Friday 1 October 2010

Domestic flight: Only carry-on... oh damn!

It has been years; no it has been over a decade since I have flown with just carry-on luggage. My trips have always been vacations; trips where I was going for several days, usually a week or more. The idea of an overnight flight is not unknown to me; I have had my days when business has required me to fly somewhere for the day or for an overnight stay always with the idea of flying back out immediately after a meeting of some sort.

It's interesting to come to check-in, get my boarding pass then skip standing in line to actually check bags. When getting off the flight, it is also interesting to leave the plane and immediately walk out of the terminal looking for a ride instead of hanging around the baggage carousel waiting for my stuff.

Out of the blue, my company asked me to fly out West for a meeting. Since the meeting started first thing in the morning, I was required to fly out the day before and stay overnight. Putting together the essentials for such an overnight stay made me realize that after all this time, I was going to get the opportunity to experience the "only carry-on" flight and I looked forward to skipping part of the waiting which is very much an integral part of flying these days.

Since 9/11
All of us are more than familiar with the sometimes radical changes in airport security in the past 10 years. I can still remember when I was younger... heck, when I was a kid when security was certainly a different ballgame. Up until then, nobody had tried to blow up a plane by lighting a fuse in their shoes or detonating their underwear! Ah, how times have changed.

As I approach the check-in at the airport, an airline representative inquires if I only have carry-on. When I tell her yes, she whisks me over to one of these self-serve electronic terminals telling me that I can skip the line. I thank her by saying, "You're a goddess." delighted at not having to line up to check my luggage. She has my boarding pass printed in no time flat and from that point; I can go directly to the gate. I turn and look back at the line of people waiting to check their luggage. Ooo, this is great!

I arrive at the gate, empty my pockets into a tray, put my laptop in a separate tray and put my coat in a 3rd tray. I step through and get the all clear signal but then, one of the guards asks to check my bag. Oh oh. I discover I have absent-mindedly put 2 items in my bag which are not permitted in carry-on baggage. Oh my gawd, I always put this stuff in a checked in bag and I totally forgot about the rules for carry-on bags.

First of all, I have a regular size bottle of Aveeno hand cream. Damn, you can only have 100 ml of liquid or less. Secondly, I have a little shaving kit in which I have a nail file, tweezers and a small pair of cuticle scissors. Oh boy, the guard doesn't like the scissors. I have two choices: check the bag or throw out the hand cream and the scissors. Ah geez, am I going to have to go back to the drug store and find another pair of small scissors? Heck, the bottle of Aveeno was what, 12 bucks?

I opt to go check the bag. I go back to check-in but as I'm standing there, I am mulling over the pros and cons of checking the bag and keeping it as a carry-on. Hmmm, the advantage to the carry-on is that I have everything together in one place and I can just get off the plane without waiting to pick up my bag. The other advantage is that in my bag I have all my stuff: my computer, my reading glasses, my sunglasses. Do I want to start taking individual items out of the bag that I will need during the flight and check the rest? Hmmm, think, think, think.

Finally I decide to chuck my stuff, the 2 banned items. I throw the bottle of Aveeno in a garbage can; good-bye twelve dollars. I take out the scissors and... I hesitate. I like these scissors and I don't know how much trouble it is going to be to find a replacement. Hmmm, what to do?

All of a sudden, I hit upon an idea. If I can find a hiding place at the airport for the scissors, I could pick them up when I return the next day. All I would need is a safe place to store them for a period of - I do a quick mental calculation - 32 hours. I look around thinking of possible places. The men's room? Possible. I scan the large open area where all the airline check-ins are. My eyes fall on the public telephone terminal in front of me. I crouch down; feel underneath the little flat area, the table under the phone. I find a little metal ledge which is part of the frame. I reach in and discover that the scissors would fit just nicely there. Now the question is as to whether or not the scissors or not will remain undisturbed for 32 hours until I get back.

I hide the scissors, zip up my bag and go back to security. I go through the process a 2nd time but this time pass with flying colours. As I head to my gate, I am wondering how I am going to remind myself to go back for the scissors. I'm already picturing myself coming back, getting off the flight and in the hurry to find a cab; I'm going to completely forget to go back for the scissors.

In an absurd fit of imagination, it occurs to me that the cleaning staff could find the scissors. I'm picturing them turning this in to security who then decide to lay a trap for a potential terrorist. They put the scissors back then lie in wait until somebody picks them up. There's me retrieving my scissors when the airport security jump out from behind the bushes and arrest me. My shoes are okay; my underwear is innocuous but I have cuticle scissors! Agents lead me off to the hoosegow in handcuffs.

As I chuckle to myself, I find a place at the gate to wait for my flight. If this works, I at least won't have to find a new pair of scissors. If not, I've learned a valuable lesson about what not to include when packing an overnight bag for carry-on. Sigh; they're good scissors and I've had them for years.


I fly in. No fear about forgetting to look; I had been thinking about my scissors during the flight.

I get off at the arrivals level so have to go upstairs to the departure level where I first started. I go back to the exact spot and find the same public telephone. I put down my bag with the idea of crouching over it to not look too conspicuous. I reach under the little table and... Bingo! I retrieve my scissors! 32 hours later and I find my cuticle scissors safe and sound. This is hilarious. Heck, now I'm wondering if I could have found a hiding place for my bottle of Aveeno.

In any case, I've learned my lesson. One must pay attention to what is permitted in carry-on luggage. A little research on Google yields me a Canadian government web site with a search feature to look up individual items to find out if they are permitted in carry-on luggage, checked bags or not at all. Hmmm, handy.

Well, I feel much safer knowing that first of all, airport security is working and secondly, that I don't have to worry about anybody hijacking a plane using cuticle scissors... :-) ... Okay, I'm being sarcastic. After all, cuticle scissors do seem a little... well, too little to actually be a weapon. Nevertheless, I do feel grateful the security is working. I would not want to find myself on a hijacked plane!!!


Canadian Air Transport Security Authority: Pack Smart
A reference about packing your bags with a search feature to look up information on various items to find out if they are permitted in carry on, checked or not at all.


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