Oops: That’s Not How X-Ray Machines Work

Everyone flies with different frequency, and it’s easy to lose sight of that at times. All the time I see people break down and crying when they miss a flight, etc. And while it confuses me at first, I always come to the same conclusion — they must not fly as often as I do, and therefore flying is a much more stressful experience for them than it is for me (not factoring in how generally fortunate I am with my travel situation, given that I have status, am usually in premium cabins, etc.).

A couple of weeks ago I saw a lady argue with the TSA because they wouldn’t let her bring her homemade jam through security. When they explained that she couldn’t bring anything over 3.4 ounces through the checkpoint, her response was simply that they could trust her, because she made it herself.

One time I remember transiting Heathrow Airport, and a young couple put their baby (who was in a carrier) in the x-ray.

Perhaps my favorite was the Taiwanese girl I saw at SeaTac Airport who tried to use her Facebook profile picture as ID for the purposes of getting through security, and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t okay. It had her name and her picture, after all.

Via Road Warrior Voices, here’s a video of a Chinese man who climbed into the x-ray at a train station in Chengdu, China:

Clearly he was a bit confused when the guard motioned for him to place his objects in the x-ray, and instead thought he was supposed to go there.

It’s a good reminder as we’re traveling this holiday season. Not everyone is as experienced at travel (or at least as knowledgeable about it) as we are. And even if you’re not that experienced of a traveler, you’re likely still infinitely more experienced than 90% of the rest of the world.

Safe (and patient) travels over the holidays!

(Tip of the hat to Michael)

Comments

  1. The people who put their child in an x-ray – PUT THEIR CHILD IN AN X-RAY, for cryin’ out loud – need to have their child taken away from them.

  2. The security agent didn’t stop him or yelled at other agent “STop Belt” and let him go through the Xray machine! Oh those Chinese…

  3. This post couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. Last month I took 6 flights within one week between Ireland, UK, DFW, LAX and SMF. Meanwhile, just 30 minutes ago my brother (very infrequent flyer) just realized he booked the wrong bus as he thought his flight was at 2PM when it actually leaves at 11AM tomorrow because he mixed it up with a connecting flight time. He’s super stressed, bless him. But I love the line where you said: “Not everyone is as experienced at travel (or at least as knowledgeable about it) as we are.” Words of wisdom Lucky 😉

  4. >Perhaps my favorite was the Taiwanese girl I saw at SeaTac Airport who tried to use her Facebook profile picture as ID for the purposes of getting through security, and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t okay. It had her name and her picture, after all.

    Where she went wrong is that it’s something that has a much greater chance of success if you’re white. Just ask Vimeo co-founder Zach Klein. Back in 2013—a month after your encounter; hey, maybe he tried it after reading your post!—TSA let him use his Facebook profile as ID. It was in the news at the time, in fact.

    It’s not even all that crazy: up until a couple of months ago (thank you, Archive.org) the TSA website stated: “By providing additional information, TSA has other ways to confirm your identity, like using publicly available databases, so you can reach your flight.” Technically you don’t even need ID, assuming you have the time to go through their “identity verification process.”

    But sure, let’s all laugh at the Taiwanese girl.

  5. @Steven L
    Come off it. It has nothing to do with racism. If the person is Taiwanese, then why the heck did they not have their passport on them while travelling in the US? There is a thing called common sense, and some people don’t have it.

  6. Everywhere in the world, everywhere, in every country white citizens are richer than non white citizens.

    It’s about time we declared whites to be racially superior ask them to share a larger burden due to their superiority and tax them more.

    Or admit that the system is racially biased and make whites pay for their abuses by taxing them more.

    Either way tax whites more. And as proved above this is not about racism 🙂

    Waiting for the morons to come out and tell us how they work harder than the freeloaders.

  7. @Steven L @credit

    Way to go and make an article that is simply describing mistakes that uncommon travelers make into an overblown racial issue….

