Skip to content

Wet clothes and TSA – a travel no no

Sunrise and fog in San Francisco
travelingshoes lesson of the day:

If you go through TSA security with wet business clothes, you’ll really confuse the scanner and the officers. Then you’ll get a FULL body pat down.

Sunrise and fog in San Francisco on the way to SFO. Beautiful morning before the craziness at TSA!

Today, I have a short trip to Newark, NJ for a business meeting. I opted for for Delta flights connecting in DTW, despite Newark and SF being United hubs. I was only going to be on the ground in NJ for 24 hours from arrival to departure.

Last night, 12+hours before departure, DL let me know the flight was delayed by a little bit. That cut my connection time to 30 mins. But I travel with my pack so I can run from gate to gate. So, I decided either they would auto-rebook me while I slept if they thought the now 30 minute connection time was too short and I’d wake up to new flight info OR the delay would clear itself up overnight and all would be well.

I went to bed planning a 6:00am wake up to pack, clean up a bit and leave around 7am for a 9am flight. (Woohoo for traveling light and TSA Pre√! At 6:00am, I woke up. There was no new flight info and an even longer delay showed up at about 6:05am. I looked through the alternative flights to rebook (easily provided on the app!) and decided I could try to make the 8am flight through MSP instead. Only hiccup – my work clothes were air drying still…fastest way to dry wet clothes? Wear them! By 06:17 I had packed. I was dressed in one of the two work “uniforms” (today it’s my black dress pants, a top in some odd shade of orange/pink, and my black sweater, just in case you were dying to know!) and getting in a Lyft headed to the airport.

Made it to the airport with plenty of time.

I didn’t think anything of it as I strolled up to the TSA Pre√ line. Which is why, when the alarm went off on the metal detector, I was completely surprised! Then I remembered my sweater has heavy duty zippers down each side seam (I have no clue why…) So, I went through the full body scanner. Looking at the screen I expected to see my sides lit up.

Boy was I shocked when my whole body – minus one hip?- was lit up. And so was the TSA officer. I could almost read his thoughts as he stared at me oddly then looked back at the screen then back at me – ’30 something white girl in business clothes. What’s going on?? Don’t stare. It could be taken as leering and she’ll get me fired. There’s nothing odd shaped sticking out in the highlighted areas. Don’t look too hard at anywhere but the face! Crap what do I do now?’

He called over his female assist

By that time I realised it was because my clothes were still damp. I let her know but she still had to give me a full body pat down and I’m pretty sure by the look on her face she was thinking ‘what same person puts on wet clothes and wears them to the airport?!’ By then everyone in the security area, passengers and staff alike, we’re all looking at me with really confused looks on their faces as well. I’m sure the fact that I was smiling and being polite to the TSA officer didn’t help their confusion either. And why should I have been angry or rude? They were doing their job.

Had I been a 30 old man with a fluffy beard or a 30 year old dark skinned man I’m sure their looks would have been of worry instead of confusion and that angers me. This post isn’t going to get political or become a commentary on biases. I wrote it to be a light hearted travel tale and I’ll save the heavy stuff for another day.

So, you’re probably wondering what happened with my delayed flight!

And if you aren’t, well then you can stop reading now 🙂 After my pat down I went to a Delta agent to see what they could do for me. About that time I got a notification I was auto-rebooked on an 11:00am flight which got me to EWR at 23:05pm…

That wasn’t going to work. So, she tried to get me on a few directs. She even tried into JFK, and called United to see if she could get me on one of theirs but bad weather on the East Coast yesterday meant a lot of overbooked flights on United going east today. I ended up on the 8:00am flight (with a mint on my seat when I boarded!) connecting in MSP. Which is where I sit at this exact moment, writing this post from 33,000 ft in the air somewhere over what looks like Utah.