My European adventure ended almost a month ago now—so glad I made it back. Was I worried? Yes! I thought I might be spending my golden years rotting in an Icelandic jail—at least until they deported me to the USA at the request of TSA.
After seven days in Europe with body scans and beepers and luggage sent through x-ray machines—not once but five times—I thought it was clear that I was not transporting illegal explosives in my three ounce shampoo bottles or cocaine in baby powder containers. But, Noooo. The Transportation Security Administration in the United States called their goons in Iceland and instructed them to check me one more time and this time, much more thoroughly. I was, apparently, a flight risk!
I almost missed their call. The incident happened on the final leg of our journey as we were changing planes in Iceland after our flight from London—with less than an hour layover. I was buying a candy bar and a chips to carry me through the seven hour flight home to Seattle (don’t judge me) and was on my way to line up for boarding, which was to start in ten minutes. Then my son gave me the news. “Hey, mom, they just called your name over the PA system.”
Were they going to give me an upgrade to first class? I was feeling pretty giddy as I walked up to the desk, only to find out I had been ‘randomly’ selected for further screening. My eyes were as wide as saucers and I’m sure they assumed I was guilty of something as I protested the search. “My flight is boarding in ten minutes!” I said a bit too nervously. They most certainly thought I had something to hide, but honestly, I was just afraid my son would be going home to Seattle and I would miss the flight. That’s not entirely true; I was also afraid I would be subjected to a full body cavity search and despite my lack of human touch in recent months, this was not how I wanted to re-open that door.
As you might have guessed, I survived the incident. I am not writing this from an Icelandic jail, but from the comfort of my living room. The TSA folks did not make me strip, but they also did not smile as they unzipped and searched my bags, instructed me to remove my shoes and dusted me for drugs. Although I admit I am easily flustered, this was especially unnerving as the TSA employees seem to revel in their authoritarian role. Despite my fears, they allowed me—again without a smile—to proceed to my gate without subjecting me to further humiliation. I guess being an old white woman has some advantages. Those with darker skin and more unusual names likely had a more difficult experience.
So, I survived the scrutiny in the final hours of my trip. I’m happy to say this was the only negative experience of my week in Europe. I will try not to dwell on the stern faces of the TSA employees and remember the joy and beauty of the first one hundred and eighty hours of my journey. Although a few of those hours were spent sleeping, we had plenty of time to enjoy three wonderful countries.