Anxiety on the Death Star

Adjusting to France, Cultural Differences, Holidays in France, Travel in France

The airport these days can be a scary and intense place…almost anxiety-attack-inducing.

Is all metal off my body?  There is an underwire in my bra…I really hope they don’t try to take my bra, I mean, that’s just going to be uncomfortable.  Would I have to go back to my gate and check-in my bra?  Can an underwire be used as a weapon?  I doubt it but then they have also confiscated my nail scissors before…

Are all my liquids in the regulation size plastic bag?  What about my eye cream?  Is eye cream a liquid or a solid…what…oh my god, I have no idea.  Is eye cream a liquid or a solid, people?!  LIQUID OR SOLID?

Which line am I going to be in?  Is that the normal one or the scan your naked body one?  Wait, no, don’t wave me over there, I don’t want the naked body scan, it’s so awkward.  I act like I’m cool with it to the TSA people but guess what?  I’m NOT – it creeps me out.  Sh*t – I’m definitely in the naked line.

Alright, smiling at everyone, trying to hurry to get all my stuff in those bins as quickly as possible…don’t want to be that guy.  Wait, what?  I can’t put my coat in the same bin as my laptop…uh…okay TSA…I didn’t know that coats were impenetrable by X-ray machines.  Unzipping my boots, trying to not have my butt hang out the back of my pants while I bend over to do this, geez, there really is no graceful way to pull this off.  Okay – ready to go…oh my god…this is the worst…there is a hole in my sock.  I can’t BELIEVE I didn’t check my socks…I mean; this is the one time in your life when your socks get a lot of play-time, come on!

These are the thoughts that are generally running through my mind as I hurry to wipe away the water that has dribbled all over my face while I was chugging my water bottle that I forgot was in my purse. Thoughts that are the result of years of U.S.A. Homeland Security combined with years of New Zealand and Australia customs (see what happens if you try to enter New Zealand with a bit of mud on your boot…I dare ya)*.  So, on my recent trip to Munich you can imagine my nerve level trying to pack for JUST carry on.  I measured all my liquids and checked and re-checked the Lufthansa rules (while constantly considering how to properly pronounce “Lufthansa”).  The most difficult aspect was that I knew I wanted to bring my friends that I was visiting some treats from France.

“I don’t think I can take these carry-on,” I hold up the camembert and paté to MB that I had purchased to bring them.

“Quoi?”  He looks at me and blinks.  “Why not?”

“Well, on the website it says I can’t take food products more than 100ml.”  But for some reason I need a second opinion on that vague and ambiguous regulation.

“Ouaaaaais…but it’s not like it’s a bottle of wine, uh?  I’m sure it will be fine.”

“I don’t think the rules work that way,” I say to him.

He shrugs and I can almost hear his inner dialogue, “rules? Pffff….”

Now before I go any further perhaps I should explain that I am an obsessive rule follower…even jay-walking makes me itchy.  I would like to say that it is all because of my strict moral code but let’s face it – it is mostly my abhorrence to getting in trouble.  I HATE being called out for having done something wrong and I’m such a nervous rule-breaker that I ALWAYS get called out…always.  MB, on the other hand, is French.

The French seem to enjoy seeing what they can “get away with”.  I don’t even think that they are trying to “challenge” authority but rather that they all believe that authority doesn’t really apply to them (for further information read this previous post:  So, I decide to try it out and see what I can get away with – into the bag goes the camembert and paté.

As I stand in the waiting line I watch in horror as the security video plays the directions and restrictions for getting through security – there on the screen are, no joke, a jar of paté and a wheel of camembert with big X’s on them.  At this point, my palms start to sweat, maybe I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.  I’m not a rule-breaker; I’m a dork!

My nerves are on high alert as I go through security, knowing that there is something contraband in my bag.  I waltz through the X-ray and wander out to the other side to wait for my bag.  Everything seems to be fine until suddenly I see the uniformed woman walking towards me with her hand on my bag.  I hear this in my head:

(“The Imperial March” for those of you too lazy to click on the link…and if you don’t know what “The Imperial March” is, I can’t help you, you are lost forever).    I can just imagine myself walking over to her, “please Lord Airport Official!”  Then, I begin choking as she says, “you have failed me for the last time, Admiral.”  …Or something like that.

Anyway…off the Death Star and back in France she pulls me over and motions for me to unzip my bag.  As soon as I do she pulls out my zip lock bag of camembert and paté with an “AH HA” – Sherlock Holmes-y kind of move.  At this point, I realize I have a decision to make: I can come clean and just go on my way or I can try to be a cool French person and try to get away with it.  I decide to channel my inner-Frenchness.

I shrug at her and try not to smile (a French person wouldn’t).

“Ouais…” I say, before continuing in French.  “I wasn’t sure about these but, you know.”

She looks at me with narrowed-eyes and I’m not sure if a) she believes that I really didn’t know or b) respects the fact that I am bold-faced lying.  Either way, she continues.

