Travelling with a pack other than his hunting pack gave the author a false sense of security. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Lund)

Travelling with a pack other than his hunting pack gave the author a false sense of security. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: A holiday surprise from TSA

“There a knife in here?”

“Shouldn’t be.”

As a TSA agent, how many times has he heard that? Of course there shouldn’t be, but if there wasn’t something that came up on the x-ray, then he wouldn’t be piling my t-shirts and underwear into a bin while my buddy Michael looks on from the safe side of security.

I don’t ever remember using this pack for hunting, so I’m not playing dumb. This is my travel-appropriate bag meant for non-hunting trips to avoid off-putting smells, blood stains, loose ammo and knife blades.

More clothes are being pulled and I’m sure he’ll be apologizing for misreading the x-ray any second. I’ll be polite and say it’s no problem, because it isn’t really. I appreciate people who are friendly and take pride in their jobs. Rather than make him feel embarrassed when he finds that it was a rolled-up belt, or something else he mistook for a knife, I’ll be polite. Take it easy on him.

But he’s sure of it. He’s digging away and the bottom of the bag is pretty much inside out. There’s something there. He’s a fox digging up a vole. He points to the screen as a co-worker comes over to investigate.

“Those are knife blades.”

They can’t be, but I don’t say this. My confidence is wavering, and I’m reminded of a year ago almost to the day.

My wife and I were headed back east to visit her parents and the ticket agent, unbeknownst to everyone, mistakenly picked up my license and tucked it into her things. We looked all around though she was sure she handed it back to me. I checked my wallet, my pockets, my bag and then it seemed like there was no other explanation than the off-duty employee who was in the area and helped herself to the kiosk before I was finished checking in. That lady had to have it. No question.

She was adamant, she didn’t have it, but I knew she did. There was no other explanation.

We had checked all around the kiosk and between the scales, thinking it had fallen through a crack. Not there.

I was calm. The off-duty agent had to have it. I just hoped she would find it in her heart to check again and not be so stubborn that she wouldn’t just check her purse again. I wouldn’t be mean. I’d thank her and tell her it was no problem. I hadn’t been loud because being a jerk never helps these situations. Rudeness doesn’t often beget kindness and I needed her to look more closely. She maintained she didn’t have it and the ticket agent couldn’t find it, so I traveled back to Boston with no identification.

Later that day when the airlines called to say my license had been found, I was shocked to hear that it was the agent who checked me in, not the off-duty one I was sure had it. The agent said somehow it had ended up in her stuff and she apologized profusely.

“No problem, no one does stuff like that on purpose.”

The stakes were different this year. I’d gather my things and repack my bag after telling the TSA agent he was just doing his job.

“There it is.”


Sure enough, from the sleeve that holds the water bladder I don’t use, he pulls a stack of disposable knife blades neatly packed in the factory wrapping for a knife I haven’t used in at least five years.

“Sorry about that,” I tell the fox.

“No problem,” he replies as he drops the blades in the trash.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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