TSA are supposed to keep travelers safe, but these agents thought their job was to be as petty and baffling as humanly possible. It was like they were trying to drive each and every passenger in these stories insane! Try a road trip next time if possible, it'll take way longer, but you'll be free from these weirdos! Content has been edited for clarity.
What an experience! Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
The Most Frustrating Fruit
“In the late 1990s, my wife and I went with our son’s gifted program group to France. We took a long bus ride to Jacksonville, Florida to catch the first leg of our flight, in a school bus no less. On the way, the lady running the gifted program gave out box lunches, which included a banana. I put the banana in my backpack for later and forgot all about it. We spent eight days in France and returned via an airport in DC. As we were leaving the plane to go catch our next flight, one of the security dogs barked at me. I was pulled aside and my bag checked, and they found the banana, which was now turning black. It went something like this:
Security: ‘It’s a violation to bring fruit into the country.’
Me: ‘I had it with me when I left the country. You can see the Chiquita label right there.’
Security: ‘Smuggling fruit is a big concern.’
Me: ‘You have many people smuggle bananas in one at a time?’
Security: ‘Doesn’t matter the quantity. Fruit is fruit.’
Our tour guide shows up, and our next flight is boarding. He’s with our group. We’re a school group, and he’s one of the parents.
Security: ‘He had a banana in his bag.’
Tour guide: ‘I gave them out in box lunches before we left for France.’
Security: ‘Bringing fruit into the country is a violation. Since you’re with a school group, I’ll let it go this time, but we’re going to have to keep the banana.’
Me: ‘Okay, I guess you can have it.’
One more detail to really show how absurd the entire thing was. In France, my son bought a replica Colt .45 at a gift shop. It looked exactly like the real thing and was still in the box. At the airport in France, the security guard took it out of his carry on, and, swear to God, pointed it at the other guard and said, ‘Take me to Cuba!’ They both laughed and put it back in the bag. In DC, the same security people who pulled me for the banana never discovered the replica weapon when they checked his carry on. This was pre-9/11, but still, you would think they’d alert to a weapon over a banana!”
“Frisk The Cat!”
“Before my wife met me, she had Hannah, her cat. Hannah was a chunky feline with little use for me. If got too close to her, she would let out a low growl to say, ‘That’s close enough, interloper!’ When it had been just the two of them, my wife often took Hannah along on business trips and visits home to her family ranch, where Hannah was born. They were experienced travelers. Soon after my wife and I married, we went to her family’s for Christmas, bringing Hannah along. When we arrived at the little hometown airport for our return trip, we went through security. I went first without a problem. As always, my wife took Hannah out of her carrier, put the carrier through the x-ray, and walked Hannah through the metal detector, the latter’s dark fur billowing over my wife’s arms as they went through. So, at this little airport, the metal detector went off. The TSA agent sent my wife with Hannah back, then they tried again. The metal detector went off again. They then ran a wand over my wife holding Hannah, and the signal spiked when it was over the cat. At this point, my wife put Hannah down on a table near the conveyor belt. The TSA agent then tried to wand my wife, who was reaching with one hand on Hannah to keep her still, and the wand came up with nothing. Because she was leaning a bit to reach her cat, the wand wasn’t quite able to scan my wife’s neck, where she had a necklace. That didn’t seem to register with the agent. In any case, my wife thinks it’s over and we can move on, but the TSA agent held up her hand and called her supervisor over to confer. I couldn’t make out all of what they were saying, but the supervisor finally said, ‘Frisk the cat.’
My wife’s eyes got wide. The TSA agent looked at Hannah with trepidation. She asked my wife if the cat will bite. My wife said, ‘This is a scared creature about to be handled by a stranger. So probably, yeah.’
