Traveling Safely

Whether or not we’re comfortable traveling, we should be aware that when we’re away from home there are “advisable” precautions which aren’t necessary in our houses or apartments.

I’m agoraphobic, and I try to fly somewhere about once a year.  The schedule varies, but there’s always a sense of accomplishment even after an uninteresting visit.

Earlier this month, I visited Southern California for the, uh, eighth time.  It’s a short flight from San Francisco Airport (SFO), and I know my way around a large portion of Los Angeles County.  The public transportation in that neck of the woods has improved considerably since I first visited in 1997.

Even before the Transportation Security Administration was established, I was careful packing medication.  Everything was in the original containers, and clearly labeled.  No sense in causing a misunderstanding that could result in a mistaken arrest for Benadryl in an unmarked vial.

I believe that paid off earlier this month, when I went through a TSA checkpoint in a Southern California airport on my way home.

I don’t have TSA Pre-Check, so I went through a security station that required passengers to remove shoes and jackets, and separate small containers of liquid.  I had no liquid, but apparently there was a perceived issue with pills.

One screener who worked at the carry-on x-ray machine was behaving unprofessionally, and I have decided not to make more of a hassle for myself by filing a complaint.  I did learn something which is worth sharing, though.

That screener was going to stop me no matter what.  She was in the mood to confront someone, and I walked in at the wrong time.  So, she pretended to impound my carry-on bags and shoes for secondary screening.  Not an actual secondary screening.  She opened only one of the two purse-sized bags, and pretended to be disgusted by an imaginary odor or species coming from my relatively new shoes.  She couldn’t quite bring herself to touch more than one of the shoes, and she did not test any of the items for chemical residue.

Never mind what the young lady said, or how she said it.  The only correct response on my part would have been to speak to her mother.

She scrutinized the pills that were in the original bottles/vials and sealed in a clear, zippered bag (Fortunately, she didn’t open the bag and containers.  In her mood, that could have been a mess).  The one prescription medication had the accompanying printout from Walgreen’s.  After seeing that I didn’t have any questionable drugs in the bag, she put the bunch back into the carry-on with as much force as she thought appropriate.  Then she took out a wrapped granola bar and treated it with the same disgust.  I ate the granola bar the next day, standing over the kitchen sink to prevent a mess on the floor.

After the screener got done yelling and treating my belongings roughly, she pushed the bin back to me on the counter and walked away.  No I apologize for the fact that you were inconvenienced statement.

I believe the screener could — and, given her attitude, probably would — have exploited an opportunity to call attention to any medication that wasn’t labeled unquestionably.  I didn’t give her that opportunity, and I avoided a false arrest.

On its official website, the Transportation Security Administration says that clear labeling of medication is “recommended,” and individual state laws vary.  That should be interpreted to mean you use the ultimate caution with those items when packing.  Even the Dramamine.  Although the vast majority of airport security screeners are respectful to passengers and concerned with keeping flights safe, there’s always the risk of encountering one who is thinking of something else.

Transport your medicines only in distinctly marked containers.  If the pharmacy gave you a printout of information about a prescription, you may want to pack that with the item (You can keep a photocopy at home if you’re worried about the printout getting lost).  Also, follow the TSA’s advice to learn about state laws.

I believe the fact that all of my pill bottles were together and in good order protected me from missing my flight and suffering a life-changing trauma.

Here’s a screenshot, taken from the site at tsa.gov today, November 29, 2018.  It states the current policy for pills and other solid medications:

Screenshot (432)

 

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