TSA officers are necessary for our safety, but that does not mean they should be asking stupid questions! Reading these stories about the ridiculous things uninformed TSA officers have done will leave anyone just shaking their heads. How were these people even hired in the first place? Content has been edited for clarity.
Cochlear Implant Troubles
“I have a cochlear implant. (with a magnet embedded in my skull to hold the device in place.) I never go through the metal detectors. I always have the stupid grope. One time I went through, tbhey asked me why I ‘wanted’ the pat down. Refraining from smart alec jokes, I told them it was because of my cochlear implant. They did not believe me and asked me to take it out to show them. I showed the (external) processor. They wanted to see the magnet part, despite my telling them it was under my scalp, placed in a niche in my skull where the bone had been removed.”
“Everywhere I Take My Hats”
“I went to Mexico last year and I took a few cowboy hats with me. I have a special container I keep them in so they wont get damaged when I travel. Now by itself, this container looks oddly shaped and weird so I can understand it arising suspicion. Entering the states in LAX, I was flagged for second inspection and sure enough, the agent asked about it like so:
Agent: ‘What’s this?’
Me: ‘It’s a container for my hats,’ as I open it and show him.
Agent: ‘Do you takes this everywhere with you?’
Me: ‘Everywhere I take my hats.’ Awkward silence ensues…
Agent: ‘Welcome to California.'”
“TSA agent in airport in Vermont was checking out my weapon before sending it through to be loaded on the plane. Comes up to me after a few minutes and asks: ‘This has tested positive for explosive residue.’
Me: ‘Like powder?’
TSA dude: ‘Oh,’ hangs his head, and walks away.”
“Have you seen your economy?”
“I’m 23 and Australian. I travel on my own a fair amount. I arrived in the US, and started going through customs when I was pulled off into a separate room. After they’d gone through everything (notebooks, texts, washing powder. (He looked so very excited, briefly.) Then he asked how I could afford to travel and take time off work. I passed, or whatever. After they gave me my passport back, I asked what the heck that was all about. ‘You’re a young female traveller. You might have been trying to get a job here.’
‘Have you seen your economy?’ He had no response to that.”
The Supervisor Wasn’t Having It
“‘What is this?’ He says while going through my diabetes kit and found my lancet cartridges.
Me: ‘Really? It’s a lancet to prick my finger for diabetes blood glucose monitoring.’
Him: ‘I can’t let you take this on the aircraft.’
Me: ‘Sir, that’s not an option of yours, TSA policies especially allow diabetes and other medical testing supplies, get me your supervisor.’ His supervisor ripped the life out of him (flat out dismissed him so he can study the policies again), apologized to me, and let me on my way. TSA can be flat out irritating at times, but some of them at least try to not suck.”
“Are You Carrying A Weapon On Your Person”
“When I was about 12, my family was flying from Colorado to Kentucky to visit my grandparents. At DIA, I was going through security and the shorts I was wearing had little metal clasps that set off the detectors. So I got a nice friendly pat down from Mr. TSA Guard. While he was going over my hip, he stopped and got this scared look on his face. He went back over my hip bone a couple times, looks me dead in the eye and says, ‘Are there any weapons or explosives you are carrying on your person?’
Being the 12 year old I was, I lifted my shirt, pointed at my protruding hip bone and said, ‘Well that there is my hip!’ In the background, I saw other guards start pointing and cracking up, and the guy’s face turned the reddest I have ever seen. Needless to say, he let me go on into the terminal.”
A Swing And A Miss
“My friend and her two children, infant and toddler, were returning from a family vacation. Her husband, an avid hunter, had been out earlier that morning before the flight. It was not until they came to the TSA check line that he realized he still had a long (6″ to 8”) fixed blade knife sheathed on his belt. He didn’t want to lose the knife as it had sentimental value. So my friend took his knife, put it in her full diaper bag and told him to get several people behind her and the kids. She was a former flight attendant and knew she would have a better chance, as a woman alone with infants, getting through TSA should they find anything suspicious on her.
Then, sure enough, after she walked through the detector with her and her children, they pulled her diaper bag out and motioned her over. Back in the line, her husband knew he was getting ready to either lose his knife, or watch his wife get kicked off the flight! In her head, my friend was rehearsing her speech about why her husband’s hunting knife was in her diaper bag etc, etc.