The TSA agent looked at her supervisor, who motioned to the cat. I’m watching this from a little bit of a distance, knowing that Hannah wouldn’t let me handle her in a million years, and wondering, ‘What, exactly are they expecting to find?’ Hannah, as I said, was a big fur ball. Maybe they figured they would find a zipper on the fur to reveal, I don’t know, a smaller cat inside? The agent, gloves donned, with her boss looking on from a safe distance, began gingerly pawing Hannah who began to growl. The agent backed off, and looked at her boss again, who signaled her to finish the pat down. My wife was trying to keep Hannah calm, but the supervisor warned her not to interfere with the procedure. Somehow, the TSA agent got away without being clawed or bitten, and hurriedly told my wife she was free to go. When my wife reached me, she shook her head and said, ‘Yeah, that was unnecessary.’
I checked on Hannah inside her case. She growled.
New Levels Of Stupid
“I was connecting through Los Angeles from an international flight to a domestic flight. I arrived at the TSA Security Checkpoint for my domestic flight. When I got to the head of the line, I told the TSA Agent that I had a Pacemaker, and I was not supposed to go through the metal detector. I attempted to show the agent my Medtronic Medical Device Identification card. She stared at me for a bit and then told me it was okay to go through the metal detector with an artificial knee. I realized she misunderstood me, and I again told her I have a Medical Pacemaker for my heart, and I do not have an artificial knee. She then repeated that an artificial knee will not be damaged by the Medical Detector. We went back and forth a few times, both saying the same thing. I asked if she would look at my Medtronic Pacemaker ID card. She gestured me forward, and as I started to walk forward, she held out both hands and loudly yelled, ‘STOP!’
I stopped and asked her what should I do, and again she gestured with both hands for me to move forward. I agreed, I am moving forward, she nodded, and I started. Again, she held both hands outward and screamed at me to stop. By this time, a supervisor came over and asked me what my problem was. I explained the whole thing again and offered to show my Medtronic card. I gave my Medtronic Card to the supervisor, he looked at it for a while, and he said, ‘Go through that gate.’
I asked if he meant the swinging gate that said, ‘Authorized TSA Personnel Only’. He said yes, and asked if he was going to have a problem with me. Knowing that all I wanted was to get through this insanity and onto my airplane, I replied no, I just wanted to clarify the direction. I started going through the gate and a third TSA Agent ran up and yelled, ‘Where are you going, can’t you read?!’
Again, I told the third agent that the second agent told me to go through the gate because I had a Pacemaker and could not go through the metal detector. Agent Three then asked if I was looking for trouble. I told him no, I just want to get to my airplane and get home. He then directed a fourth agent to wand me and I finally got through. Moreover, all this time, the first agent was still loudly proclaiming that the metal detector will not damage a metal knee, and how stupid could someone be not to understand that? At that moment, I had an epiphany of how stupid so many official gatekeepers there are in this world.”
Foiled By Vlad The Robot
“It was late one afternoon at Vancouver International Airport when I confronted this CATSA robot. Canada is little more slap-dash than the U.S. when it comes to security. CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) contracts out security staffing. What this means is the screeners are paid minimum wage, so the contractor makes as much profit as possible, and the screeners are not provided proper training to understand their job. Now, onto my harrowing story. My boarding pass had already been seen twice when Vlad the robot asked to see it yet again. Granted, Vlad was just being cautious. Something could have happened to my pass since his colleagues checked it five minutes before. Yeah, like all the letters could have fallen off! When I asked Vlad why he needed to see my pass again, I heard a little fan start. His chest expanded and his frame rose several centimeters, so he looked down at me, and he uttered those immortal words, ‘Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?!’
This is an important phrase because whenever confronted, a CATSA robot will utter this phrase. You see, CATSA robots do not get badges. Indeed, as much as they are responsible for airport security, none of them have airport security badges like every other airport employee must have. In fact, their security identification is a spiffy name badge very much like what your average 16-year-old McDonald’s employee would wear. Even CATSA supervisors have no airport ID. When I demanded to see the supervisor’s ID, she showed me her British Columbia driver’s license.
