It seems that I often have unique traveling experiences. Last year, on my way home for winter break, I attempted to take my bird with me. The result – I had to walk through the security check-point with a dove on my finger. To make matters worse, the bird decided to poop at the most inopportune moment. However, this experience barely compares to my most recent trans-continental flight.

This past summer, I spent a month in Italy. While there, a little group of evil men – terrorists – decided to stir up some trouble. Unable to hear or read the news because of the language barrier, I found out about the attempted Heathrow plane bombing through a friend. She had received a phone call from a German friend explaining the incident. He stressed the perilous situation, explaining that she may not want to return to the States right away. Although we soon realized that we were not committed to an impending doom, the situation was frightening, indeed. As we acquired more knowledge about the airport incident, we became more comfortable with our own state.

As I organized all of my departure information, I realized that I was flying into JFK from Heathrow. I’m sure you can imagine my fear! As a somewhat imaginative, dramatic female, I was rather frightened. Again, my fears were quelled as the professor organizing our trip reassured us that we were all safe. Then, the Transportation Security Administration sent new regulations. Suddenly water bottles, contact solution, toothpaste and even deodorant were prohibited as carry-on items. Again, I mentally adjusted. No longer was I afraid of dying on a plane flying into New York City, now I was repacking all my liquids and gels.

Finally, my day of departure arrived. As sad as I was to leave Italy, I was also anxious to fly through Heathrow. Checking in proved to be the most unique experience I have had to date. I was forced to empty my purse and select only my cell phone, wallet and boarding pass. I was not even permitted to carry on lip gloss! I then transferred these three items into a clear plastic bag. The rest of my baggage had to be checked. This also turned into something of a fiasco. I had two checked and one carry-on. I was being asked to pay 150 euros, about $200, to check a third bag. I protested. After a little persuasion and a lot of phone calls, I was able to check my carry-on bag without a fee. Mission accomplished.

Walking through the airport, it seemed as if I were the only one carrying my personal belongings in a clear plastic bag. I must admit, I felt extremely odd and practically vulnerable. My personals were on display for the entire airport to see. I soon discovered, however, that I was not the only one forced to acquire a clear plastic bag. An older woman approached me and we chatted about the bags.

From this conversation, I figured out that only those passengers catching a connecting flight in Heathrow to the United States were forced to ditch their purses. Just my luck.

When I finally arrived in Heathrow, the adventure had just begun. Due to delayed flights, I missed my flight to JFK. After some changes, I was able to hop onto a later flight. Then there were the security checkpoints. All frequent fliers are aware that there is one security checkpoint before entering the gate, but, in England, this was not the case. After the terrorist scare a week before my return flight home, they added many, many more. The result – I traversed through three extra security checkpoints. These checkpoints were extremely thorough. My clear plastic bag was scanned, searched, nearly dissected and even my wallet was ravaged. They checked the battery of my cell phone and asked me to turn it on and off. Thank God they were not quite as thorough with me as they had been with my wallet.

When I finally arrived at my gate, I found an absurdly long, slow moving line. Indeed, it was yet another security check point. Before entering the plane, every single passenger was padded down and their clear plastic bags searched, again. Needless to say, after this whole ordeal, I was no longer afraid of a terrorist surprising me on the flight.

Ricketts can be reached at aricketts@campustimes.org.



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