With a frown on his face, the TSA agent was thrashing through her bag while she stood there patiently. He then pulled out… A CAN OF DR.PEPPER! He then began to lecture her on the TSA rules regarding liquids and how selfish/careless she was to have it in her bag. Then my friend, who has a dry sarcastic wit that knows no bounds, could think of nothing else to do but apologize profusely. She was utterly dumbstruck at the audacity of the situation. TSA, confiscating her rogue Dr Pepper, then allowing her to gather her bag and be on her way. She met up with her husband a few feet further down on the concourse and they boarded the flight; husband, wife, two children, and a 8 inch hunting knife! Once they had boarded the plane, she looked around at the other passengers almost in amazement. Never before had she been so happy to have retired from being a flight attendant then this very moment! Who knows what people get on planes with!!”
Three Inches of Hair
“A TSA agent once pulled me aside and patted down my ponytail. They asked me what I kept in there. I answered, ‘Three inches of hair.'”
“I went scuba diving in Italy on vacation and got a massive ear infection. It was so bad, I shocked the doctor and he had to give me a few injections just to reduce the swelling in time for my flight back. So, I’ve got a few bottles of medication going through security. All Italian, with the prescriptions in Italian, all clearly labeled with my name. I get to US Customs and go to the medical line (and get to witness firsthand a TSA agent manhandle a 4 year old girl in a wheelchair. Not something I ever want to see again). The TSA agent pulls one of the bottles of syrup out (it was a narcotic syrup).
TSA: ‘Is this yours?’
Me: ‘It’s in my luggage, it has my name on it, and my prescription is taped to the bottle.’
TSA: ‘Yeah, but is it yours?!’
Me: ‘I don’t know, you see any other person with my name in this line?’
TSA: ‘Alright, smart guy, drink it.’
Me: ‘Fine.’ I drank a dose. It was incredibly bitter, and I made a face.
TSA: ‘Woah, woah, woah. Drink more. You made a face.’
Me: ‘You serious? I just drank my 12 hour dose. You want me to OD?’
TSA: ‘Aha! So it’s a “substance!” I’ll have to take this from you.’
Me: ‘Of course it’s a “substance,” nitwit. You think doctors write prescriptions for sugar syrup? If you want to keep that bottle, you’ll need a warrant.’
TSA: ‘I don’t need a warrant, I’m confiscating your ‘substances’. Want me to get the DEA over here?!’
Me: ‘Actually, yes. Go get the DEA. Get them, and tell them to bring an officer, because you’re stealing a Schedule II ‘substance’, which is a felony.’
By the time the DEA guy gets there (yes, he was called), I was kind of out of it from the narcotics. DEA guy looks at the bottle, my prescription, and my passport, smacks the TSA guy, and waves me through. I slur out a, ‘Thanks,’ flip the TSA guy a bird, and stagger off to my plane. I was still a few hours early, so I had to grab a bite and a coffee to stop from passing out. Seriously, that doctor wrote me for something strong. I still don’t remember what it was.”
“Are These Bullets?”
“One time I ended up having to put a tripod in my carry-on bag, and I assumed it would cause me some problems at security.
I was right.
My wife and I roll through the security line, and hear the inevitable, ‘Whose bag is this?’ We calmy walk over to Agent Idiot, smile, and tell her it’s ours.
‘I’m gonna run this through again,’ she rudely says to us.
‘It’s probably the tripod’ I say, still with a smile on my face.
‘We’ll see about that,’ she sneers and takes our bag back over to run through the x-ray machine one more time. My wife and I just smile, knowing it’s the tripod for sure. She comes back towards us, our bag in her angry little hands, now seeming even somehow more ticked off at us than before. She slams our bag down on the stainless steel inspection table begins to rummage through it. She then pulls out, guess what? A tripod in a bag! But, no, she was not done with us just yet. She opens the bag, pulls out what I assumed to be the offending object, sneers at me, and keeps on digging. She then pulls out a small package containing spiked feet for the tripod. A package, mind you, that was very obviously specifically for these three little feet, and from a camera store.
‘What are these?!?!?’ Agent Idiot exclaimed, with 100% confidence that she just stopped today’s attempt at domestic terror.