    Ben – thanks for writing this article. Flying out of CLE yesterday and I saw one woman who walked into the TSA Pre-Check line and clearly looked lost. After asking her how I could help, she said she was looking to get her boarding pass from Delta. Things we take for granted such as this occur every day such as knowing where to get a boarding pass (or even just using the mobile one!).

  8. …or maybe this is just how diagnostic imaging works in countries with less-advanced healthcare systems?

  9. @Joe P and Leo:
    …You guys don’t really believe the TSA doesn’t do racial profiling, do you? You’re telling me you folks seriously have never even heard of SPOT (which incidentally isn’t just about terrorism)? Hilarious… then again, maybe not if you’re white. Not a surprise that you don’t have to worry about things like that.

    @Jesse:
    If the girl was Taiwanese as in “not an American citizen” and she didn’t have her passport, then the issue wouldn’t be “Girl tries Facebook profile on TSA agent” but rather “How the hell did she get into the country in the first place?” If she lost it, then she could get a replacement travel document from the consulate in Seattle. In fact, just like when you lose an American passport, you’re supposed to get a replacement as soon as possible.

    There’s plenty of Taiwanese-Americans in Seattle, and Taiwanese-Canadians in Vancouver for that matter. Maybe you should use some of that common sense yourself.

    To all three of you: in the original post, Ben identifies the girl simply as “girl”. Not Taiwanese girl, just plain old “girl”. Maybe you lot should be asking him why he felt the need to add that this time around. After all, there’s no need to turn it into a racial issue, right?

  10. @ Steven L
    He mentioned only “Taiwanese,” so I went off that information. And I am very well aware of the necessity of documents in a foreign country, as I am an American who lives and works in the Russian Federation. I would never dream of going to an airport, even for domestic travel, without my passport, and would never go to a train station or bus station here for inter-city travel without at least my Russian identification card. The fact remains, that she was extremely stupid to try to use Facebook as ID at an airport. No arguing that she severely lacked common sense in the situation. It’s absurd.

  11. @Jesse:
    The fact remains that in the United States of America it has been shown time and time again that it is not necessary to present government-issued ID to travel domestically. And aside from allowing people who don’t have any forms of ID on them (be prepared, then, to be interrogated for information that will be cross-checked), the TSA has accepted Costco cards, credit cards, student IDs, work badges, and other documents that in no way could ever be considered official as sufficient for the purposes of identification. And it’s possible because we (presumably you included, when/if you move back to the States) live in a country where freedom of movement is considered to be a fundamental right (see United States v. Wheeler).

    From the original post, we know the following:
    1. Girl is at the TSA checkpoint.
    2. Girl presents Facebook profile as ID.

    What we can infer from the original post:
    1. The attempt to use the profile as ID was rejected.
    2. The flight she was planning to take was very late.

    What we do not know and cannot infer from the post:
    1. The nationality of the girl.
    2. The mental state of the girl.
    3. The age of the girl.
    4. Why the girl would choose to present her Facebook profile.

    What if she rarely flies? What if was out of desperation rather than stupidity? You’ve left your ID home/somewhere and there’s no way you’ll be able to get/find it before you miss your flight. What do you do? It’s already pretty late, and your flight is the last one to Chicago; if you miss it, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning. Can you wait until tomorrow? Can you afford the change fee that the airline will ask for? Where will you stay for the night? The stern man wants something with your photo and name on it. What do you have that has both? Well…

    But no, the assumption made by many (if not most) is that the girl is stupid. Of course that’s gotta be it.

    Personally, I would never attempt to use Facebook to make it past the checkpoint. But I would also never try to get past the checkpoint with a Costco card. And the fact of the matter is, it worked for Mr. Klein.

  12. Once I forgot my passport for a flight connecting to the Caribbean, so I had to drive home. Let’s just say, “It happens.”
    Another time (1985) in Germany, a soldier ahead of me only had a military ID for passport control. Some forms of ID’s weren’t going to cut it.

  13. Just wondering how you figured out she was Taiwanese instead of just “Chinese”? Was she giving her FB profile name to the TSA Agent so you checked her credentials yourself? 😉

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