Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Hands Up

Shoes off. Coat and hoodie in the bin. Wait. My belt—I whip it off, roll it up, and tuck it under the coat. I check my pockets. Oh yes, liquids—I pull the ziploc bag out of my backpack.

I think I’ve got it all. Oops, the iPad. I sigh as I reach over to get another bin. I pat my pockets again and run through the list in my head—iPad, liquids, shoes, belt… I’ve got it all.

I step up to the machine. The TSA rep motions me to go in. I know the drill—I stand with my feet shoulder width apart and lift my arms up. I feel my pants slide down a tad… and it’s time to step out of the machine.

The rep motions me over to the side. She points at a screen—on the stylized image there’s a patch of yellow. “Do you have anything in your back pocket?”

I shake my head as I pat it, just in case.

“I’ll have to pat you down.”

This isn’t the first time.

I prefer to travel wearing cargo pants. All those pockets are extremely convenient—when I need to set things aside, they go into my pockets: phone, wallet, passport, boarding pass… But the cargo pants turned out to be inconvenient in another way—a couple of pockets always show up as yellow patches on the monitor. Once I realized the pockets were the problem, reluctant to forgo wearing cargo pants, I bought a pair made of thinner fabric. Alas, the same thing happened.

I gave up and decided to try jeans. I had a particularly comfortable pair. I convinced myself that I’d manage fine without  all those lovely pockets. And I did—when the need arose, I shoved things into the front pocket of my backpack.

Going through security, the jeans worked like a charm—the image on the monitor was white, no yellow patches in sight. It worked a couple more times. And then this time, there it was, a yellow patch.

The rep patted me down. “Widen your stance.”

She found nothing. She swabbed the palms of my hands for gunpowder residue. As we waited for the machine to respond, she suggested, “Next time you go through security, pull your pants up. The machine is sensitive to bunched up fabric.”

My eyebrows shot up—but, but… That didn’t makes sense. I almost said something to the rep but decided not to, probably wisely.

Turning to gather my things, I briefly became distracted, until I noticed the guy behind me going through the same spiel. He too was told to hold his pants up. I caught his eye. We both shook our heads and shrugged.

Once I was clear of security, I put my shoes on, placed my iPad and my bag of liquids back in my backpack, wove the belt through the loops, hitched up my pants, and buckled the belt.

Without a belt and my hands up, as a hipless wonder, there was nothing to prevent my pants from slipping.

I have yet to come up with a way to hitch up my pants while my arms are raised…