‘I forgot those were in there. They’re feet for the tripod.’ I calmly reply.
‘Are these bullets?’ She snaps.
‘No, they’re feet for the tripod’ I calmly explain.
‘Are these screwdrivers?’ She sneers.
‘No, they’re still feet for that tripod’ I gently inform her. Now, to give Agent Idiot a little credit, the feet are kind of bullet shaped, and it was a good eye to catch ‘3 bullets’ in my bag, buuuut…. how did they magically go from being bullets to screwdrivers? Anyway, Agent Idiot was not happy with the way her interrogation went down whatsoever, and we could sure tell by the way she treated our magical mystery bullet/screwdriver/tripod feet devices.
She then said in the most sarcastic tone you could imagine, ‘Well then, have a nice day!’ After shoving the bag back towards us, she ripped off her little blue gloves, and went back to being a prick to the next unsuspecting victim of TSA harassment.
I’ve dealt with and seen some bull at airport security, but that one was the most annoying.”
Well That Was Unexpected
“The summer after 8th grade, I went on a school trip to DC. We visited all the historic places nearby and I pick up a sick little cannon in Bull Run. Well when we were leaving to go back to Denver, my luggage got stopped because of the little cannon. The guy inspects and I was nervous he was gonna confiscate it. He didn’t, thank god, but then he goes on to describe HOW I CAN MAKE IT INTO A WORKING CANNON! Just what 13 year me needed, a working mini cannon.”
Twice In One Day
“I have type 1 diabetes, and use a pump. The pump I use does not look like a normal pump nor can it be taken off like a normal one.
TSA: ‘Sir, what is on your hip.’
Me: ‘A lifesaving medical device (this is what you say if you have a pump).’
TSA: ‘Can you remove it?’
TSA: ‘Why not?’
Me: ‘Because I will die a horrible death that will end in defecation and urination.’
I got pulled for a pat down and they knocked off my pump. I had to change it in the bathroom. I loved the fact that I got to stab myself 2 times that day. If you wanted to know, I am on the OmniPod.”
Too Many Zippers
“My twin sister was pulled by the TSA for having ‘too many zippers’ on her pants. She was wearing cargo pants and had a total of three different zippers. Really?”
“Someone just told me about someone they knew had to remove a catheter at the airport because of TSA. Then I got to thinking… Wait a second… I have a friend from Ontario. Last year he and his wife came to visit me. He literally has to poop in a bag because they had to remove his colon due to his condition (he has ulcerative colitis) and he has to do that for the rest of his days. Poop in a bag, empty it out. His wife told me that had a hard time at the airport, but never explained..”
“What Race Are Ya?”
“TSA: ‘So what race are you?’
Me: ‘Coconut with a dash of blue.’
TSA: ‘Can you step this way please? ‘
To clarify, I’m a South Asian chap who looks slightly Asian and has a British accent.”
Keeping An Eye Out
“I waited in line in front of one of these classic Texas businessmen in a Texas airport. The guy had expensive pressed jeans, name-brand expensive golf shirt, expensive ostrich-leather boots, giant expensive gold watch, and a giant belt buckle. He was, from the start, making it clear how much it was wasting his time to go through that line.
He kept crowding me, checking his watch, and generally demonstrating how important his time was in that way they have. As luck would have it, we didn’t have a person minding the entry side of the metal detector. He failed to take that huge belt buckle off and crowded me, so the alarm went off. Sigh.
The chick who showed up to wand me passed the wand over several times to no avail. It wasn’t going to beep because the metal that set off the detector wasn’t on me. Finally, the woman asks me what I thought set it off. I shrugged as I didn’t think that was my job to discern, and I wasn’t sure if it was a trick question.
Eventually, she lit on the gold-toned plastic of the cheap plastic money clip I carry when I am flying so as not to necessitate taking out my cash and drop it into the container while passing the detector. Yeah, that is some awesome watchfulness, TSA. Meanwhile, the guy behind me had to go back and remove his belt as he also set the thing off.”
“One time, I was ‘randomly selected’ for extra screening after I started sobbing in line. I kept having to explain that I was crying because I hate goodbyes. After going through my backpack, the TSA agent tested my tears for explosive substances.”
