Monday, June 20, 2011

Odd start to a work trip

This just happened on 6/20/2011.

I arrive at SFO at about 8:30 PM for a Midnight flight to the East Coast.  I want to check out the new Terminal 2, but since I leave from Terminal 1 - I start there to find my gate. Wife will tell you, I am obsessed with confirming that I know where I am supposed to be later before I go exploring.

There is noone in line for security. I throw my shoes and belt into the bin, unzip my laptop bag and approach the front. While waiting for the person in front of me, I hear the woman behind me talking to her bag.

I turn and look to see a woman, about 5 years younger than me, a little taller and a little heavier than me. She has the nervousness of a non-traveller - searching the same pockets over and over for metal that might set off the detector, straining to hear the same instructions I have hear a thousand times. I look at her bag and see it's an animal carrying case with toys clipped to the side and blankets padding the inside. She smiles at me as says, "It's my pug!". I smile back and say, "Ah, just checking that you aren't talking to a suitcase. We might be on the same flight." She chuckles and I turn around.

I approach the metal detector and get waved over for the "check out my naked body" scan machine. (Don't get me started on the one that is the source of authority that says we need these machines to keep travel safe is the same guy who gets paid by the company who makes them.) I step in, raise my hands, take my dose of radiation and step out. After a few seconds, I get waved through and walk over to the conveyer belt to get my gear.

I notice the conveyor belt isn't moving, look up, and at that exact moment see the woman behind me screaming. TSA agents are scurrying over from various locations as her bawling and freaking out escalates. The person working the conveyor belt goes sprinting past to get a supervisor of some-sort. A co-worker asks what is happening and he says "Her dog died!"

I can make out the words now, she is saying "I thought she was asleep! I thought she was asleep!" over and over. Everyone is frozen is this hurricane of emotion until a supervisor shows up and takes the pet case away. TSA Agents start to meander away from the area, other travelers are moving through the other side - and my luggage is still stuck on the conveyor belt.

I want to get out of there, but am petrified that she will hear me saying, essentially, "Man, that is horrible .. but can I get my stuff?". It's not like I am going to miss a flight, and I wonder what the protocol is for a situation like this.

I wait there for about 5 minutes until her tears die down. Someone brings her a box of tissues. I quietly ask an Agent, "Can we start the conveyor belt again? My suitcase..." He makes a sound of surprise, starts the belt and 45 seconds later I am gone.

I've decided to skip Terminal 2 and go straight to a "grill" that has about 6 menu items. However, they have 4 beers on tap and I need one about now.