Sheila makes a great sun-dried tomato dip – lots of flavor and easy to put together, so we thought we’d add it to the munchies table for our GameDay gatherings this year. You know, the table where people graze all afternoon and evening in between the chili and pizza and sandwich snacks. Nobody ever died eating it, so we figure it’s a keeper. 😉
It’s been such a hit that we’ve been putting it out at the barbecues as well. Celery, cucumber sticks, baguette toast – they all work to scoop it up.
Almost anyone that travels via commercial airlines has a story to tell about lost luggage, flight delays, or the latest TSA rules. It was such a hot topic among my buddies right before one of my trips that I did a little research and posted, “What does the TSA really do?” Read it here.
Just recently, Sheila and I got to experience first hand the TSA techniques for handling undocumented travelers. Yup. Undocumented. Sheila misplaced her official photo ID (her driver’s license) and had to not only prove who she was, but go through a very thorough search to boot.
Here’s how it played out:
We took the hotel shuttle van to the local airport, ready to fly out on a commuter leg that would get us to a major hub. Something told me to take an early shuttle van, so we arrived three hours before the flight. We had checked into our flight while still at the hotel and already had our boarding passes, so we rolled our suitcases up to the baggage check-in area, expecting a quick handover of the lightly packed bags.
Sheila took out her wallet, but couldn’t find her driver’s license, so she waved me ahead. The airline agent checked mine and took my bag. I stepped away and looked over at my wife. She was frowning. The agent wasn’t busy yet, so he stood there, watching. Sheila took every single piece of paper and credit card out of her wallet, but could not find the license. She had grocery cards, office supply cards, medical ID cards, but no license. Gulp.
“Is it possible you put it somewhere else for some reason?” he asked, so very kindly.
She took apart her briefcase and her tote bag, piece by paper by book. She turned everything upside down and shook it.
“The last time I remember seeing it was when we checked into the hotel.” She sounded a touch panicky.
The agent walked away to take care of other people and we called the hotel. We were put on hold for fifteen minutes while the hotel manager looked in the safe. No ID.
Sheila took everything apart again. I called the agent over and asked what would happen if she couldn’t find her ID. Would Sheila be able to board the plane in this post 9/11 world?
“Does she have a passport with her?” (We weren’t that far from the Canadian border, so that was a reasonable question.)
“We weren’t planning on leaving the country, so, no.”
He called a TSA supervisor, who explained that they would have to establish Sheila’s identity through the Homeland Security Office and after that, conduct an extensive search, a process that could take up to six hours. We would probably miss the flight – the last one of the day.
Anyone that flies in the United States knows that photo ID is required in order to buy an airline ticket and to board the plane. It is usually a driver’s license, but can also be a passport or an official non-driver’s license photo ID. Mom, who no longer drove and whose license had expired years before, had to get one of those in order to fly.
Photo ID is also required when checking into a reputable hotel – not the fly-by-night or rent-by-the-hour type.
Sheila and I had just finished a great weekend at a Police Academy training site – yes, she had fun, too. She shot an AR-15 for the first time and even had a tight grouping on the target.
As the flight time loomed closer, Sheila decided to give up digging for her license and undergo the search and questioning. The officers made a call to the regional Homeland Security office and agreed to accept her business card photo (the card also had her name, website, and email address) that she did have in her wallet. Since several people with their legitimate driver’s licenses had vouched for her, as long as she could pass the questioning phase and go along with the search, she might be able to board. I think it helped that there were cops in the group who vouched for her.
Sheila’s suitcases had been placed on the side, away from everyone else’s. An officer opened them up, pulled everything out, and began the questioning.
“Why are you here?”
“What was the conference about?”
“What was the best class?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“What hotel did you stay in?”
“How long were you there?”
“Who ran the conference?”
The questions went on for twenty minutes. The personal search was conducted in front of the public, but the officer was polite/efficient and Sheila was focused on getting on that flight.
We did make the flight – barely. But, still puzzled as to what had happened to the license that she always puts in the same place.
It was midnight when we got home, but Sheila pulled everything out again. The last thing she looked at was the only item that she had not bothered with at the airport. The badge from the conference. It has a slot behind the name tag that attendees use to store business cards and hotel key cards. Very convenient. Sheila had helped sell raffle tickets at the banquet, thought that a purse would be in the way, so stuck her license and room card in that slot.
At least nobody stole her ID, a nightmare both of us had considered.
Lesson to be learned:
Stick to your normal routines for keys and licenses when traveling. We have those routines for a reason – so that we don’t forget where we put them. Ooops!
We had visions of staying quite a while in the airport. We were lucky that we happened to be traveling at the same time as so many other people who had attended the same conference. We were lucky that Sheila had a business card with her photo on it. We were lucky that reason had prevailed.
