A few years ago I was flying to San Diego to help teach a nutrition class. The night before I made a frittata to have on the plane. I sliced the frittata and put black pepper on it to spice it up. Then I wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator.
I got up early to get to the airport in plenty of time to be annoyed by TSA. I hate getting up early. I hate TSA even more. I pulled my frittata out of the refrigerator and put it in my purse for easy access.
I drove to the airport through the early morning fog and parked my car. I schlepped my stuff to the shuttle bus and settled into a seat for the short ride to the terminal. I realized I was hungry. The roads around IAH, Houston International Airport, are filled with potholes and not conducive to eating without wearing your meal.
As soon as I got inside the terminal I sat down and ate some of my frittata. I had plenty of time to sit and eat before going through TSA. Since I had been on the shuttle I did not touch the frittata with my hand. Lord only knows what funk was on my hands from that bus.
I am one of those people that refuse to go through the x-ray machine. I don’t need, or want, the extra radiation. I also find the TSA to be an incredible invasion of privacy. I think that on the whole TSA is useless in keeping us safe. Bear with me and continue to read as I prove my point.
I should probably let you know I am a white, middle aged woman. Not exactly high on TSA’s suspect list.
I did what I usually do and requested a pat down. I was there early enough to allow for the punitive waiting for an agent, the collecting of my items and the pat down procedure.
I listened as the agent told me what would happen and asked if I wanted a private room. I always opt for a public feeling up. I want witnesses if TSA oversteps their boundaries.
Imagine my surprise when the swab came back positive. Huh? They test for gunpowder. I hadn’t touched in gun in a couple of decades.
I was asked it was a diabetic. No. And what is explosive about diabetic meds?
They wanted to know if I was a heart patient on heart meds? No.
I knew that arsenic from golf courses could cause a false negative. I lived near a golf course at that time and brought it up. They said no it wasn’t arsenic that caused me to be positive.
Had I gotten gas on the way to the airport? No. I had gotten gas the day before.
I was taken into a private room. This wasn’t going well.
I texted my child to let her know what was going on. I wanted to someone to know what happened if I disappeared. She laughed and said, “I always knew you had an explosive personality.” Can you feel the love?
I mentioned the top I had on was new. Maybe there was a dye that was causing the problem. I asked that my top be swabbed and tested. The agent agreed and ran the test. Nope. Not my top.
TSA asked for permission to search all my belongings. And while it was needless, and an invasion of my privacy, I consented. Yup, I gave up my freedom for temporary security. (Sorry Mr. Franklin.)
As my suitcase was being tossed, I mean searched, the agent was sure she had found something incriminating. She pulled out a baggie of white powder. Oh the horrors. She was confidant she had found cocaine. My thought was – “would I really be so stupid to ask for a pat down if I was carrying cocaine or anything illegal?” I kept that thought to myself. I did look at her like she was a moron though. I told her it was baking soda, which it was. I use it as a deodorant and to clean my teeth. The smug look on her face faded. And these people are charged with keeping flyers safe? (Lol.)
TSA also swabbed all my belongings. My purse came back positive for gunpowder. What was going on????
Then it dawned on me. What had been in my purse and in my hands? My frittata with the black pepper! I remembered reading you could get a small explosion with black pepper.
I shared this information with the TSA agents. No. It wasn’t black pepper they said. There was no way it was black pepper. And oh, by the way, the TSA Explosive Expert was on his way over to chat with me.
This was spiraling way out of control really, really fast. I figured I would call my ex-husband to bail me out. He is an attorney. He would come and get me out of TSA jail or whatever jail they put me in.
I saw the golf cart approaching. The cart with the explosive expert. I wanted to talk to him and tell him about my simple frittata with extra black pepper.
I noticed he was busy with his phone. He didn’t look up as he was being driven around. He got off the cart and still never took his eyes off his phone. He asked to see my swabs. The TSA agent obliged him and produced my swabs. I watched all this from my little TSA room.
While typing who knows what on his phone he barely looked up at the machine that was reading my swabs and said, “Let her go.”
He turned, got back on his cart and was driven away. (Probably to harass some other innocent passenger.)
And with that I was released.
I was free to board my plane and fly across the country. While TSA wasted time with me how many potential problems were missed? And in other airports across the country how many innocent people are being harassed while a creeper walks on by?
I am very careful with black pepper when I fly now. I no longer use black pepper the day I fly until I’m through TSA. My experience with black pepper and TSA doesn’t instill any confidence in me concerning TSA.
You may be wondering why I fly at all. I avoid it whenever possible these days. I would rather drive than mess with the hassle that comes with flying these days.
And when I drive I can use all the black pepper I want…even when it makes me sneeze.