How to look like an idiot in airport security

“Ma’am, is this your bag? We need to take a look inside.”

I reply… “yes, of course. No problem.  Can I help at all?” (I am a polite Canadian 24/7.)

This is when the airport security officer  said, “well it looks like you’ve got a bottle of ‘spices’ concealed in a metal container.”

“Oh!! I know what that is!  It’s my Starbucks thermos.  I packed my candy cane shaker in it to save space.”

“Candy cane shaker?” She asked  as she easily located my Starbucks thermos in my carry-on bag.

Me: “oh that’s my thermos I bought it at the original Starbucks in Seattle!”  (I seemed very 40-year-old soccer mom and overjoyed when I said that… So that was embarrassing.)

The security officer twisted off the lid and sure enough, there is my little glass jar of candy cane sprinkles that I bought at a bakeshop. “Cute” she said, but not in a way that it sounded like she really meant it. More like a ‘cute’ as a sarcastic ‘aren’t you a dimwit traveller kind of way’.

I repacked my treasures and was free to go. Lesson learned.

Same day I had to go through security again at another airport, to connect to my international flight.  I thought I would be all smart and leave my candy cane sprinkles out in the bin for all to see.  It was next to my liquids bag.

The security officer looks in the bin and says to me “what’s this?” and I say “oh it’s my candy sprinkles. It looked suspicious in the last scanner so I thought I would just leave it out.”

I got the look and the sarcastic “uh huh” in reply.

But again my bag got pulled aside and they needed to open it up. Great, I thought, what now?

I once again offered to assist. The male officer said to me “no, no, I need to check this myself.”

“Absolutely” I reply. “Can I ask what you’re looking for?”

And so he looks up and he says to me “well Miss, it appears that you have a very large, full, pill dispenser in your bag.”

Oh hell, I thought. Yep!  That’s exactly what it WOULD look like.

“It’s a tray of candies,” I say. “For decorating cookies. I’ve never seen anything like it in Canada. I thought my friend’s kids would love it.”

By this time he had it in his hand and was examining it. Lucky for me it was in its original packaging and sealed and labelled and exactly what I said it was. Weird little coloured santas, snowman, and snowflake candies. However at that moment I did feel like an idiot and some sort of candy-dealer.  But I was also curious why the first scanner completely overlooked that. It DID look like a lot of pills, neatly packaged.

So learn from my mistake.  File this under ‘dumb things you shouldn’t buy as souvenirs’ unless you WANT to look like a drug dealer  and spend a little extra time with security.

It also reminded me of the time I had a baseball (caught at a MLB game) in a bag that they had to inspect it to make sure it wasn’t an orange being smuggled into Canada. LOL

Ah, sweet memories.


Coast Starlight Train: Part 1

Ok, I’m giddy. No sense hiding it. I haven’t been this excited about travel in a few years

I’m on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train from Seattle to Santa Barbara. It’s November the 7th and I might be lucky enough to see 3 seasons in one day. Snow has fallen here on the Washington coast. I expect I’ll see the fall leaves and colours in just a few hours down the track. Then, it will be sunny and still above 20C in California. That’s spring-like to this Canadian.

Why the Coast Starlight trip? I’ve seen it on-line, read about it and believe it to be legendary. So I want to see it for myself. I get to see the Pacific Coast without having to drive it! I can be a rested passenger and just take in the view. OMG.

Why now? Why NOT now. Do things when the opportunity comes up. Opportunity may not knock twice. So I often ask myself…. “If not NOW, then WHEN?” The companion question to that of course, “If not ME, then WHO?” That second piece is the inner voice that encourages me to step up, speak up and act when I think something is possible.

That, in a nutshell is how I ended up on the Coast Starlight train today. And boy am I ever excited.

Wear your poppy


I was downtown Seattle yesterday, near the Pike Place Market. Things were starting to feel a little sketchy even though it was just mid afternoon.

I got called out for being Canadian by a couple panhandlers and a guy who wanted to sell me a CD. “Hey Canadian…. ” they said. “Give us your loonies or coloured money. I’ll take whatever.”

Later I was at the market and I was I stopped to look at some stuff and I am the guy asking what part Canada I was from.  So I asked him “what’s the dead giveaway why does everybody know I’m Canadian?” He said because that poppy you’re wearing on your jacket.”

Ah… my lapel poppy. Frankly I didn’t see it as a “Canadian thing” until that moment.  I saw it as a universal sign of respect for our veterans and soldiers.  I couldn’t imagine not wearing the poppy at the beginning of November.

I asked the friendly clerk. “Should I take it off? Does it make me stick out like a target, a tourist?”

“No! No!” He says, “we like Canadians. You all are good.”

I will admit that there were a few minutes on my walk back to the hotel where I thought about taking off the poppy because I was feeling a little uncomfortable.  But I surely didn’t take it off! War isn’t comfortable either. Our veterans and soldiers endured unspeakable horrors in defence of our country and freedoms. And therefore, I wear a poppy, because it’s November and I am Canadian. I frankly don’t see it as optional.