Friday, February 13, 2009

Watch Out!

The worst part of any trip out of the United States is trying to re-enter the United States. I'm not really talking about the customs process itself, but the attitude of people in other countries who make you feel like a criminal for just wanting to get home.

After checking a piece of luggage on your way out of the United States, you are directed to take it to a large scanning device so it can be x-rayed to make sure that you don't have any forbidden articles in it. On a recent trip, my luggage was opened and searched, but fortunately I did not find out about it until I opened it later on and found a little card from the TSA letting me know that my bag was one of those picked for searching (probably because of the toiletries I had in it). However, leaving another country to re-enter the United States is another story. Several times we have had to stand in long lines only to have the luggage that we wanted to be checked hand searched only after the searcher put on rubber gloves to make sure that he or she didn't pick up any diseases from our dirty underwear and other clothing that filled our suitcases.

At a recent hand check of carry-on luggage after the scanner at security saw something weird, the searcher mentioned scissors that I carried in a cosmetic bag. It was only after I showed her the scissors had a dull point that I was allowed to re-pack it. She did take my sewing kit and safety pins, which had survived many other trips, and wanted to take my alarm clock. Now why would a simple sewing kit, safety pins, and an alarm clock be dangerous? Fortunately I got to keep the alarm clock but I had a bad taste in my mouth for being hassled like that.

Why can't the countries of the world unite in deciding what is permissible to take on a plane with you? Why can we take a bottle of water purchased after we go through security in the United States and why can we take an opened bottle of water purchased anywhere in Mexico on a domestic flight, only to have it taken away before boarding the plane that will take you to the U.S.? In Europe, you can buy water and have it put in a sealed bag to take on the plane, but I had a hassle with the representatives of another country and finally produced a doctor's card which said I had had stomach surgery and had to have water with me. This bottle of water was taken away at U.S. customs when I arrived in the U.S. but at least I could buy another in the airport for my final flight home.

It is really hard to pack to visit other countries because you never know what is allowed and what is not. I can imagine how our enemies are laughing at us behind our backs because of the hassles we go through before we reach the friendly skies.