Back to the inspection line and Vlad’s demand to see my boarding pass. Stymied by my question, Vlad uttered his first threat. ‘If you don’t co-operate, you’ll miss your flight.’ This seems to be about all they have in their arsenal. Remember, this is Canada, so no weapons. Since my destination was Calgary, I knew there were several other flights available during the rest of the afternoon and evening. Vlad’s threat didn’t work, so he got increasingly frustrated and we eventually moved to a stage three threat. ‘If you don’t co-operate, we’ll call the RCMP!’
Vlad and his other part numbers were taken aback when I asked them to call the police. I was confident of my ability to deal with the police, since at the time I was working for the Calgary Police Commission. Besides, I was confident my fellow equestrians would understand that this afternoon I was merely crusading on my high horse. The police were never called, but the supervisor was. I am supposing the call to police never went out because my case was just an annoyance for them. Since I had already cleared the metal detector without Vlad seeing my boarding pass, their next bit of harassment was to order my carry-on, that had also cleared x-ray inspection, to undergo a more detailed inspection. While they flipped through the pages of my pocket book, I waited and had several of my fellow passengers congratulate me for my stand for truth, justice, and the Canadian way! Vlad never did see my boarding pass, the police were never called, the supervisor showed me her driver’s license while we chatted, and I got to my flight in plenty of time. The outcome was a stinging letter to CATSA, who responded with an irrelevant, bureaucratic response that informed me a boarding pass is a ‘document of entitlement’. The screeners and the CATSA letter writer all repeated that they do what they do for my protection. As has been pointed out, to be successful the CATSA/TSA crews have to be right every time. On the other hand, the terrorists only have to be right once. Funny, I feel less safe now.”
The Criminal Apple Returns
“In about 1986, I had a regular airline trip that flew from Washington National to Atlanta to Mexico City, and then back to Atlanta for a layover. I flew that five times a month for several months. One day, I had an apple in my suitcase that I bought in in Virginia. I was going to eat it that night in Atlanta. An American apple, being eaten in the USA. But going through customs in Atlanta, I happened to get tagged for one of those random crew bag searches and they found my apple. They went nuts! There I was carrying ‘landed fruit’. What a criminal! They took me into a room and several guys came in. They asked a lot of questions. I told them it was not ‘landed fruit’, because I bought it in Virginia. Well, no one has ever been hired by customs because they have even the remotest ability to think. They confiscated my criminal apple and entered it into my record. They said it would not go well if I was ever caught with ‘more landed fruit’. I argued again that it would be impossible for me to have ‘more landed fruit’ because I had never brought in ‘landed fruit’. I would hate to be in that line of work. I would start laughing at myself for the idiocy that I was supposed to bring to the job.
About 28 years later, I applied for the ‘then new’ Global Entry card, which gave me quick passage through customs, and would also automatically give me ‘TSA-Pre’ for my domestic security screening. It involves going to a customs office for a personal interview. I sat down at the desk and the guy asked a bunch of questions, one of which was if I had ever attempted to smuggle contraband into the United States. I answered no. His expression changed. Up to then, he had not acted like a customs idiot. He had actually been very nice. But now he sat back and scowled. He said, ‘Mr. Wagner, you need to think very carefully about your answer. We have the records on you.’
I said, ‘I have never brought contraband into the USA.’
He got up and conferred with a superior, who then came to join him, then he asked again, with the supervisor as a witness. I replied the same. ‘Okay, Mr. Wagner, you had three chances. We have the record here on (whatever date that was a quarter century earlier) that you attempted to land fruit in Atlanta.’
