Linda Dahlen

A year ago I wrote an article in the Messenger called “Rock Star.” You can use their online search feature to read it. It was about my adventure with getting my TSA Precheck for air travel. Prior to getting my “Known Traveler Number” with TSA, I had over the years endured a number of random and embarrassing searches, pat downs and “selections for further screening” in front of countless other travelers who watched with veiled glee. Since I am a squeaky-clean old lady with no criminal record and no other weird “activities of interest” that would threaten airport or national security, I figured getting my stamp of approval from TSA was my ticket to dignity and privacy.

Wrong.

Fast forward a year: My sister Susan and I flew separately and met in Fort Meyers Beach for a one-week sister vacation last month. We are 14 months apart in age and have been best buds for most of our lives. She retired from a her stock broker career 10 years ago and has spent some time in Florida most winters since then. She has been after me to join her. I usually have a lull in my workload the third week of January so decided to join her. I made my flight reservations and made sure the airline had my TSA Known Traveler Number on the reservation.

At MSP airport, everything went smoothly. I got my bags checked and through security in such record time that I ended up two hours early for my flight. Finally, the TSA Precheck was working as advertised. My sis and I had a great time together, and then it was time for me to fly back. I again was at the Fort Myers airport well in advance of my flight, checked my bags and got in the TSA Precheck line. The agent looked at my boarding pass and said that my “Known Traveler Number” was not on it. I shared that it was on my flight down, and that I had a “Known Traveler Number,” to which I got “the look” from the agent. He pointed me in the direction of the long line on non-TSA plebes, so I skulked to that line with my tail between my legs.

Like in the old days, I had to remove my laptop, my jacket, coat and shoes and put everything I was carrying on board on the conveyor belt for X-ray. Stepping into the X-ray booth with my hands in the air, I was then guided off to the side for, you guessed it, “random selection for further screening.” The rubber gloved security agent patted me down hither and thither but then announced that a further pat down of my collarbone area was needed. I had a necklace on and perhaps they thought there was more? So the top of my shirt was pulled away from me, and I got my “special screening.”

“You are free to go,” said the agent. My personal items were log jammed on the conveyor belt as other passengers worked their way past me. Gathering my stuff and my dignity, I found a place to put my clothes back on and my carry-ons back in order.

I told my sis about the search and pat-down. She just rolled her eyes. It had never happened to her.

We did have a great time together that week with one exception. We decided to take a shortcut to the beach and away from the road construction on the main road. We had to jump a small ditch, and she tripped, fell and did a face plant on the ground, cracking a rib and spraining her ankle. The remaining few days were more low-key because of that. She also had concerns about getting through security and possibly getting a pat-down since the rib was so painful.

I got an email from sis after she got to the airport titled “Guess What.” She had been selected for “further screening” and a pat down!

We know security at airports is important. And I know there must be “profiling” of suspicious or potentially dangerous type people. Sis and I figure there must be a syndicate of old ladies, or people posing as old ladies, doing illegal activities via airline travel. Those of us who are legit end up being the sacrificial lambs of the security process. And that’s okay.

Linda Dahlen is a Messenger contributing writer.

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