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Friday, November 2, 2012

Airport Experiences--Enjoy!

Our family has lived in Europe for almost thirty years now. We do our share of coming and going. We have experienced traveling in wartime and travel before and after the September 11th attacks. We’ve also had our share of funny questions to answer at checkpoints here and there. This isn’t exactly a spiritual blog entry, but I think you might enjoy a chuckle:

We arrived in New York. There were police everywhere, armed to the teeth. I don’t remember which Gulf war it was, but no one was taking any chances. My daughter and I turned into a restroom, and a policewoman followed us in. Welcome home!

Another time, landing in New York, we were almost shocked by the size of the cars. We had a rental car waiting for us, and we got eight big suitcases in it (back when you could put 70 lbs. in each and have two apiece), plus the four of us. Those were the days!

Back before the wars, we were leaving the States to come this side of the pond. I was carrying one of those square Samsonite carry-ons, full of all kinds of cosmetics, liquids, and gels. (We wouldn’t get too far with that today, would we?) It went through the scanner, and the man asked me what the sharp thing was. I had to think for a little bit. Then, I realized he meant my haircutting scissors. So I told him. He asked me, “Do you cut anything besides hair with them?” I told him an emphatic “No,” and he let me pass.

When we are here, we usually buy some souvenirs to give to people who host us as well as to our friends. I got the “bright” idea of buying olive wood eggs and egg stands for people. (What’s more Spanish than olives? It was the thought that counted.) I put the eggs—probably at least twenty of them—into any little crevasse in the suitcases as I packed. When we arrived in the U.S., the suitcases went through the scanners. The people in Agriculture asked if we had any food, and I said, “No.” Then, they asked me what these egg-shaped things were. I told them they were olive wood eggs, I had bought them as souvenirs, etc., etc. They wanted to see them. Would you believe, I couldn’t find my suitcase keys?!!! They did finally let me go, but here I was, a very silly-looking lady with probably dozens of eggs, and I couldn’t even prove they were wooden! (I think I’m on Agriculture’s black list to this day. But tell me, who in their right mind would take several dozen real hard-boiled eggs in their luggage, for any reason?)

Another time, I was taking our son to college, and we landed in the States. We were waiting at the baggage carousel for our luggage. A cute beagle puppy walked right over to my hand luggage, sat down, and put one paw on top of the bag. Soon, a lady in uniform was with us. She asked what food we had in it. I had taken olive oil, olives, and chocolate. She asked where we were coming from and then switched languages. We had a nice little chat with a friendly inspector, and it all started with a well-mannered dog with a good nose.

Probably the most traumatic experience ever was a stop here in Europe on our way to the States. We were questioned next to what I would describe as a holding pen for international travelers. The man asked some standard questions: “Where did you come from?” “What is your final destination?” “What is the purpose of your visit?” Then, he asked, “Did anyone give you any package to take with you, and you don’t know the contents?” Oh brother! We had to answer yes. (Our co-workers had given us an envelope to mail to their son. And, I forgot to ask what was in it!) We were taken aside and handed over to another interrogator. After who knows how many questions, my husband finally said something like, “Sir, if I had any doubt about the safety of the contents of that package, do you think I’d be willing to get on the plane?” He let us go. 

We had landed in the U.S. and, after very long lines at passport control, we were finally in front of a serious-faced man who asked us a series of questions. He asked us why we live in Europe. My husband told him we are missionaries. He asked, without changing his facial expression, “Who wrote the book of Hebrews?” Afterwards, we all had a chuckle, and he sent us on our way with a “God bless you.”

Lessons learned:

  • Pack carefully, and don’t lose your keys.
  • Always find out the contents of anything you take with you. Snoop, if you have to, but know what you have.
  • Don’t ever give eggs of any description as souvenirs again!
  • Enjoy the few friendly faces you meet in any airport. Be especially grateful for Christian brothers and sisters.


  1. I enjoy this! I'm not fond of traveling -- I'd rather read other people's experiences. :-)

    My husband's worst traveling experience was when a plane he had boarded was not allowed to take off because of sudden bad weather, but they wouldn't let the passengers back off the plane into the airport, and the plane was struck by lightning if I remember correctly.

    When my middle son left with a group going on a mission trip, he realized when he got to the gate that he didn't have his camera. He wasn't sure if he left it at security or if someone had taken it, but there was not enough time for him to go back and check before having to board his plane. We called the airport (I think we were in Spartanburg and he was in the Atlanta airport), and they checked and found the case but not the camera. They called to get further information and sent us a check for it. We were pleased and amazed.

  2. I always wish for the ability to zap myself instantly from place to place, but unfortunately, we have to spend hours on planes and at airports. I suppose it's a lot better than in the "olden days" when missionaries only went by ship, mule, burro, and sedan chairs! I have to admire those people for ever getting there! :o)

    Glad your son got a check for his camera. What a blessing! Thanks for sharing.


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