Of course, I had forgotten all about the stupid apple, and when I heard them mention it, I actually chuckled. Boy, you do not want to chuckle in front of anyone from customs. I told them I forgot about that, and that it was an apple I’d bought here in Virginia and was going to eat in Atlanta, and that it was a quarter century ago. They reassured me that it was a very serious matter, especially since I had now lied about it happening. They conferred again and the supervisor left. The interrogator sat for a moment and then said, ‘We are going to let this go this one time. But now, both of these violations have been entered into your record. If you get a third violation, you will lose Global Entry, TSA-Pre and you will be subject to other sanctions depending upon the severity of the violation.’
It took great restraint to keep from chuckling again, but I managed to stay dead pan. Yep, that actuall happened to me.”
Is It Possible To Escape?
“As a business consultant, I often had to fly to somewhere every week to work at a client’s establishment somewhere. Every Monday, I’d be at the airport bright and early to catch a flight out. This usually also meant that at night, I’d usually be dining alone. It’s extremely boring to sit in a hotel or other dining room alone, waiting for fifteen minutes for the wait-staff to notice you and bring you a menu, then waiting another fifteen before they come back to take your order, then waiting for half an hour or more to get your meal. With nobody to talk to for that time, it was almost mandatory that I always brought a book with me on these business trips. After a few years, I’d gone through a lot of books and it was getting harder and harder to find interesting books to bring. So it happened that one week I had a fairly thick book with me. No problem though, as I always put the book in the outside pocket of my carry-on bag where it would be handy for me to pull out and read during the flight. After flying the same route over and over again (for instance a whole year of flying into NYC every week), the scenery got a little boring too. I should mention that I also always had a laptop with me for work. That was never out of my sight while traveling because not only did I have to use it for work, but the laptop bag also had all my notes and papers and whatever else I needed for the job.
Well, this week when I got to the TSA security check, the security officer saw that my carry-on looked a little thick with the book. He ordered that I put it into the metal frame that checks if a bag is small enough to fit into the overhead bins. It didn’t, but when I took the book out of the pocket it was fine. He nodded, and I went to put the book back into the bag. He promptly came back and told me that if I put the book in the pocket, he’d make me check my bag.
Now there were a few reasons why I always used a carry-on bag. One was because since I was usually only gone for four days, I didn’t need to bring a suitcase, the bag was enough. Another was that my billable hours didn’t start until I got to the client’s place of work and so adding another 45 minutes to an hour waiting for checked baggage to come down the carousel cost me and my company money – about $250 an hour. Still another was that I’d had bad experiences several times with airlines losing my luggage, once when I was going to a job interview and they didn’t find my luggage until the fourth day (it was a two-week-long interview) and not only did I have to buy all new toiletries and clothes for the interview (try and get a suit fitted same day) but my clothes, when they got to me were very wrinkled from being squashed in the suitcase for almost a week. Another time after waiting three hours for my suitcase, it was brought to me with tire tracks over one corner and a bottle of aftershave inside smashed with broken glass and cologne scattered throughout my belongings. To make it short, I did NOT want to check my bag.
But the other thing was that my hands were already full. I had the carry-on bag, my laptop case, my passport that had to be continually produced (it was an international flight) and my boarding pass/ticket. It was much easier to have the laptop over my shoulder and the carry-on with one hand while leaving the other hand free to get out the various documents that had to be produced over and over again back in those days. I explained this to the TSA officer, and that the book was taken OUT of the pocket as soon as I found my seat on the plane, because I brought it so that I could read during the long flight. The bag undoubtedly fit in the overhead bin once the book was out of the pocket. The pocket was just for ease of carrying while going through the airport. But the officious little TSA prick wouldn’t let me leave unless I was carrying the book in my hand, making it much more awkward and time-consuming every time I had to stop for anything else.
What’s more, he decided to follow me to me my departure gate to make sure that I didn’t put the book in the pocket as soon as I left his station. The twit followed me for about ten minutes everywhere I went and watched as I had to put everything down, put the book on top of the carry-on while I struggled to pull out my passport and boarding pass, and then waited until I actually went through the jet way to board the plane.
