Passenger status: Lawless dork

By Mir
February 22, 2010

I am home from my trip to Texas, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in my half-dozen years of blogging, it’s that the crappy and embarrassing experiences are far more interesting than the good ones, for the most part. So although it was a fabulous trip and I got to hang out with people I love and met a slew of new, cool folks, you don’t care about any of that, right? (Although: How much do I love Karen Walrond? SO MUCH. She worked her camera magic, and when I saw my own face looking back at me in her Beautiful Faces of Mom 2.0 post I gasped. Karen is lovely inside and out, and I feel and am prettier when I’m with her. LOVE.)

More importantly, though:

1) Now that I’m home, I’m sick as a dog. OF COURSE.
2) I remembered why I sort of hate flying.
3) I am waiting for the TSA to come arrest me. So that’s fun.

It all started last week, before I left. I was flying Airtran, because I’m cheap, and they allow you to check in online and print out your boarding pass at home, which is awesome. Except that on Wednesday I discovered that my printer was printing garbled, barely-gray print, and I decided that it needed a new ink cartridge before I could print my boarding pass. I was feeling extremely smug about it because I actually happened to HAVE another ink cartridge on hand, which NEVER happens.

The first problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to open the printer to GET to the cartridge. And then I was able to open it, but I couldn’t get the cartridge OUT. Once I finally extracted the cartridge, I realized that it felt plenty full… like, still sloshy kind of full. So I shook it up and put it back. And proceeded to start through the “troubleshooting” options the readout offered me.

Yes, my printouts are gray and blurry, I told it. It informs me that the printer heads might be misaligned, and that it could realign them for me. So it printed out a page of weird code and then made me tell it which line looked the best, after which it made a whole lot of noise and informed me that everything was great, now. So I went ahead and printed my boarding pass, only now instead of being gray and blurry it was so faint it was illegible.

So I went back through the troubleshooting menu, refusing to respond to the ominous I CAN’T LET YOU DO THAT, DAVE that issued forth, and told it that yes, my printouts are faint! Well, it said, clearly the nozzles need cleaning. Please wait. I waited while it made a terrific racket, and then after it was done I printed my boarding pass. Which was still illegible.

So I saved my boarding pass as a PDF and made my husband print it out for me, because I am smart. Fine.

Thursday I got to the airport and made it through security in record time and then boarded the airplane just in time to watch a large group of men who were seated in the back of the plane bring their luggage up front and put it in the overhead bins in the business class area. A flight attendant saw them do it and smacked them down ruthlessly and efficiently, and they came back up, retrieved their bags, and then put them in the bins as far forward as possible that weren’t in business class. Meaning, they filled up all the bins near where I was sitting. So, I was seated in row 14, but the nearest available bin for me was back in the 20s.

WHY these gentlemen seemed to feel their bags belonged somewhere other than where they were sitting, I have no idea. I asked another flight attendant for assistance and she looked at me like I had 12 heads and told me just to put my bag further back where there was room. Thanks, lady.

Bag situated, I went and sat down. And after a few minutes a lady came and sat down beside me. Except she didn’t so much sit as she disassembled; she took off her coat, she shoved her earrings into her purse, she shoved her purse under the seat in front of her, she unwound a scarf, she rearranged things in her tote bag, she brushed her hair; she did fifteen different things, it seemed like. And then she realized she was in the wrong seat and got up and moved.

Then a flight attendant came along and started talking to the three men seated in the row across from me, and offered the man in the middle the seat next to me so that they could “spread out a little.” He agreed, enthusiastically, and once he moved into the seat next to me I could see that his beard was painted on. PAINTED ON. Sure, he had a little actual scruff, but he also had what looked like someone had taken a bottle of black shoe polish and drawn a line from one ear, down his jaw, across his chin, and back up to the other ear. I couldn’t stop staring. I was MESMERIZED. But then the flight attendant went away and came back and took him somewhere else, leaving me alone again.

Other passengers were looking at me and giggling. “Did I forget to put on my deodorant today?” I asked no one in particular, a little too loudly. There were a few more giggles and then people stopped staring. We flew to Houston without further incident, and I enjoyed having the extra space next to me. (Though after we landed I did duck into a bathroom and reapply my antiperspirant.) I made Angry Eyebrows at the guys who’d moved their luggage way up front when I had to work my way back to my suitcase, but whatever.

Fast forward a couple of days, and it’s time to print out my return boarding pass. So I go to the concierge at the hotel and ask them if they have a business center where I can do that, and the nice lady behind the desk offers to print it out for me. See, this is why the Four Seasons is so swanky—their boarding passes print out flawlessly the first time. I thanked her and went on my merry way.

