Let’s Get Patted Down

Let’s get patted down.

Yesterday, when I was preparing to return to Charlotte from Montego Bay on a flight today, I was having a lot of difficulty with the Verifly app. I couldn’t get it to work for me, while all the other people in our group (high school senior spring break) were zooming right through the flight check-in process on their apps. I was frustrated and wasted a lot of time before finally giving up. I knew I could check in at the airport, so I wasn’t terribly concerned.

I should have known better.

When I arrived at the airport three hours before my international flight, I went straight to the American Airlines Priority line and got checked in. And that’s when I saw it: the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass. For those who don’t know, if your airline boarding pass shows SSSS on it, it means you have been selected, for some reason unknown to you, to be subjected to a full bag check and pat down. I groaned audibly, and my daughter asked what was wrong. I told her, “I’m going to be pulled for extra security check.” She rolled her eyes. Was she surprised? No. She had encountered this with me many times. I have been flagged more times than I can count.

I have done everything I can to make the travel gods know I’m not a criminal. Sure, I drive slightly over the speed limit sometimes, but that’s about it. I even come to a full stop at all stop signs…unlike most people I know. I have TSA Precheck, for goodness sakes, but sometimes, they just don’t care. I guess they like looking at my underwear.

It has actually been a while since I have seen that dreaded SSSS…so long, in fact, that I was shocked to see it this time. Before I had TSA Precheck, I had SSSS on my boarding pass every time I flew. The first few times, it was frustrating. After about the 20th, it just made me flat-out angry. And today…I was angry. Really? I’m a short, middle-aged mom from Charlotte. I don’t look threatening. Nothing in my past makes me look threatening. Big Brother clearly hasn’t watched closely enough to realize just how boring I am. I just don’t understand it. And that’s why it makes me angry. It’s pretty frustrating to be in Group 1 for boarding but have to stand aside to be searched while groups 2, 3, and 4 fill up the overhead bin space. And it’s frustrating to have someone pull your dirty laundry out for everyone to see…literally, your dirty laundry. Add the fact that something inevitably gets lost…today it was a pen and a book…both disappeared after they searched my bags. Oh, and did I mention they were soooo slow? One girl was searching the first bag while the other one watched till I said, “Really? Can’t you be searching the second bag while she searches this one, so I don’t miss out on the overhead bin space altogether?” She actually said, “Everyone gets the space above their seat.” I literally laughed out loud. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, honey, and those dogs are eating your overhead bin space.

If you don’t understand the frustration, you clearly have not had to endure it. Shoes off…standing on a nasty floor where you’re likely to pick up a fungus. Someone feeling you up without buying you dinner…someone you don’t even know, in fact! People boarding the plane ahead of you and looking at you like you’re a criminal. People going through your personal belongings and then getting some of your dirty laundry caught in the zipper of your suitcase when they try to close it back. Because yes, I expect them to close it back. You open it…you close it…and good luck with that. Ugh. And then you board the plane and pray there will be overhead space. It’s frustrating and maddening. And now that it has happened again, it is likely to keep happening to me. I probably need to take an anti-anxiety med before going to the airport from now on.

So if you have trouble checking in for a flight online, it might be because you’ve been flagged. If you check in and see SSSS on your boarding pass, prepare yourself for what’s ahead…a thorough bag check and a pat down. You can ask for all of it to be done privately, but then you just lose more time. Just suffer through it and be on your merry way. If you’d like to read more about the dreaded SSSS, click here. And if you would like to apply for a government redress number to possibly avoid this in the future, read more about it here. It is one reason you need to get to the airport well ahead of your flight time.

Today, I finally boarded the plane and found I had superhuman strength from the angry adrenaline when I lifted my luggage into the one space left in the overhead bin near my seat. Honestly, I think I might have just sat down and cried if it hadn’t been available. It was a long trip. Not long in time, but I was feeling really under the weather most of the time, and it was a group. The people in the group were absolutely lovely, but generally speaking, I just don’t do group travel. I like my travel to be more my own thing. I like to make my own plans and do my own thing. I’m kind of selfish about my travel, because well, it’s what I like to do, and I’m particular about how I do it. I guess I “don’t play well with others,” so whatever viral thing I have made it a struggle…not COVID…I tested negative for that. This trip wasn’t about me, anyway. It was about the high school seniors, and they had a blast.

Let’s get patted down.

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