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What Happens When You Finally Show Up to the Airport On Time


For the past few years, around the middle of December, it has been a tradition of mine to haphazardly throw clothes into my suitcase about an hour and a half before my flight takes off to then wait in excruciatingly long check-in and security screening lines at the airport. Last year my experience was particularly bad, what with my getting to the airport 30 minutes before my scheduled departure time and all. The security line snaked down corridors and continued through the automatic sliding doors outside.

As an extra holiday treat that year, and as a favor to my mom, I was also bringing her 16-piece blender/chopper/whipping gadget, packaged nicely in an awkwardly-shaped, over-sized box, back to her from my grandma. The rest of my stuff was packed in the ancient suitcase given to me by my parents. The kind that does not come with wheels for easy pulling and must be lugged from place to place.

Because only 2 shirts and 1 pair of underwear would fit into my suitcase, I decided to shove the blender/chopper/whipping gadget into a plastic shopping bag and for good measure squeezed in a few extra presents. Although there are many reasons why one shouldn’t do this, it was not readily obvious to me until, after standing in the security line for 40 minutes, a hole tore in the bottom of the bag and the handles ripped apart. What followed was a lot of sweating and the creation of a makeshift sled from the torn plastic on which I pulled my possessions. Thankfully — after a few minutes of pulling my sled along and then running back to pick up items that had fallen off or slipped out of my arms — this was a sad enough sight to behold that a family eventually offered me one of their plastic bags. (Obviously I was not the only one who thought plastic bags were the way to go). Every muscle in my back was sore for 2 days after that.

So far, traveling this year is much better. I checked in in 5 minutes and flew right through airport security. While standing in the security line, I worried that I would be hassled about the cake I was carrying. I imagined how it would go down. Maybe something like this…

I place my cake through the x-ray machine and wait to receive it on the other end. As it begins rolling down the conveyor belt, I move to pick it up, when all of a sudden it is snatched up by a uniformed TSA officer.

TSA officer: Okay folks! Who’s cake is this?

He is met with silence.

TSA officer: I’ll ask one more time, who’s cake is this???

I step forward to claim it.

Me: Mine… It’s my cake.

TSA officer: Your cake. This is your cake.

Me: Yes. Yes, it is.

TSA officer: I’m going to need to ask you to step over here.

I reach to take the cake.

TSA officer: Ma’am! Do not touch the cake.

Me: Sorry.

The TSA officer proceeds to put on gloves. He cuts the string off the white bakery box and opens the lid apprehensively. We both look into the box.

TSA officer: Can you tell me what this is, ma’am?

Me: It’s a … cake.

TSA officer: Can you be more specific? Can you tell me what kind of cake it is?

Me: It’s a, um, pumpkin, burnt almond cake.

TSA officer: Uh-huh. And? Is there anything else you want me to know about it?

Me: … It has a light buttercream frosting?

TSA officer: So that’s what this is? You’re telling me it’s a pumpkin, burnt almond cake with a buttercream frosting?

Me: That’s right, yes.

TSA officer turns his head slightly away from me, presses a button on his walkie and mumbles into it. Soon, a second TSA officer appears, observes my cake and speaks in hushed tones with his colleague.

TSA officer #1: We’re going to need to take you into custody.

Me (dropping my innocent passenger act and now speaking in an authoritative, slightly huffy voice): And just what is this about??

TSA officer #2: Ma’am, people don’t just show up to the airport with entire 10″ round cakes. Especially, 10″ round cakes that aren’t decorated and that don’t even have any custom writing. There’s no “Happy Birthday, Mom!” or “Season’s Greetings” written in frosting on this. It’s just a plain ol’ cake.

I wince. Obviously, these people do not know the delightfulness that is Peter’s burnt almond cake. They do not understand how divine the frosting is, so light and delicate that even those who detest frosting enjoy it. They also don’t know how the moist cake enfolds in your mouth with just the right amount of frosting in every bite, all complemented by the crunch of slightly sweet toasted almonds.

TSA officer #1: With all due respect, ma’am, this plain, un-celebratory cake is suspect.

And then I will kick myself for not having the bakery write something on the cake as Nathalie originally suggested in order to avoid arousing suspicion.

The interrogation will be grueling and they will bring in the special canine force to sniff my cake. They will want to know if I accepted the cake from a stranger who asked me to watch the cake for just a moment. They will want to know if I have any liquids or gels in the cake. They will want to make sure that this cake does not put me over my carry-on limit. They will want to know if the cake has any special needs, and if it will require extra time to board. And then they will tell me that despite my best efforts to pack lighter and arrive to the airport a whole 2 hours before my departure time this year, that high winds are delaying my flight for an additional 2 hours.

The cake after spending many hours in the airport and in the air. And after my dad ate a piece.

Last modified: January 10, 2019