If you have been following this saga, you will remember that I had planned a trip to Germany and had been preparing (and stressing) about it for a month or so. My planning and preparing had paid off, though, because I had been relatively stress-free and relaxed until the day of the event.  Then I found my fear.


The traffic near the airport was heavy and congested; and the hustle-bustle of the crowd at the terminal intimidated me. I tried my best to avoid taking in everything, using one of my relaxation methods: “BLOCK THE INPUT.”

We entered one of the international terminals, where conversations took place in unfamiliar languages.

“You go plane?” a woman asked me.

“Yes!” I replied, hoping that she would direct me to where I needed to be.

“Over there,” she said, pointing to the elevator that led to the departure gates. I entered, selected FLOOR 3 for no apparent reasons other than it looked good and I panicked, and off we went, luckily in the right direction.


At the screening gates I took my place in one of the lines that snaked its way to the final checkpoint. Screening has always been one of my least favorite hassles about air travel.  I always found myself scrambling to undress and then dress without annoying any of the other passengers by moving too slowly or dropping things all over the place – which always seemed to happen.

I was confused about the procedure itself: what I needed to place on the conveyor belt, which things could be grouped together in one plastic tote and which needed to be separate, and how much clothing I had to remove.  I looked around for help. A woman in a blue uniform approached me and told me to hold my hands out. I did; and for some strange reason she swabbed them with a liquid and then walked away.

“Can you tell me if I need to…” I began. But it was too late. She was gone.

I looked for signage. Surely there must be signs that tell people what to do, I thought. All I could find was a confusing one with a long list of things that were not allowed on the plane. There were about a dozen or so forbidden substances on that list, including knives, fireworks and battery acid. Luckily, I had left all of mine home.

What bothered me about that list was that it had a few items crossed off of it, meaning that these items were once banned, but now they were okay. That’s when my curiosity (and nerves) kicked in.  I wondered who decided these things were now  “safe?” And what was the conversation like during the decision-making process? Was a lot of thought put into this, or did they simply rattle off a big, long list and vote yes or no?

“Box cutters? Nope. Too sharp.  Ban ‘em.”

“Sling shots?  Nope. Not made of metal.  Easy to hide. Could take out an eye.  Ban ‘em.”

“Crossbows? Too hard to operate in close quarters. Yup.  They’re okay.”

By the time I was right in front of the conveyor belt, I spotted another sign: “Shoes must be left on; and there is no need to remove your laptop from its case.” That sounded good to me until a man’s voice came over the loudspeaker, “Please remove all laptops from their cases for security reasons.”

I began to sweat profusely as the announcement continued.

“For added security, anyone who sweats will be deemed a ‘suspicious character,’ and will be subject to a cavity search, especially if they still have their shoes on.”

Everything started going black.

I nervously placed my backpack on the conveyor belt and walked through the x-ray machine, hoping that I had gotten everything right. Five TSA agents had their eyes fixed upon me as I tried looking innocent.  To my delight, my bag slid out the other side and no buzzers sounded at all.

“Next!” the lady shouted. I was through security!


Coming soon: Part 4: Can I keep the contents of my stomach inside my stomach?

About Joe

Freelance designer and writer whose goal is to help others by writing about my experiences with fear and anxiety (agoraphobia), health struggles (cancer) and my wonderfully-happy life as a husband and stay-at-home dad. I want to empower everyone to have a happy life.

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