The morning of departure, I realized I had a problem. I hadn’t checked my bag on the way in, nor did I have any desire to check it in the way back. But after countless hours of discussing curly hair issues over Instant Messenger, Karen not only took some lovely photos of me in Houston and proved to be an awesome tour guide, she’d also brought me some hair product she’d deemed insufficient for her hair but that she thought might work for me. In fact, she’d brought me the entire bottle. A bottle which was way more than the legal 3.4 ounces allowed on board the plane.

Airtran charges $15 to check a bag. The bottle of hair product Karen gave me costs $12. It was simple math, really.

I packed my suitcase, then put the bottle of curl spray into my purse. I figured it wasn’t impossible that a person could stick such a thing in one’s purse and forget about it, and if it was flagged I would surrender it. No big deal.

Well, the security line going back through the airport on Sunday morning was insane. I’d gotten there plenty early (thank goodness) but it was very crowded and the security people didn’t look like they were having much fun. I figured I was going to be nailed and in my head I practiced saying, “Oh my gosh! I totally forgot I had that. I am SO sorry. Please, just throw it away. My apologies.”

I was still practicing when I walked through the scanner and my bags unceremoniously plopped off the conveyor belt in front of me.


My second reaction was: Um, what else got missed in the security scan that’s now being taken onto my flight…?

I guess you could say it was kind of a bittersweet moment. (Hey, at least I could rest comfortably with the knowledge that if terrorists blew up my plane, at least I’d go down with my hair looking really nice.)

Once on the plane, I found myself in the middle of a seating dilemma that involved someone sitting next to me because someone was in his rightful seat, but then they switched around, but then it turned out that neither of them were assigned to the seat next to me, but then someone else entirely came along and took that seat and proceeded to loudly call someone on his phone to report that the security line was ridiculously long and he’d almost missed the flight and man, he was still trying to catch his breath, you know? Later he offered me a piece of gum. I offered him some curl spritz.

Not really.

But now I’m home and snot-filled (you’re welcome) and really looking forward to not getting on another plane for a while. I think it’s time to retire from my (brief) career as a smuggler—it seems to have taken a lot out of me.


  1. Heather

    I recently took an international flight carrying syringes and injectable medication and my passport wasn’t signed. None of it was caught. I only know about the passport because my boyfriend got stopped and yelled at for the same violation. I must just look innocent.

  2. Frank

    Glad you had a good time. Karen’s pic of you is excellent. If you didnt have plans yet to turn that into your official Internets face, you should SO consider doing so. NO offense to the old one, but this is much nicer and friendlier.
    Do you still have that Epson printer that you reviewed a (long) time ago? What you described is a somewhat common problem with them.

  3. dad

    In my humble opinion, based on the head shot Karen took of you, you do not look like a terrorist.

    Welcome back to America,

  4. elz

    Slightly scary to think of what is getting past the crack TSA scanning crews. But, glad that the awesome hair product made it through. I also LOVE and pink puffy glittery heart Karen Walrond. I thought about wallpapering my house in the pictures she took of me; I dodn’t do it, but I thought about it!

  5. Patricia

    I once sat next to a guy who was DRUNK and proudly and loudly explained that he smuggled a bottle of vodka in a water bottle in the pocket of his cargo pants.

    In case you need to smuggle hair products again, baggy pants and remember unless it has metal in it ALL sorts of things can get through.

    (Just in case you want more assvice on smuggling.)

  6. Heather

    Your smile really does light up rooms, methinks :) Hope you feel better soon!

  7. Billie


  8. Aimee

    Awesome — well, not the snot. But everything else! Okay, well, and not the smuggling, because yeah, what else did get through? Or COULD get through? But I love that you are a lawless dork, cuz ME TOO!

  9. Nancy Mehegan

    Love your honest posts. I guess real terrorism begins in the human heart: greed & selfishness. No luggage examination will fix the problem.

  10. Katie in MA

    What a fab pic of you! You look so happy and relaxed, NOT like you were in between flight crises. :)

  11. adhocmom

    You know, I dragged my ass to the god damn DMV for a new driver’s license before this trip? I was SO prepared with my expired license and special temporary license PROVING the new license was en route. DID ANYONE AT THE AIRPORT CARE THAT MY LICENSE WAS EXPIRED? No, they did not. So, I understand your hair product moment. It’s like, um, are other people getting on the plane with their YMCA membership card? Unsettling.

    Swell to meet you at Mom 2.0!

  12. Half Assed Kitchen

    We just went to San Diego and forgot about an old bottle of milk in my son’s backpack. They tested it and let us keep it (thanks a lot!). We vowed to wash it out and sterilize it when we got to our destination. But then, of course, forgot. We were busted with the same, disgusting bottle of milk on the way home (only 5 days older) and they still let us keep it. Blech.

