meant to go down. You didn’t. They changed the rules on you. Probably just because it was Tuesday and someone was feeling sassy and especially bored with the whole scan the pass, push the bin routine of their day so they needed to mix it up a little.
Here I am going to attempt to compile a list of all of the “airport security rules” I have been informed of throughout my travel experiences. This list will keep growing, and I would very much like it if you, fellow traveler person, would help me grow it. Anything you’ve heard before–whether it be in an email, a helpful pictorial sign or by a staff member directly, at any time recently or in the past, at any airport in the world–is fair game. If possible, cite the airport and the year (particularly if this was from eons ago… so we can take into consideration the very necessary and true fact that things do and must change at some point).
Let’s see how many contradictions we can find, shall we? (Add in comments!)
Laptops must be in separate bins.
Two MacBooks fit perfectly in one of those big white bins, and both of them still have ample “room to breathe” so they’re just fine to proceed down the belt together, saving space. Duh.
Take your liquids out and put them into small plastic bags for us to see easily.
Take your liquids out and put them into ONLY OUR VERSION OF A SMALL PLASTIC BAG for us to see easily.
Any liquids less than 100ml can go through.
Only the amount of small 100ml or less liquids that fit into OUR VERSION OF A SMALL PASTIC BAG can go through. Per person. Fine–if you are traveling as a pair, you can have as many bags as people but I am going to make you split up all your liquids into two bags so I can be sure that they all fit. Even if it’s obvious they will.
If your liquids are less than 100ml and you’re not bringing enough to supply an entire floor of a hotel with toiletries, you’re fine to leave them in your bag. (You’ll notice actually that if you NEVER pull out your small liquids, and the above is true, you will almost NEVER be asked to pull them out after. Overall, and yes, I have done some very unofficial experiments on this, you will save more time if you leave your liquids be and deal with the one-ifs when they want to see them and test the “OUR VERSION OF A SMALL PLASTIC BAG THEORY” than if you go through the trouble of transferring your makeup kit to plastic bag each time. No one looks at it. JSYK.)
Shoes must come off. Always.
Ew, no. When avoidable, please leave your shoes on. Unless they have metal in them. Then, duh.
Yes, kid. Of course your hat must come off. We know what you’re trying to sneak through in there.
No, hats are fine. You just have to lift them for us when you get through so we can visually inspect.
Jackets must come off.
Sweaters must come off.
Extra shirts of any kind must come off. Even if that means you’re walking through just in your see-through white undershirt with your leopard-print bra poking through, shamed into looking like a complete and utter tramp on laundry day. (Not that that’s ever happened to me before.)
Are your pockets empty?
You must unbutton your pants for me to see that there is nothing teeny, tiny, metal and dangerous hiding in your belly button.
Carry your boarding pass and passport through the X-ray please.
Leave your boarding pass and passport in the bin please.
Take your belts off.
Nah, small belts are fine to stay on, as long as they’re cheap and not a particular type of metal.
All watches must come off.
Pfffft–watches can stay on. Again, so long as they’re cheap and not a particular type of metal. You take the chance of a full body scan though if they are! Beware!
Are your pockets empty?
Do NOT put anything in a bin when the bin is on the top of the stack of bins. OMFG. Take the bin of first. Even if you think it’s super efficient to get your bin prepped so keep the line moving. I said no, okay? (This one happened to me today!)
Stop pushing the bins through. I will do that. It’s MY job.
Push your own bins through! And don’t even think about going through the X-ray thing until they’re all in there. I am so busy scanning, okay?
Leave space between the bins. This is why I have to do this myself. Uggghhhhhhh.
Your shoes need to go in a bin.
Your shoes need to go in a bin, by themselves.
Shoes don’t go in bins! They’re gross and dirty. FFS.
Are your pockets empty?
Your big rolly bag DOES NOT need a bin. It’s the same size as a full-sized bin. What good would that do?
Of course, your rolly bag must go in a bin! BINS ARE EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!! RESPECT THE F—CKING BINS!!!!!!
Aaaaaand… what am I missing?