“As a consultant, I used to fly somewhere every week. My response was that I refused to go anywhere without a book. Because I was seldom in the location more than 3 or 4 nights, I used a large carry-on bag with wheels. It had a big outside pocket where I kept my book, so that I could just pull it out before I took my seat, but I didn’t have to carry the book separately.
Because of my job, I also had a laptop in a bag with various equipment for work. I was also carrying a heavy winter coat, so my arms were pretty loaded down. This one week, I got to the TSA check and already was ready to go through the metal detector. No problem. It was so routine that I hardly had to break stride anymore. But as I collected my bag at the end of the X-ray machine an agent stepped forward and wanted to know what I had in the outside pocket.
‘A book,’ I said, ‘for reading on the flight.’
The agent told me that it looked too big to fit into the overhead bins on the planes.
‘No,’ I told him. ‘I’ve been flying at least twice a week with this bag for the past 5 years, and it fits into the overheads with no problem.’
He didn’t believe me though, and made me put the bag into one of those metal frames measured to the size of the aircraft bins. I took the book out of the pocket and the bag slid in easily.
‘That’s not good enough. Now put the book back into the pocket and try again,’ he said. With the book in the pocket, the bag wouldn’t fit anymore.
‘You have to take the book out of the pocket,’ he ordered.
‘Of course. As soon as I’m on the plane the book WILL be out of the pocket. I’m bringing it to read on the flight.’
‘That’s not good enough.” he said. ‘You can’t put the book in the pocket now. If you put the book in the pocket, I’ll make you check your bag to be sent separately. I won’t let you go from here with the book in the pocket. I’m going to follow you, and if you put your book in the pocket, then I’m going to take the bag back and make you go out of here to check the bag through, and you’ll have to go through security again.’
If I go to check my bag, that means standing in line all over again. Then going through security all over again. I’ll be late for my flight. Also, that it would mean another delay at the destination waiting for my bag to come through, so I’d be late arriving at work. And to top it all, I’ve had baggage lost several times before and it was a nightmare, so I don’t trust the baggage handlers. The whole reason for carry-on baggage is to have a change of clothes and toiletries, in case they lose your baggage.
So there we were. Me walking down what seemed like miles through the terminal, the carry-on bag towed in one hand with my coat grasped with the handle, my laptop and other equipment held in the other hand, and a thick book in my mouth.
And that officious little twerp following me all the way to the departure lounge to make sure that I didn’t carry the book in the pocket, which was made for just such a thing to make it easy to take out when you wanted it.
It was a library book so I couldn’t leave it behind.”