I recently had to make a trip to Las Vegas to teach at a conference. While at the conference I was also going to be doing a book signing for my cat behavior books. The conference went well and my book sales were great. At the end of the conference I packed my suitcase and carefully placed the large wad of cash I had received in a zippered compartment in my purse. I was not used to traveling with so much cash and was a bit nervous about it but had no choice.
I shared a cab from my hotel to airport with a young man who was flying back to Los Angeles. It was not until I was in the cab that I realized he brought no luggage with him, smelled of a night of endless beer and looked as if he hadn’t slept.
Once we got to the airport we arrived at his airline first so he handed me some cash, said goodbye and left. Within minutes we arrived at my airline and I handed the cab driver the young man’s money along with my half.
While going to security, I did all the required tasks such as removing my shoes, taking my laptop out of its case, pulling my cosmetic-stuffed, quart-sized plastic bag from my luggage so it could be plainly seen, removing my jacket and then obediently walking through the body scanner. I always pass through security without incident. I have OCD. I follow the rules. Not this time.
As I stepped out of the body scanner fully expecting to pick up my belongings and head to my gate, I was stopped by the TSA agent and told that she had to swipe my hands because they came up “positive” on the scanner. Positive? Positive for what?
She wiped my hands and placed the cloth in another machine where I fully expected the results to come back with nothing more than traces of soap.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me,” said the stern looking TSA agent.
“Why?” I asked.
“Your hands are reading positive.”
“Positive for what?” I asked, as I tried to trace back to what I had touched.
“Suspicious substances.” She matter-of-factly replied while taking my arm and leading me to a little room with blackened windows.
I looked back at my stuff on the conveyor belt and worried about my purse that contained all that cash. I saw other TSA agents going through everything. Was it suspicious to have a wad of cash in my purse too? Surely not when returning from Las Vegas. Maybe they’d think I had just been particularly lucky. My mind was racing.
In the room with the blackened windows I was body searched by a TSA agent while another grilled me about where I had been and where I was going. My hands were swiped again. Once again they came back positive for a “suspicious substance.”
After a body search, it was determined that I was not a threat to anyone and I was told that I was free to go. I picked up my belongings, searched my purse to make sure my rubberband-bound money was in there and then scurried to my gate as fast as I could.
As soon as I saw a restroom I darted in and scrubbed my hands to remove whatever traces of “suspicious substances” were left on them. While drying my hands I decided I’d never return to Las Vegas again.
As I settled in my miniature-sized airplane seat and tried to get comfortable, it dawned on me what had actually happened. The cash the young man handed me in the cab must’ve been used as a vehicle for transporting cocaine from a table top to his nostril.
I know I overreacted about not ever returning to Las Vegas but I have vowed never to share a cab again.