Years ago, I read that you should try to NOT look guilty when you are going through security in an airport. Reason being, if you LOOK suspicious, others will think you’re up to something.
That’s easier said than done for me. When we are traveling by plane, I’m already a little nervous. When we start loading our shoes, bags and other junk on the security conveyor belt my heart starts racing and my eyes start getting big. I don’t do anything wrong on purpose, it’s the accidents that get me in trouble!
We were traveling home from a mission trip in Poland a few years ago when I had a bit of a problem in Paris. It was during the time when things were already tense between the US and France. (In those days we were calling French fries “freedom fries”.) We were treated with contempt several times by airport security because we were Americans.
The not-so-nice lady at the conveyor had seen something awful on the screen. She spoke firmly and told me to take out the scissors I had in my back-pack. “I don’t have any scissors,” I assured her. “The scissors,” she insisted in a harsh French accent. “I-DON’T-HAVE-ANY-SCISSORS,” I repeated slowly, in case she couldn’t understand. She was good and mad now. She had seen them on the security x-ray and made me dump everything in the back-pack out on the table. Way, way down in the recesses the bag…was a pair of children’s scissors!!! Oh, my gosh!!! “I didn’t know!” I exclaimed. Now, she thought I was not only dangerous, but a liar, as well.
We had carried our back-packs every day through the village to the little church in Bielsk. They were loaded with glue sticks, markers, scissors and Bible school papers. Somehow, some way, a pair of children’s scissors had slithered down in the bottom underneath the flap. How on earth?!
The now angry Frenchwoman held her hand out-waiting. Embarrassed, and more than a little afraid, I finally found the blasted scissors in the fold of the bag. I gently laid them in her hand, relieved. “Now, the other pair,” she demanded. “I don’t have any more!” I assured her. She was having none of this. Her hand was out again. I dug once more into the stinking back pack for the other pair. I was already picturing me being dragged off to a French prison for trying to carry dangerous weapons onto a plane. I was terrified. I held my breath for several life-altering moments, then she angrily pointed me through security. (I still check all my bags for scissors to this day!)
When we were returning from vacation a few weeks ago, I got nervous again-this time through customs. Custom forms, which are hard to understand, are required when we come back into the U.S. The forms are different, making it difficult to interpret, as they are printed in other languages. On the form, we swear an oath that we are not bringing in fruit or plants, have not been on a farm and/or touched livestock there, and are not carrying more than $10,000 with us. We have no problem answering these questions. We do not bring back fruit or plants, are rarely on a farm-even in the States, and have never ever seen OR carried $10,000. We simply check, “No”, “No,” and “No”, then turn our paper in to Customs.
But, now that we are in the super techno age, we have to go to a Customs “Kiosk” to do all this business. We type in our names, answer the questions, and then it snaps a picture of each person in our party. There is a body shape on the camera you have to line up in before you push the TAKE PHOTO button. You have to move in close or scoot back to find the sweet spot for the photo. We press PRINT and out comes a permanent record of our arrival. All photos are given to the nice Immigration official.
We are standing in an enormous group of people at this point, very reminiscent of Ellis Island. (The phrase “huddled masses” comes to mind.) Everyone is in a big hurry to get home-wherever that is, and many are not in the best mood.
Electronics take time. My beloved cannot see the printing on the kiosk very well. (He’s not wearing his reading glasses.) He moves around like a dancer finding the right place to stand for his photo. I pushed the button for him and out it came. I stepped up to the camera, got myself into the body outline and pushed TAKE PHOTO all by myself. Oh, my heavens! I looked guilty of at least thirty crimes, especially carrying fruit, petting farm animals and packing at LEAST $10,000! Because I couldn’t figure out where to look at the camera, my eyes were crazy and big as Marty Feldman’s!!! (Google him if necessary.) I reached up to the RETAKE PHOTO button. My beloved grabbed my hand like a ninja warrior. “Don’t EVEN think of it,” he growled through his teeth, “You are NOT taking that over. Do you see all these people behind us?!” He printed, and then snatched the ugly, scary, guilty looking photo of me that was now my permanent record of entry into the US and hustled to the Immigration guy. I was surprised we even made it out of the airport!
They are probably still looking for me.