22-year-old Rebecca Solomon was passing through security at Philadelphia International Airport, when a TSA worker motioned her toward him.
Then he pulled a small, clear plastic bag from her carry-on – the sort of baggie that a pair of earrings might come in. Inside the bag was fine, white powder.
She remembers his words: “Where did you get it?”
Two thoughts came to her in a jumble: A terrorist was using her to sneak bomb-detonating materials on the plane. Or a drug dealer had made her an unwitting mule, planting coke or some other trouble in her bag while she wasn’t looking.
She’d left her carry-on by her feet as she handed her license and boarding pass to a security agent at the beginning of the line.
Answer truthfully, the TSA worker informed her, and everything will be OK.
Solomon, 5-foot-3 and traveling alone, looked up at the man in the black shirt and fought back tears.
Put yourself in her place and count out 20 seconds. Her heart pounded. She started to sweat. She panicked at having to explain something she couldn’t.
Now picture her expression as the TSA employee started to smile.
Just kidding, he said. He waved the baggie. It was his.
No biggie. He was just kidding. In fact, he was training other TSA workers how to detect contraband. The fact that he reduced this poor woman to tears, well, I guess that’s the kinda sacrifice we all have to make to win this war on terror.
But now that I know that TSA workers have such a great sense of humor, I’ll have to perpetrate a practical joke of my own the next time I go through airport security.