He was too stupid to understand the logic of using a pocket to carry something and then take it out of the pocket once you sit down so that you can read the book. Or perhaps he was too stupid to understand what a book was for and that not everybody found sitting in a cramped, uncomfortable seat with nothing else to do other than stare at the other strangers around you was fun. Some people are intelligent enough to actually read to help pass the time under the above circumstances!”
One Conversation Derails The Entire Trip!
“When I was sixteen, I went on a World Challenge trip to Bolivia, back in 2007. World Challenge is an excellent program which I encourage all parents to send their children on. They enable groups of kids to go and see exotic locations in the developing world, and the kids plan the trip. They take groups from schools to ensure they all know each other, and you get a qualified World Challenge leader, plus two teacher volunteers for each group, but they’re there to advise and ensure safety. The planning, organizing, budgeting, and indeed fundraising is all done by the kids. I’ve yet to see a better way to open minds and teach personal responsibility to young people. Anyway, the flight from the UK to Bolivia involves a stop off in Miami, quite a long one. We had to go through a security checkpoint. The main queuing area was quite a large hall, and off to our right was a smaller room with a glass wall, in which were rows of plastic chairs. There were a few dejected-looking people sat in there, and it all looked quite depressing.
In our group, there was a guy who is a bit of a linguist. We’re still in touch, so I know that he is now a doctor of Middle Eastern history and is fluent in fully six languages, including Arabic and Farsi. At the time, he spoke a paltry three languages, but one of them was Russian, which we all found rather impressive. While we were queuing, he realized the guy in front of him was Russian. This was a long time ago and I forget exactly how he worked out the guy was Russian, but he did, and being a friendly sort of chap he proceeded to strike up a conversation with this complete stranger in Russian.
The reaction was almost instantaneous. Three very large men in uniform appeared, two of whom took hold of the Russian chap and one of my friend, and with no explanation beyond a muttered, ‘Come with me please,’ marched them politely but firmly out of the queue, across the hall, and into the small depressing room with the glass wall, where they both remained for three hours while their paperwork was double-checked. All for speaking Russian in a queue.”
Kicking The Hornet’s Nest
“I have many rough experiences, but there are two that stick out the most for me. My first experience happened shortly after 9/11. I was flying out of my home city of Colorado Springs, but I was carrying a new backpack that I had not used before. At the time, I flew enough that all the TSA agents at this regional airport knew me by name. After they sent my backpack through the x-ray, they asked me if I minded that they send it through again. They were very polite. After sending it through three more times, they apologized and asked if I minded having everything dumped out of it to be sent through again. Of course, I consented, but I was very curious. ‘What are you looking for?” I asked.
‘We can’t find the scissors,’ was the reply.
‘I don’t have any scissors.’
‘Well, yes, you do. Take at look at the X-ray results here.’
Sure enough, there were these funny looking scissors that were all blade and almost no handle. Anyone who has done a lot of sewing might know that I am talking about. It turns out there was a pair of these scissors sewn into the lining of the backpack, apparently left by the manufacturer by mistake. We had to cut them out of the backpack before I could continue on. All I could think was that I was so very glad this happened in Colorado Springs and not Chicago, where I was headed next. The TSA agents were patient, professional, and more than reasonable. That was the only time a polite TSA experience has ever happened for me.
My second experience happened in the mid 1980s. I was in the Army and was headed back from Korea in a huge multi-service, multi-national exercise called Team Spirit. We flew over there on an Air Force cargo plane (a miserable 26-hour flight tightly packed together), but the return flight was on a commercial airliner. On the way back, we stopped in Alaska first. As this was our first spot to land in the U.S., we had to disembark, go through customs, immigration, and security, and reboard for the final flight to McChord AFB in Washington state. The problem was that we were all in our BDU and carrying weapons. One of my fellow passengers was a courier and was hand-cuffed to a metal briefcase as well. We were told to disembark in two groups, with the first one needing to complete the whole process first so that we could leave our weapons on board to be guarded. We couldn’t bring the weapons into the airport.