It Made No Difference
“As a flight crew member, I deal with these people sometimes multiple times on a daily basis. For the most part, the relationship is cordial between us and them but every once in a while you get that one agent who has no business being in a position they hold. We have our own security lines at larger airports but they’re not open 24 hours. When those lines are closed, or the airport does participate in a crew program, we’ll go through the pre-check line. Without getting into detail, what is allowed for us through security is at least on par with the rights of a pre-check passenger.
We’re allowed to cut any lines but on this particular day, I wasn’t in a hurry so I waited patiently behind maybe 10 people. As I got to the front of the line, in my uniform, a TSA agent kicked me out and told me to go to the front of the regular security line. I asked her what difference does it make? She proceeds to yell at me and states that she will get fired if she lets a pilot go through the pre-check line. I go to the other security line, which is about 8 feet to our left. I don’t go through the body scanner so those agents send me through the exact same metal detector that the pre-check line was using. This is the only agent I have ever had tell me this is a policy.
Pass through security enough times and you’ll find agents that make up their own rules for no reason other than they can.”
Peru, Or Not To Peru
“Going through the airport on my way back from studying abroad in Peru, the TSA agent asked me, ‘What did you have to study in Peru that you couldn’t study in America?’ Response: Spanish.”
American Mailing Address, Please???
“My own TSA story – entering the US, passing through on my way to El Salvador, there was this fat overbearing piece of junk checking forms and passports. I hand him my Australian passport and some form. He gets very aggressive because I didn’t provide a US postal address. He’s yelling at me, ‘Why didn’t you fill this in?’
I said to him as calm as I could something along the lines of, ‘I live in Australia, I’m going to El Salvador. I didn’t provide a US postal address because I. Don’t. Have. One.’ No apology, the fat prick just waved me through dismissively. Man, I wanted to punch that man right in his second chin.”
You Don’t Get Paid For Your Opinions
“TSA agent tried to destroy my $400 infant/child car seat because, in his opinion, it was too big. It was the convertible kind that can be used from 5-65 lbs. So yes… bigger than my 4 year old, but no… I’m not hiding substances or bombs in my child’s seat. I offered to show him the user manual (stored in the seat) so he could see that I hadn’t added anything and that it came that way, but that was apparently an insult because he then spent 30 minutes just poking around and lifting things. Broke all of the clips off of the cover, which meant purchasing and hand sewing new ones on it… I might be a little bitter.”
Austria Or Australia?
“A few years ago, I got stopped because my shirt said ‘No kangaroos in Austria.’ Boarder patrol guy stopped me and gave me a lecture on Australian wildlife, called me a dumb tourist and then he looked at my passport and realized I was in fact, Australian. He asked me if I thought I was clever or if I really was that stupid. I asked him if he could read or if he really was that stupid. Had another look at my shirt and let me go without another word. And Boarder Patrol was filming that day, I was hoping it would get put on the show but it didn’t.”
Make Up Your Mind
“I went through TSA for an international flight. Got to the scanner, TSA dude’s yelling at everyone to put everything in the bin. He repeats, ‘EVERYTHING. Everything out of your pockets, nothing in your pockets, nothing at all.’ I go through the scanner, he asks for my passport and ticket. I point to the bin, and he lectures me that I need to carry my passport/ticket at all times. Fine, whatever.
I end up having to go back outside the secure zone because I forgot something. Go back through security. This time, I put everything BUT the passport/ticket in the bin. This time, TSA guy (different guy) yelled at me for not putting it in the bin. I ended up getting the two of them fighting with each other about whether we should carry it or not.”
“TSA asked to look at my shoes because he has never seen shoe like mine before. I said, ‘Tennis Shoes’?”
Anything You Don’t Know?
“My friend was stopped by a TSA agent after arriving at LAX and taken into a separate room for questioning (he has a lazy eye and looks high pretty much all the time). Another agent walked up to his dad and asked in a really aggressive voice, ‘Is there anything you don’t know about your son that we should know about?'”
“TSA Atlanta security employee: ‘You’re lying!!!’
Backstory: I have hemophilia, so I need to travel with my factor 8 (vials, syringes, needles so I can self-infuse when needed). I also have an artificial left hip…not because of hemophilia, but because of legg calve perthes disease as a boy.
