Thursday, May 23, 2013

I have an alarm

I was up and off to the airport bright and early this morning for my 7 am flight. And early morning fly days seem to guarantee that I don't get the best sleep the night before so I am often a touch groggy. Today was no exception.

The reason I am off to the airport today as opposed to tomorrow is that I am taking part in a big sales presentation. This is my first sales presentation with Structure and I am not going to lie, I am a little bit nervous. As I love the sales part of a project life cycle, I really want to do well, and so that is adding to the twinge of anxiousness that I am feeling.

As always, the line up for an early morning here is crazy! And as always, I zip past all the waiting passengers to get into my frequent flyer line and feel a little bit guilty. I take off my belt as I am waiting to get my passport scanned. The bag is open and the liquids container is ready to grab. I have truly become quite efficient at getting myself through security. Shoes off - check. Nothing in pockets - check. Wearing the right jewelry and clothes so as to not set off an alarm - check.

Through the scanner I go - all is passed - but lucky me - I am chosen for a hand swab. Sure - no problem. Swab away.

'Alarm. You alarmed. I have an alarm!' the TSA quickly spits out. You can see the frantic feelings crossing her face as I am feeling completely calm thinking that they will swab a couple things and we will be good.

'BANG!!!' a tray topples over to the ground right by my feet. The personal effects are so backed up that the pressure of all the bags coming through the scanner causes a tray to flip over and land on the ground. Trying not to laugh (as I found this part really funny) the entire airport does the collective lightning fast head twist and stares at me. 'You alarmed!' she is still saying. 'I have an alarm!' Ah the irony.

The TSA agent continues to call on her collar walky talky oscillating between 'I have an alarm' and 'You alarmed'. Finally an agent comes to help her. It takes three people to gather all my belongings as they lead me in my bare feet into a janitor/private screening closet. The floor is filthy and there is not much room for 3 of us. The gentleman drops my trays and goes back to his post as the one lady closes the door. The last time I was in this situation, I had just landed in Dubai and I was quite confident that this could not be worse.

The one lady, let's call her Alice, begins to pat me down. Alice instructs me to face the other lady, we will call her Bertha. (Bertha is also the lady who did my initial swab) Alice is quite delightful, she speaks in a calm voice and calls me honey throughout the process. She asks me to watch my bags as Bertha unleashes her fury upon them. I barely notice the pat down as she checks every pattable area on my body.

Bertha though? Well first she swabs my computer. Then she moves onto my shoes. Next is the laptop bag. (As a side note, please be aware that just because I travel with carry-on does not mean I travel light; I have been on the road for a week people; you need clean clothes!)Well she roots this way and that way. My fedora is crushed. My papers are crumpled. My chords are all disheveled. Finally she feels like she has a decent sample from my laptop bag. Alice comes back in and indicates - I'm clean.

But Bertha is not convinced. Next up - my suitcase. Bertha struggles lifting my suitcase to the counter to the point where Alice comes over to take an end. She plops the whole thing precariously on top of my shoes. Now everything is teetering this way then that. she opens the first zipper to find some dirty laundry. Into the pocket with dirty laundry her arm goes swabbing all over. Then she opens the main compartment. Knee highs in travel bobbles go flying. Undergarments are poking this way and that in the wake of her swabbing. Alice is back again with the swabs and is finding that I continue to check out clean.

Bertha is not taking chances! She pulls out my flip flops and proceeds to put the dirty bottoms all over my dress pants. She makes a comment about needing to do all my shoes. Oh dear - keep digging. I have two more pairs of shoes in there - I am a girl after all. She is pushing and shoving things around. My brush is snagging on a sweater. I can't take it any more. I meekly say 'Excuse me; If it would help, perhaps you can take a few things out. I have a presentation today and would like to keep those pants clean." I pray a silent prayer that wasn't too forward or inappropriate. Bertha snaps her head up - giving me a stunned look. "Oh sure, sure" she says. Do you want the flip flops here? There?

I smile and thank her for understanding.

Alice takes the last of the swabs.

I am clean.

They open the door.

I put on my shoes.

I gather my two trays, bag and suitcase myself and walk out to a counter.


I open the bags and begin to put everything back in order.

Bertha is off to her post knowing she did her job thoroughly.

My pants only had one spot. I was able to rinse it out.

And now - off to that big presentation.

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