It was Friday, and I wanted nothing more than to get back home.
I visit Chicago four times a year for work meetings. And, despite the hassles that come with travel, I love those visits. I soak in face-to-face time with my coworkers (not on a little Skype screen), have dinner with my sister Julie, and squeeze in as much girlfriend time as possible.
But by Friday I am definitely ready to head home. My introverted self often feels exhausted after a week of non-stop work and visiting.
So I headed to Midway airport with plenty of time before my 4:15 p.m. departure time. Tucked safely inside four ziploc bags was a frozen pizza for my husband. He is still in deep withdrawal from Chicago pizza (not the thick crust variety, but thin crust, cut-in-squares, from Aurelio's - extra sauce).
My trip was off to a good start. The TSA line was miraculously short. In fact, they had a new bin procedure that allowed four people at one time to empty their bags, take off their shoes, and shuttle their belongings on the conveyer belt.
I dutifully removed my puffy coat, my boots, my laptop. I even removed the pizza . . . just in case.
Stepping through the x-ray machine, I noticed that two of my bins were being channeled away from the rest. Separated by Plexiglas, they were awaiting further screening by an agent.
Sigh. So after being cleared, I stepped aside to wait. I was behind a middle-aged women wearing sweatpants. She had three children under the age of 12 jumping up and down behind her. Her husband (I'm guessing) sat on a bench and watched.
"Don't touch my stuffies!" exclaimed the youngest child. She wiped her runny nose with one hand, the other flailing desperately at a pile of stuffed animals that were popping out of the suitcase as the TSA agent opened it.
I stood back, trying to dodge any renegade flu germs she was spewing in my direction.
"Ma'am, you have to keep your children out of the way while I check your luggage," the TSA agent said.
"He's touching my stuffies! What's he doing to my stuffies?" The child was shrieking.
The mother swatted one child behind her, and the TSA agent rooted around in the bag for the offending item. Then he pulled out an enormous Ziploc bag filled with 12 individual applesauce cups.
"Ma'am, you can't have these in carry-on luggage," he explained.
"But the Disney mom website said you can," she said. "They're 3.4 ounces."
"Well, I don't know what they told you, but you can't," he said. "You can check them if you want."
"What am I going to feed my kids all week at Disney?" she said.
At this point I was seriously contemplating pulling out a $20 bill and offering it to her for snacks at Disney. Her husband was equally perturbed by the delay. "Oh for god's sake, throw them out," he said.
"I can't throw them out!" whined the mom. "What will we I give the kids for snacks at Disney?"
This went on for a bit as the mom's lip quivered. Apparently applesauce cups are a rare commodity at the Magic Kingdom. As they debated their options, I glanced at my phone, the time ticking by quickly.
"Okay," said the TSA agent. "I'll tell you what. I'm having a good day. I'm going to let you keep them." The children cheered, still grabbing for the stuffies.
He zipped up the bag, and I sighed with relief. But then the mom said, "That's our bag, too."
Sigh...really?! A second bag?
So the TSA agent zipped open the second suitcase, and - get ready for it. I am not kidding. There were FOUR more gigantic Ziploc bags of applesauce cups. FOUR! That means about 60 applesauce cups in all. AND, another Ziploc bag filled with peaches.
The TSA agent looked equally angry and overwhelmed by his job, "No way. You can't take this much on board. Can't do it."
The mom shrieked again. The dad gave a loud exploding moan and slammed his hand down on the bench. The kids circled with nervous energy.
"Throw em out!" yelled the dad. "No!" yelled the mom. And the TSA agent looked as pained as I felt.
"Look," he said. "You can just check them."
"But then we'll miss the Magical Express," said the mom. "We sent our other bags onto the Magical Express shuttle."
Finally they discovered an extra sticker for the Magical Express and slapped it on the treat suitcase. The dad agreed that he would return to check-in and check the bag. And, if it somehow missed that magical shuttle, he would Uber to Disney.
God has a special reward in Heaven for that man.
Finally it was my turn. They swabbed each of the four bags of frozen pizza and then swabbed my laptop (which had been randomly chosen). I was still laughing to myself as I pulled up to the Southwest gate, only to discover two things:
1) My plane departure was delayed.
2) Applesauce lady was on my flight.
Stay tuned for Part 2 - the airline adventure continues!