Once, as I made my way through airport security on a trip, I was randomly selected for a chemical scan. After passing a gauze-like material over my hands, the female TSA worker popped it in a machine for analysis. To my shock and her dismay, the machine beeped and turned red.
This development earned me the special attention of more airport security and receiving a pat down. As she guided me past a long line of fellow travelers, I wondered if this unexpected development might actually end up saving me time going through security. I was wrong.If soap is setting off the airport sensor then either the machine is too sensitive or they need to buy different soap. Click To Tweet
While we waited for a male TSA worker to conduct the pat down, I wondered aloud how I managed to set off the sensor. “I just washed my hands,” I mused.
“That does seem to catch a lot of people,” she replied.
If soap is setting off the airport security sensor then either the machine is too sensitive or they need to buy different soap.
I was quite apprehensive about the pat down, but the male TSA agent carefully explained the process and conducted it with great gentleness. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Frankly I think it bothered him more than me.
More Airport Security
I passed the pat down and assumed I was good to go. Not so. He then did a chemical check of his gloves and the sensor again beeped and turned red. A supervisor arrived quickly, and he ushered me into a private room in airport security. I began to wonder if I was going to make it home.
The supervisor and agent both put on new gloves, and this time the supervisor gave me the pat down. If the scan of his gloves came back testing positive for chemicals, I was hosed. Fortunately it did not. I was free to go.
While the first scan may have come up positive because soap residue on my hands, that didn’t explain the positive match on the second test. Then I realized that neither the first or second scan was done by an agent wearing new gloves. They likely had chemical residual on their gloves from other passengers, fellow travelers who passed through security undetected and would be getting on a plane with the residue of potential bomb-making chemicals on them.
Although I would be boarding a plane after a rigorous airport security ordeal, I didn’t feel any safer.
Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night.