Thanks to 9/11 (and I can’t thank those pricks enough) – any vacations that involve flying always stresses the heck out of me.
As my wife and I moved along, much like cattle going to slaughter – we got to a relatively nice common area with the traditional zig-zag nylon ropes with 100s of people in front of us. This didn’t look so bad, my stress level went from high to curious.
Once we got to the front, there was just a bank of friendly border agents (if that’s the correct term). Stress was still at curious. The guy called us up, took our passport, chatted with us about St. Lucia, and said, ‘Welcome home.’
Stress went to zero.
After going through the border patrol (and their own bag scanner), I thought I was free-and-clear!
But, holy moly, did I get THAT wrong! After we were released, we quickly came upon another zig-zag line.
After resigning myself, my wife and I queued up. At the time, I really wasn’t stressed…I’m already back (with the border control’s blessing). No biggie, I just wanted to go home.
As we stood in line, a really weird thing happened. There was this guy, mid-20s; he acted like he was strung out. In fact, he acted like he was in need of another hit (tweaking). So he spent the better part of the queue pacing back-and-forth, cursing up a storm. He claimed he was ‘gonna miss my flight, man.’
We got close to the TSA check-in (where each person would off-shoot into one of the lanes). I was just about to confront this prick about his language (there were little kids everywhere). But, at that point I needed to pick a lane. My wife and I picked the same lane.
Stress level (mildly upset).
My wife went though without issue. Then, I entered the x-ray, soft-tissue body scanner (right before I entered I said, ‘I have an artificial left hip.’).
I walked out of the machine to, I can only describe, as either a really fat Chris Farley or a really fat Newman (from Seinfeld). I pick Newman, as he was more like him. This guy was gulping air like a fish out of water, his TSA shirt’s buttons were ‘all hands on deck’…just barely holding the fat in check. And he was sweating. The kind of sweat one only gets from being assigned to a job you have no business doing.
TSA agent Newman pulls me aside. He asks me all sorts of questions that I can’t readily recall (mainly about what was in my pockets, etc). As you can tell, I’m a straight-shooter with TSA (every possible thing I brought was on the conveyor belt). Each time he asked a question, I said, ‘I have a left hip replacement, I’m sure that’s the issue.’ He said over-and-over again, ‘You’re lying, what’s on your body?’
I asked, ‘What do you see on the scanner?’ He turned to look at the full-body scanner, I followed his eyes.
He pointed at the picture of my body, ‘Right there.’
I said, ‘Sir, that’s my left hip.’
‘No it’s not! You’re lying!’
Stress level: visibility shaking (at least it felt like it).
He then performed a mid-section pat-down, in front of everyone. He rolled my belt loops down, grabbed my crotch, the whole works. I was protesting the entire time. He finally reached into my front pocket (all the way down), and pulled out a rolled up crumpled paper straw wrapper (he also touched my junk). He proclaimed, ‘This is it! This is what caused the metal detector to go off!’ He threw it to the side and said, ‘Move along.’
(Please note, this straw wrapper was no bigger than pocket lint, whereas the image on the screen was a metal rod from my hip to my mid-femur).
Flustered, I went to pick up my belongings. My wife was visibly upset. She told me just to ignore it. I wasn’t gonna ignore it. After I re-laced my belt and put on my shoes, I walked over to Newman and demanded to see his ID number. He obfuscated it and continued working on the next victim. I had none of it. I pulled out my cell phone to get a photo of his badge number, he yelled, ‘No pictures!’ So then I tried grabbing his badge to see the number, ‘Don’t TOUCH me!’
I said, ‘I can’t see your num….’.
Remember the tweaking dude from above? Well, he was currently being searched by Newman. He said, ‘Dude, just let it go, I’m about to miss my flight.’
Because our flight to Detroit was about ready for boarding, I let his rent-a-cop badge drop, I picked up my bag, and my wife and I left.
The only number (on his badge) I can recall started in ‘9.’ And it still ticks me off to this day for what he did to me (even more for twice calling me a liar).
This account is 100% true – I can only hope the camera’s recording of this caused his termination. If I were to do it over, I would’ve pressed this issue (and skipped our flight). But, at the time…you know how it goes.”