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A Cautionary Tale for Air Travelers | Micro Business Systems

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A Cautionary Tale for Air Travelers

An interesting thing happened when I flew back from Sage Summit in Maryland this month. At Baltimore Washington International airport, I was randomly selected to be tested for explosives residue. It’s a simple test. A guard runs a giant cotton swab over the palms of your hands and then inserts the swab into a machine. In my case, the machine’s alarms bells and lights went off, and a paper ticket began spewing out of the machine’s mouth. Then I got special treatment.

No, seriously! I didn’t have to wait in line with all the other travelers and place my personal belongings – backpack, purse, computer, cell phone, shoes, and jacket – into gray trays while trying not to infringe on the personal space of the person in front of me and at the same trying not to hold up the people behind me. I got to place my personal belongings into gray trays with no one around me while being watched by a guard who had taken a personal interest in me. After successfully passing the full-body scanner test, (oh wait, I had to do that twice because the guard running that machine forgot to tell me to place my hands above my head,) another guard performed a full-body pat-down. Then I waited as another guard gave all the orifices of my personal belongings the same explosives-residue cotton-swab test. My bags and shoes passed, thank goodness! I’m not sure what would have happened next if any of them had set off more bells, lights, and paper tickets, and I don’t think I want to know. Because first of all, I’m fairly certain that whatever comes next would make me miss my flight. And second of all, I suspect body cavity searches might be next, along with terrorist interrogation tactics, and who wants to go through all of that? It would make for a good story, but here is where my story stops.

The man who probed my bags asked whether I had put on hand lotion that morning, and yes, I had. He said that my lotion probably contained glycerin, which likely triggered their nitroglycerin sensor. Well, there you go.  As most lotions contain glycerin, my word of advice to anyone who travels by air is this: ignore your dry skin and forego the lotion until you have cleared all security checkpoints.

2 Responses to “A Cautionary Tale for Air Travelers”

  • Ed Kless says:

    Karen, sorry to hear about your situation. Clearly, you could be IRA. ;)

    PS -I never use hand lotion.

  • Michael says:

    Wow, I didn’t know that either. Amazing to think how far we have come in the last 20 years. I still remember when you could go to the gate to meet someone! In a few years we will have to go through security in our skivvies!

    Interestingly in Japan and many other countries that I travel to, no need to take off the shoes.

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