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Funny Travel Story: Cut TSA Line & Lived!

I travel quite a bit and I’ve taught myself to enjoy it. I treat air travel today, just like I did when I commuted via car at any of my previous occupations — a necessary part of the job. During my 20-year career as a professional speaker I’ve flown over 2 million miles and shared my Comic Visions™ seminars from Texas to Tasmania.  I’ve stayed in amazing places and in scary places. I’ve seen the best and the worst of travel and travelers and still, I love to travel. 

Don’t Travel Like a Jerk

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people cut into the TSA security line because they may miss their flight, primarily because they didn’t give themselves adequate time and now are in trouble.

I work really hard to have fun when I travel, enjoy the journey and usually try to follow the rules while having fun. However, sometimes I have to carefully push past my own established travel guidelines to get to an event. I insulate myself as best I can by never taking the last flight out and giving myself plenty of time to make connections, but when the unexpected “glitch” occurs, I have to be creative to get the job done. Failure is always a possibility: I know I could miss a flight or a connection. Giving up is not an option: I never give up.

In fact, when presented with massive travel problems I’ve told customers that I’ll do anything short of committing a felony in order to be there for my presentation.

I Made a Travel Jerk-Move

While on a multi-stop trip to the East Coast, I flew in a small commuter prop plane from upstate New York and connected in Dulles (Washington D.C.), with a 727 on to Denver. I had about 90 minutes to make my connection. On the outbound commuter flight, I had to gate check my roller bag and when we landed I waited to get it plane-side with everyone else.  On this rare occasion, my green tag came off my bag and the handler refused to give it to me even when I pointed out it was the only one with chicken feet sticking out and how would I know that if it wasn’t my bag? Everyone else got their gate checked bag except for me. No matter what I said to the United representative, she refused to give it to me and sent me to baggage claim to get it. I had to exit security, claim my bag at the carrousel, and then try and catch my connecting flight to Denver. When I went to go back through TSA security in Dulles, there were so many people in the priority passenger lane that if I waited my turn at the end of the line I knew I’d miss my flight. I had to make a choice. I either had to go to the end of the line and miss my flight or I had to do something I’ve never done before: cut into the front of the line without being assaulted by another passenger or arrested and detained by TSA.

As with any mission, attitude is critical. To accomplish my mission it was important for me to be in the proper frame of mind. If I approached the line looking sheepish or guilty I’d never succeed. As a fraud investigator in Montana years ago I discovered that it was critically important when I was working in the field to “look” like I belonged: to look and act confident.

The Australians have a term for this that I like a lot, it’s called, “quarter flash.” It means you need three quarters substance and one quarter flash. I had to be confident that I belonged in the front of the line, but not be obnoxious or sheepish. 

I silently girded my loins for what was to come.

How To Cut the TSA Line and Lived To Tell The Story

I made my way to the front of the line quietly, as covertly and unobtrusively as possible. I carefully placed myself between two passengers at the very front of the TSA line. I tried to look like I should be doing that and belonged right where I was. Neither of the men were happy and both told me that I could not cut in the line.

Ignoring their comments, I put my head down and tried to make myself invisible.   

I avoided making eye contact with anyone. The guy in front turned away from me to start going through the x-ray machine, but the guy behind me got pretty loud and said, “You have to go to the back of the line.” I knew I had to say something … so I agreed with him: “You are correct,” I said quietly and then again tried to be invisible. He said loudly, “I’m not kidding.”  I said, “Yes, it’s clear you are not kidding,” while I smiled and nodded. Now security was watching him and not me. Keeping my head down and still not making eye contact, I was next to put my bags through x-ray and he says, “You are not going to get away with this.” I replied, “No, I am not. Thank you.” As my bags went through the x-ray machine I passed through the magnetometer and started putting stuff back in my bag as quickly as humanly possible. The angry guy came up behind me and said, “I hope you are proud of yourself.” I smiled and quietly replied, “I am,” and then raced to catch my connection. I made it. It’s the only time I’ve had to cut in line at an airport and I hope I never have to again. I simply didn’t want to give up. 

Failure is always a possibility but giving up is never an option. Use your Comic Visions™ to get more creative as you journey through life.

Let laughter become you!

-Tim Gard, CSP, CPAE

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