I Got Through Airport Security without Any Identification
Last week, I traveled to San Francisco to attend an event for work. It was a quick trip; I flew in on Wednesday night and was scheduled to return to Dallas on Thursday night. My travels went exceedingly well until I was dropped off at the airport for my return flight. I was sitting down to gather the things needed to acquire my boarding pass when I began to freak out.
I couldn’t find my wallet. I spilled the contents of my purse out on the chair I had been sitting in and shifted through all the things even though I knew it wasn’t there. It is kind of hard to miss a 3x5 wallet in neon floral print.
I had got to the airport in plenty of time to make my flight. I had two hours to grab my boarding pass, get through security and still enjoy some people watching before my flight would begin to board at 5:10 p.m., but now things were different. I had been many places in an unfamiliar city and I was quickly panicked at the idea of having no idea where my most important items were.
I called the first place I could think I might have left it, the hotel I had been staying at. Good news, they had it. Hallelujah! However, the airport was a good 45 minutes from the hotel. There was no way I was going to be able to get a car all the way back to the hotel, grab my wallet and then proceed all the way back to the airport in the middle of San Francisco rush hour and still make my flight on time.
I walked up to the airline counter and asked if there was another plane to Dallas that night.
The woman behind the counter could tell I was stressed and asked what was the problem, why couldn’t I make my previously scheduled flight? So, embarrassed, I told her that I had left my wallet at the hotel and would not be able to show proof of my identity to get through security. I’ll never forget what she said.
“Oh honey,” she said. “People lose their stuff in Vegas all the time! You can get through security without your driver’s license! They do it all the time.”
They do? I wasn’t aware of that. TSA must keep that little detail under lock and key, because no one I had spoken to was aware that they would, in fact, let me pass through security without proof of my identity.
That’s when she said, “You’ll just have to go through a little bit of extra security.”
Good thing I got there early.
I got my boarding pass from the woman at the counter and thanked her for letting me in on that little bit of information. I called the hotel again, asking them to ship my wallet to Texas and then got in the line for the security checkpoint.
I reached the first TSA agent who ushered me into a line that pointed towards my gate number. I didn’t need proof of identity for me to get that far. From there, I waited in line as IDs were checked and boarding passes were scanned. When I made my way up to the podium, I explained to the agent that I did not have my wallet.
“Don’t worry, this happens all the time,” he told me. “Just let me get a supervisor to help you.”
That made me feel a little better. I waited behind the black belt signifying the divide between me and my airport gate and looked around for the supervisor to come as others passed by me and my luggage.
Finally, a woman approached and asked to see my boarding pass. I handed it over and after inspecting the piece of paper closely, she asked if I had anything with my name on it: a prescription, bill, magazine subscription. I didn’t have any of those things. She informed me that I would have needed two of those things for her to clear me and give me the go ahead to get into the security checkpoint line.
The panic started to creep back up as she told me she would have to get her boss to help me. Again, I waited behind the black belt that, at this point, seemed to be mocking me.
Another TSA agent, I never learned his name, came up to me with a clip board and flip phone in hand. He asked me to follow him. So, luggage in tow, I followed him to a side table on the edge of the security checkpoint area where he asked me to put away my phone. I wouldn’t be allowed to have any outside conversations with anyone but him for the next few minutes, to ensure my answers were not coming from anyone but me.
I was handed over the clip board and a pen. The form was standard; I filled out my name, date of birth and address before handing it back to the agent. He looked over it once and then opened the flip phone. He dialed out and recited a number to the person on the other side. At one point he flipped the phone over and had to identify which device he was using to call the TSA headquarters.
At this point he told me what was going on. He held the phone up to his ear, as if he was speaking to the person on the other line, but he was talking to me. He told me that the person on the other line would be asking him questions to ask me. I would then answer the question to him and he would recite my answer to the person on the other line. Essentially, he was our middle man.
The first questions were seemingly simple but I could see how they were original to me. They asked things pertaining to my phone plan, my car and my family. They inquired about the places I had lived and where I went to school. They asked me to name a family member and give their birth date.
After a few painstaking moments of silence, the TSA agent said, “Ok. Ok. Thanks!” and closed the phone. I was cleared to start my process through security.
At this time, I was given the opportunity to jump the line at the security checkpoint and start separating my things into the grey plastic bins. I stepped into the detector and raised my arms to be scanned. When my initial reading came out clean, I gathered my belongings and followed the agent to a separate table.
While others coming through security blew past me while trying to get their shoes back on, I was ordered to sit behind a partial wall while my luggage was checked. The agent opened my bag and pulled things out one by one, dragging small pieces of paper through my items, and testing them for unauthorized residue or chemicals.
When that was finished, I packed up my things and waited for the agent to go find a female to preform my “pat down.” After it was determined that I wasn’t carrying anything on me, I was able to put my shoes, cardigan and scarf back on and proceed to my gate.
I thanked the agents for helping me through security and quickly walked through the hallways of San Francisco International Airport looking for my gate. Only 30 minutes later was my group called and I shuffled on board, thankful to finally be on my way home.
Posted by Sydny Shepard on Dec 15, 2015