It was surreal having to go through metal detectors before re-boarding. TSA was making certain we didn’t have any weapons. You know, like the M-16 my fellow soldier was guarding for me on the plane, or the M-60 the guy across the aisle had to slog. But it really came to a head when the courier tried to go through the metal detector ahead of me. He was told that he had to relinquish his briefcase, and that he could not bring handcuffs on the plane as well. Of course, he refused both requests. TSA did not have clearance to the materials in the briefcase and he could not give up the handcuffs either. TSA was stumped. I leaned forward and casually mentioned that the plane was loaded with weapons in the cabin, and that this offense was rather minor in comparison. The reaction was akin to kicking a hornet’s nest. Agents swarmed everywhere, all yelling at each other. Finally, their commander stopped them, walked onto the plane, and eventually came back chuckling. They let us board. But we still had to go through the metal detector.”
No Perks For Military
“Mine was an experience familiar to many veterans of a certain age: taking off my boots. Doesn’t seem bad? Let me explain. This goes down one of two ways. First way happens during mid-tour leave. You fly, sans weapons and gear, but in uniform, from your deployment location to Ali As Salem Air Base in Kuwait. There, you go through processing to confirm your leave and go through customs, to make sure you aren’t taking anything you’re not supposed to. You then get on a U.S. military charter, with only other military personnel and DoD civilians. Sometimes you fly non-stop, sometimes you stop at an airport in Europe that has a sectioned off military area. You never leave a controlled environment where you could get contraband or weapons. So what do the fine TSA agents do when you get off the plane in Atlanta? Yup, take them off. You, the guardian of their way of life, who has not left a controlled environment in around forty-eight hours, are a prime threat and need to remove your boots to go through the metal detector.
Second method gets better still, and it’s almost the same as the first. But this time, your unit is redeploying. There is the same stop at Kuwait, same customs checks, and the same military charter leaving from a military airbase. Actually, there is more scrutiny at the layover because your day-to-day bosses are there watching and not wanting to look bad. We would finally be heading home. Because this is the unit going home however, you are also carrying at least one weapon! Some unlucky soul has got two, also carrying for people that went home early. And guess what we got to do still?
Now to be fair, we didn’t carry the entire weapon. Guards stayed on the plane with the main weapon parts. I say main weapon parts because while on the plane, we carried the bolts for the weapons in our pockets and stowed the weapons under the seats. But that bolt stayed on our person, and I recall holding it up in my hand while the metal detector went nuts. This was okay. TSA wanted to hold the flight to start an investigation. The agents that actually did this got taken away by the LTC instead, with professional scolding for not following directions. As one of my fellow soldiers said, nail clippers are contraband, but a M4 with attached M203 grenade launcher is just a piece of carry on luggage.”
Sitting On A Secret
“This took place right after 9/11, in the first security checkpoint at Miami International Airport. I had recently purchased a stainless steel adult toy. I decided to slide it in at my house before I drove to the airport. Why did I do this? Looking back on it, no idea! When I got to the airport, I wasn’t too worried, as the airport security that we know today was still in its infancy. I assumed I would only be getting a pat down, but nope! The TSA had metal wands now. The toy in me didn’t set off the wands, but the remote control did! The agent finds the remote, and I’m suddenly surrounded and taken into another room near the gate. I had to confess to a bunch of agents what this object was. They handcuffed me so I couldn’t touch the remote, but before that I had to remove all my clothing, only to reveal the egg and wire up my butt.
One of the agents put on latex gloves and attempted to remove the toy, but he couldn’t get it out. I told them that if I could squat, I could push the toy out. The agents allowed me to get onto the table, still handcuffed, so I could push it out. It took a few minutes, but I got the job done. After examining the egg, the agents allowed me to get dressed and fill out reams of paperwork. I missed my flight and had to get on the next one. Those agents kept my toy unfortunately.”