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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Iditarod Trip, Anchorage International – Going home

Arrival at Anchorage International

At bag check, Joseph and I had to rearrange some stuff. The Alaskan Airlines Lady handling our process was very nice and extremely effective at getting us through the process. We were done and on our way in no time at all.

That’s a good thing because there were a lot of people in line waiting on the one TSA representative processing IDs that morning. The real problem for most of those in line was that they had paid zero attention to the warnings to come early. I can’t tell you how many people in line behind us had arrived with less than 30 minutes until takeoff time. Their outlook on the problem was that it was somebody else fault that they were going to miss their flight. Joseph and I allowed several of the less complainers to cut ahead of us without a problemwe had plenty of time until our flight!

TSA Experience

Finally, we had made our way to the head of the line. We processed straight through the ID check without a problem. Not that this usually a problem, I’m just saying.

Little did we realize at the time that this is where our trouble was to begin? The lines weren’t that long in any of the four or so X-ray stations, so we chose one and began to ready ourselves for the scans. Soon, we were at the head of the line and all our stuff was on the conveyor for the scanner. When my time came, I advised the TSA guy that I couldn’t hold both arms above my head for the full body scannerI have no shoulder joint on my left side. The right shoulder replacement still works sufficiently to enable me to accomplish most of what I need to do, but not the left. The Doc removed the left replacement last year and the entire left shoulder joint at the same timea revised replacement operation was not successful.

TSA Response

The TSA guy handling my line asked if I could do the old metal detector type. I acknowledged that that would work fine, so here we go, moving forward. I walked straight through without a beep; should be a piece of cake. I have half as much internal metal as I’ve had for some 11 or so years now. That’s when everything began to turn south with the plan. Even though south was our desired direction, the metaphorical south was not our direction.

Times are never dull when you travel with me and what comes with the neighborhood! I think that sometimes the TSA likes to generate a laugh or two just to stay awake. They musta been feeling pretty drowsy about the time I passed through the metal detector. The TSA guy then swabbed my hands and ask me to stand by while he got the swabs checked. The look on his face was priceless when he obtained the reading from the machine.

I had tested positive for explosive residue. The guy looked like he’d never had a positive response, EVER! The look on his face translated to: “What do I do now? What do I do if the guy (me) runs? What do I do if he makes a sudden move? I’m NOT prepared!” Well, I was no more prepared than he was.

My guy turned and ask for help. Soon a supervisor (lady) showed and started going through ALL my stuff that was still on the conveyor. She laid everything out on a table and wiped the stuff down with more swabs; one piece at a time and very meticulously. All I could do is watch.

Another TSA supervisor showed up and ask me if I was traveling with a caregiver. I acknowledged affirmatively and pointed out my son Joseph who had just made his way through the full body scanner and was re-belting and putting on his boots. A couple of agents immediately headed his direction. Myself, I’m still not worried and had never thought, up to this point, that this would go much furtherI‘m willingly complying with their every request. I know there’s not one reason in the world that I have recently handled any explosive material of any nature. This can’t go much further. Well, it did!

TSA Help???

One of the TSA agents in the area walks up to me and asks where I’m from. I tell him: “I’m here to see the Iditarod start from Austin, Texas.”

He states: “I’m from San Antonio.”

I reply: “Great! Nice to meet you.” I’m still not worried and playing along with what’s happening. He continues to banter back and forth with me about having done 20 years in Air Force MPs, how he spent time in England, he’s currently on a one year tour with the TSA in Anchorage and will soon be returning to San Antonio.

The new supervisor that had recently arrived ask me to step into a small room that was just off the inspection line. He, I and the San Antonio guy move into the room. I know now that we are dealing with the unusual and I become more cognizant of what I’m saying and doing. They explain that I’m about to be patted down; this time more intimately than maybe ever before. I agree to the procedure; what else could I do at the time?

Situation gets Serious!

I realized that I was half way to Guantanamo because the TSA likely had a dirty explosive residue detector and it decided to single me out for something other than what I am. I thought I might not ever see Texas or daylight ever again! These guys were serious.

San Antonio just kept up his banter, one question after another. At this point I also realized that he was probing for information; asking what seemed as innocuous questions and looking for answers that might not fit the mold. I became very cautious of how I responded.

All the while my son is on the outside (probably being watched as closely as I am being patted down; well, maybe not that closely!) and posting to Facebook: “He came up positive for bomb residue. They checked me too because he pointed me out as his care giver. Always an adventure going through airport security with my dad. All of his carry-ons, including shoes and belt were tested positive for chemical residue and now he has been taken in to the little room to be searched.” This, of course, lets the followers back home in on what’s going on and stirs the pot just a bit; exciting some more than others.

James J. Wheeler Shifty look will get you screened every time!
Gwen Guest Bruchez OH my gosh! Unbelievable. Scary, too!
Mary Murdoch Turney I was afraid the Class of '65 was going to have to jump into action.....
John French No wonder Patsy Lynn stayed home...with two BLOOD Hatfields. telling!!!
Jerry Nance Police psychologists have a field day with Howard's appearance, speech, eye contact, mannerisms, etc. We know that they are not supposed to profile, but.
Mandy Dillon Scott Did you escape?
Stephanie Hatfield Winters Runs in the family, happens to me every time.
Mary Murdoch Turney Maybe, it is that Hatfield-McCoy thing
John French I thought Joe Pat was teasing....and you were playing along...are you SERIOUS???
Ruth Yeager Did you wave to the giant polar bear?
Cynthia Allen Don't you think we just look like a couple of terrorist?
Jennifer Sosolik Vernon Oh no. Very scary.
Janice Albert Too much excitement. Your Alaska trip seemed so perfect until the flight back home.

Of course, I knew nothing of the foregoing. I was still in custody and being thoroughly patted, sometimes twice in the same area. They could not find anything anywhere. Well, they found something but it had nothing to do with what they were looking for. As closely as they patted, they were bound to find attachments they weren’t feeling for.


After about twenty minutes of looking and patting, they decided that they had seen, heard and felt enough. Now it was my turn.

I questioned them extensively. What could have caused the reaction to explosive residue? I had not been anywhere near anything for months that could cause me this attention. They didn’t have an answer. They suggested multiple sources that were potential culprits, none of which made any sense. If they don’t have any better answers than they gave me; we’re in a lot of trouble with the machines they usedependable, THEIR not!

I got a clean bill of health after 20 minutes or so, was released back to my goodsand allowed to continue my trip.

The laughter, at my expense, continued on the web (primarily Facebook).
Jerry Nance Foiled again. You live to tell the story just like "The Roadrunner".
Joe Hatfield Chemical analysis came back negative, he has been released.

My response to the entire episode was: John Howard Hatfield No scare. I had them outnumbered!

Joseph and I headed for our gate to await our flight to Seattle, stopping on the way to get a lunch sandwich. We were now headed back to Texas on what amounts to the red-eye; not scheduled to arrive back at DFW until after 0530 the next morning.

We had a great trip and enjoyed most every minute of it; give or take a few.

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