*Photos by Patti Phillips
Charlie and I took a road trip to Texas recently and checked into a reputable long-stay chain hotel for a few days. The hotel featured free hot breakfast (with ‘robust’ coffee) and a few dinners, so as Charlie would say, “What’s not to like?” Near the end of the week, we were taking our time planning the day, so I volunteered to go down to the breakfast room for refills on the coffee.
I got on the elevator with a nice young man from another floor; we exchanged smiles as the door closed and the car descended. And stopped abruptly. Our eardrums were suddenly blasted by the hideous sound of shrieking sirens and horns. An elevator is a small space and the sound bounced off the walls and assaulted our bodies for several long minutes. It was actually painful.
We covered our ears, without much success, and shouted to each other, wondering what was going on. The noise finally stopped, to our great relief, but the doors did not open and we realized that we were stuck.
We introduced ourselves – his name was Daniel – and started poking buttons on the control panel. Nothing worked. Open/close, floor buttons, nothing. We tried using the elevator intercom to call for help, but nobody answered right away. Neither of us had a cellphone, and my pockets were empty of everything except my room key card.
Daniel poked the intercom button again, this time shouting into it. The voice at the other end took a while to respond.
“Hello, are you okay?”
“Yes, but the elevator is stuck between floors.”
“Which elevator are you in?” Huh? Couldn’t they tell?
We had a chat with ‘the voice’ about where we had entered the elevator and she figured out that we were in the front elevator.
“The fire department will be here in a few minutes to get you out.”
I happened to know the locations of the firehouses since I had lived in the area for a number of years, and knew that it would be more than a few minutes. But, we were curious…why the screeching siren?
So we called the front desk again – and by the way, we had to yell to be heard – not very reassuring if trying to get and give information.
“What was the screeching siren?”
“There was a fire in someone’s room and when the room alarm went off, the entire elevator system shut down. We don’t know why you were not returned to the first floor.”
Hmmmm. The small fire was out, but somebody needed an elevator repair guy to make a visit after the firemen ‘rescued’ us. While we waited, Daniel and I shared our stories – Daniel was there with his family to support his older brother in a competition being held at the local university. I told him I was a writer. He asked if I was going to write about our experience and I laughed, “Definitely!”
I wondered aloud about pulling a MacGyver – Daniel was too young to know about the TV hero from the late 1980s – but then, neither of us had a Swiss Army knife or duct tape on hand. However, Daniel was tall enough to reach up and move ceiling panels aside as we investigated our options. Could we escape through the access panel as seen so often on TV and in the movies? Could we hot-wire anything?
Not in this elevator. The so-called ‘escape hatch’ could not be accessed unless you carried a hex key socket wrench in your pocket to release the bolts. Even then, maybe I could have fit through the space, but not broad-shouldered Daniel. I wondered what they actually use that panel for, since it clearly is not for people removal. As for hot-wiring? There was nothing accessible to us at all.
We exchanged a few more questions and reassurances from the front desk voice and Daniel’s dad, and at long last, the car finished the trip to the lobby and the firemen greeted us as the doors slid open.
When I asked about getting out of the elevator through the ceiling, the wrenches needed and the size of the escape hatch, one of the guys said, “Well, you don’t have to worry about any of that because the elevator comes back to the first floor and you just walk out the front.”
We were never in danger and were only one and a half floors up, so if cables had snapped, we would not have fallen far. Was I scared? Not really and I don’t think Daniel was either. He handled himself well and was good company. We had lots of air to share, since there were only two of us and we were both calm about the situation.
The people at the front desk mentioned that it would never happen again, but I found out later that it had just the night before to another guest. I might have taken the stairs if I had known that.
Charlie said that next time, he’s going to make the coffee run.
Elevators have long been the setting for action, comedy and even love, in movies and TV. And, why not?
There is a built-in constraint of space and time.
The punch line has to be delivered in the time it takes to get from one floor to another.
People who love (or hate) each other are placed into ‘must act’ situations.
Heists are pulled off successfully when the con men escape through the REALLY large ceiling hatches.
The audience is led to believe that nobody standing outside the elevator can hear the plots being hatched or the secrets being shared.
There is lots of potential for great entertainment.
But, in real life, people sometimes get stuck for hours and occasionally die in elevators. I researched elevator stories and these popped up:
Tragically, a young man saved a friend from an elevator death, but lost his own life in the process:
An elevator mechanic was electrocuted while repairing the elevator and working with exposed wires.
That same month, a woman was horribly dragged to her death when elevator shot up while she tried to enter through the open doors.
*Note from Patti Phillips:
My extra long stay on the elevator (as Patti Phillips) really did happen earlier this month, but there are hundreds of thousands of safe elevator rides taken every year.
Thanks to Daniel Gray for sharing the ride in Texas. 🙂