  13. k's grandma

    Lovely, lovely photo. It’s the new skinny, I’m pretty sure.

  14. Tracy

    I get the snot filled head when I fly, too. I don’t know why that is but every single time. With all the airport security and stuff going on, I really have no desire to fly. None. at. all. But I’m glad you made it back, safe and sound.

  15. Sheila


    That kind of thing would haunt me for days. (Obviously, you are more highly evolved than me.)

  16. Brandi

    Racist profiling is awesome. My half Iranian husband and half Iranian sister-in-laws and full Iranian mother in law get stopped Every Single Time. My very white father-in-law and I? Not a word. Not a single word.

    PS: Your picture is awesome! I love it.

  17. Megan

    Gorgeous! Am flying in three weeks and now making a nice list of things I probably won’t mean to smuggle but will end up smuggling anyway. And yes I will feel guilty.

  18. JennyM

    Aw, man, my illicit hair products always get confiscated! I must look shifty.

    (You however, are TEH PRETTY.)

  19. aem2

    Oh, the overhead baggage merry-go-round. I was on a flight from Florida to Houston (hmmmm, maybe it’s Houston’s fault) and the attendant said very clearly several times that the flight was full and we didn’t have space for everyone to put both bags in the bins. What did everyone do? They put both bags in the bins.

    One of my seatmates actually tried to completely fill the bin above our seats. Fortunately, I have the “teacher look” down pat. When I told him there wasn’t room for my bag, he actually had the gall to ask “Well, how big is your bag?” Like I should just suffer because he was being inconsiderate. Fortunately, my bag was clearly too big to fit under the seat and he moved his. Lord.

    His bag? Would have fit very nicely under the seat and given him leg room to spare.

    I have noticed that one of the bins at the back of the plane is sometimes used for crew baggage and first aid stuff, which is probably the reason for _some_ of the bin-jacking.

  20. Amelia

    I bring my pepper spray on the plane with me every time I fly and no one has ever said a word. Maybe it looks like a flashlight? Either way, they did make me toss my orange juice last time I was in the airport, so at least we know that the TSA is catching the really dangerous stuff.

  21. Karen

    Mir what an Awesome photo of you… really really.

  22. Susan Getgood

    So glad you and the hair product made it home safely. Did the kids like their swag?

  23. Jessica Vitalis

    My husband routinely forgets to take his pocket knife out of his pocket or ditty bag when he flies, and we’re always astonished at how often it passed through security …

  24. Nicki

    Well, you did something right. I ended up getting the blue glove treatment last time I flew home. That’ll teach me to look so peeved first thing in the morning.

    Feel better soon!

  25. Alison C

    Beautiful picture!

    I recently travelled through Terminal 1 in Heathrow London (also known as the 10th circle of hell). Security is very strict there. They made me take my toiletries out of the TSA approved plastic bag and put them in one of their own.

    After going through screening I bought a bottle of juice. It was while I was standing there choosing which flavour I wanted that I remembered that I had a full bottle in the front section of my hand luggage!

    I also wondered what else might have got through the screening.

  26. Karate Mom

    Hope you’re snot-less soon! (Because, really, that sounds so much better than “Get well soon!” Or so much more juvenile…)
    Anyway, I thought of you yesterday when I was at a science museum. In the gift shop, they sold little buttons that said, “I *heart* Otto” and I thought, “I SHOULD BUY ONE OF THOSE AND MAIL IT TO MIR!” Then I realized that I didn’t know where to mail it and figured that you didn’t give out your address to random blog readers.
    But, it was a cute button!
    (Otto is the science museum’s mascot, I think. Hence, the buttons.)

  27. mom101

    Only you would try to evaluate the cost of checking a bag v cost of losing a bottle of hair product.

    One of the many reasons I lurve you.

  28. Mary Margaret

    Karen’s photo of you is lovely. Great to meet you at MOM 2.0 Summit. What is all of this writing of late that we’re doing about hair, hair cuts and hair products?

  29. Boston Mamas

    Funny, i was thinking of trying to smuggle hair product and I was convinced I’d never make it through. Clearly I’m not lawless enough. :-) Christine

  30. mamaspeak

    1. You are NOT the only one who would figure out the cost of bag checking vs. hair product. However, I would also factor in emotional cost to said hair product. If it’s really good product then the emotional cost might be invaluable. (I have curly hair, what can I say?)

    2. My liquids NEVER get thru. I had bottle of face cream that was 4 oz. It was almost empty, so not even close to 3oz, it’s expensive, so I figured I’d try. NOPE, made me toss it. So, soon we will be able to tell who the terrorists are by their dry, wrinkly skin. See, we are winning the war on terror after all.

  31. Lori in MN

    I got through MSP with a swiss army knife but had to take off my belt and give up my water bottle. Hmmm…

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