It’s 4:45am on a Monday morning, and my flight from Washington, DC to Charlotte, North Carolina is set to depart in 90 minutes. I haven’t made it through security yet, but my friend tells me it should be “no problemo” -- it’s so early we should be able to cruise through. I’m more skeptical. I don’t think she usually flies with people who look like me.
Midway through the line, a TSA agent pulls me aside to swab my palms for explosive powder. For the 15 minutes we’ve been in line, I’m the only person who’s been pulled away for this drill. When we get to the metal detectors, I go through without a beep, and yet the agent asks me to step aside for frisking and pat-downs.
Finally I’m allowed to pass through to pick up my bags from the conveyor, but I already know I’m not going to see my backpack come out the other side. Sure enough, it’s been redirected on the other conveyor at the security checkpoint for more detailed inspection. As it always is.
We wait another 15 agonizing minutes. An agent finally comes, inspects the bag, and lets me get my things. My friend is stunned at how long everything has taken; we have to jog through the terminal to catch the plane. When we sit down, she literally sighs with relief that we made it. I don’t tell her that if this was an international flight and we were moving through passport control, there would have been another round of interrogation about who I was and why I was doing anything. Unless we’d planned accordingly for these inevitabilities, we would have missed our flight.