I’m sick of baggage fees. In fact, I avoid flying in a plane if the country I am traveling to is right next door. Baggage fees are a nuisance and for a budget traveler like myself, they really begin to add up. When I found out that my options to travel to Colombia from Panama were limited to working on a cargo ship for 10 days, sailing the San Blas Islands for $500, or take a flight, I was distraught. Unfortunately, travel by land to Colombia is dangerous. Known as the Darien Gap, if you aren’t killed by the poisonous frogs, snakes, or other jungle animals, you will be kidnapped, raped or killed by the people inhabiting the area.
So I had to fly.
But flying meant checking my bag for $25. So I tried to trick the system and empty my sunscreen lotion into several 3 oz bottles leaving the rest of it in the big bottle because it was valuable and I couldn’t bring myself to just throw away so much sunscreen lotion. If they really cared, fine, take it. I felt the same about the bug spray.
Their First Reason For Suspicion
We arrived at the airport 30 minutes before the flight was to take off. I put my bag on the conveyor belt, walked through the x-ray and held my breath. I watched TSA as they examined my bags on the computer screen. I was caught.
A TSA lady took my bag out of the machine and pulled me to the side. She pulled out my toiletries and asked me what the 3 oz bottles contained. I explained with gestures since I couldn’t think of how to say sunscreen lotion in that moment. She understood. I thought I was in the clear.
She reached deep into my bag and pulled out my Pac-Safe security web, a travel item that, normally around $90, I had bought for $60 in Japan, but had not found the need to use it yet. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a big stainless steel netting that is meant to go around your backpack so that thieves can’t enter your bag. She opened it up completely and showed it to her co-worker. He shook his head. Apparently, I might try to strangle a passenger with the wire. $60 down the drain. Then she found my bug spray, but before throwing it away we sprayed as much as we could on ourselves. They weren’t happy about that.
What They Found Next
I thought that that was it. The plane was already loaded up and they were only waiting on us. But the TSA lady wasn’t done. She started opening up the smaller pockets. My bag of Q-tips came flying out and, growing impatient, I almost grabbed the bag to show her where she could find the big bottle of sunscreen, but then she pulled something else out. My eyes grew wide, my face got hot.
“This,” she said to me in Spanish, shaking her head, “Is not allowed on the plane.” My heart was beating fast as I realized that this woman thought that I was some sort of threat to society. Not only was I trying to strangle passengers, but in case that didn’t work, I was definitely going to stab them. In her gloved hand, she held up my silver pocket knife that I had bought in Vietnam and had kept with me in case I absolutely needed it. Speechless, I nodded in agreement, stuttering in Spanish, “Of course, right, I’m so sorry.” Nervous, I handed her the instructions to the Pac-Safe netting and told her, “In case you want to use it” and walked away with my head down.
She never did find my big bottle of sunscreen lotion.