“It is the size,” she says, “They have to be less than 100ml for the carry-on.  Do you want to go back and register them?”

I shrug.  “Pfff…non, they are just gifts.  It is a pity for my friends but not for me so, you know, who cares?” I laugh wickedly at this.

I see her apprise me once again, “the force is strong with this one.”  She then laughs at my joke** before leaning in conspiratorially.

“You know,” she says speaking in a low voice.  “If this was duck, no problem…it’s just the pork.  You will know for next time, uh?”

I smile at her and start to put my bag back together.  Ah well, so I wasn’t able to keep my contraband…MB probably would have managed it but that is okay; I am what I am…a rule-following nerd.  Breaking the rules is uncomfortable on me.  And who knows?  Maybe France is becoming more stringent about these things, I mean; it is the airport after all.  If there is anywhere that regulations are followed it is here, right?

I zip up my bag and turn to walk towards my gate but not before noticing the Airport Official with my bag of food.  I see her turn to put it in the “discard” bin and then stop suddenly.  An inner war seems to be waging in her mind.  She looks down at the bag containing my unopened jar of paté and full wheel of camembert and then she sets it next to the bin as opposed to inside of it.  I laugh to myself, we are still in France – all is not lost.  Contraband paté and fromage will be served on the Death Star tonight.

*For the record, Australia took not one but two packages of grits on two separate occasions away from me because they were suspect.  It’s ground corn…that is all!

** The French have a little bit of a “mean girl” complex.  They like mean humor and jokes – it amuses them.  I will perhaps write on this topic soon.  If you need further explanation rent: Le Dîner de Cons.  That is the French film that “Dinner for Schmucks” destroyed.

24 thoughts on “Anxiety on the Death Star

  1. Rule-following nerd here, too! I get so nervous in airports that I look like a terrorist who’s just about to hatch her evil plot, even though I have NOTHING to hide or be nervous about. Except for that aerosol can of dry shampoo that made it through podunk Springfield airport security but that was seen as a potential weapon of epic proportions by TSA in Minneapolis. I had to have the naked scan there. I’m sure they just needed a good laugh that day. “Isn’t it unbelievable what clothing holds in place? Never fails to amaze!” Grrrr.

    1. HA – AGH! I am exactly the same – even if I am doing nothing wrong, I totally feel guilty when someone with ANY authority talks to me. Terrible! Yeah, it always amuses me what will make it through security and what won’t. Le sigh – and the fact that the rules are constantly changing! Thanks for reading!! 🙂

  2. I am also a rule following nerd but I did once try to get through security in Munich with my 100ml liquids in a see-through bag with (gasp) no zip. I did try to channel my inner Frenchness but this was Germany and it didn’t wash. Not surprising: most airports give away the bags for free but in Munich they sell them – for a EURO EACH!

  3. From Desert Linda….In my case, it was CHIPPED Beef. I wouldn’t eat this, but my western friend asked me to bring some from Baltimore. Airport security declared my “contraband” loudly; the people around me in line laughed so hard I think they peed themselves. TSA probably ate it. Is this weird or what?????

    1. LOL. That is HILARIOUS! That is the worst to get busted for something embarrassing…like trying to sneak in cheez wiz (sp?) or something. Too good!! 🙂

  4. Lol this was hilarious! I get so much anxiety about going through airports, whether I am trying to sneak something through or not. I can’t even tell you how stressed out I was checking my bags for our Bangkok-Paris flight last year. I was SURE someone had stashed drugs in my suitcase and I was going to spend the next 50 years of my life in a Thai jail. When my carry on went through the x-ray machine, and I saw the airport worker stop and squint at the screen, I’m pretty sure I had a mini stroke. I started wondering if the prison uniform would fit me, and who would take care of the bébés. Turns out, I had forgotten a bottle of water in there 😉

    1. Love it – I am so the same way. Clearly we have both seen and been scarred by the film Broke Down Palace because I am constantly paranoid that someone has left like a joint or something in my purse and I don’t know. It’s ridiculous – I don’t even know anyone who does drugs but it is a constant airport fear. Glad I’m not the only one!

  5. Ooh, please write about the mean frenchie sense of humor? Please?
    And I am the bee-yatch that has travelled so much that I have it down pat. Don’t blink an eye even in the naked machine. Yep.
    Next time ask your charcuterie to vacuum seal your contraband…

    1. YES – indeed I will be more careful next time! HA – perhaps I will write a post about the Frenchie’s and their naughty (as in mean not sexy) sense of humor. 😉

  6. Has it really come to this? You describe the scenes and circumstances so well that I’m tempted to believe you. Keep writing B, you take us places we may never see, except through your stories.

    1. This one is all true! The best was when the photo on the contraband screen was EXACTLY what was in my bag – ha, too classic! Thanks for reading Whitt!

  7. The airport STRESSES ME OUT! I can never relax until after I’ve been through security.
    I had two bottles of wine taken off of my in Amsterdam (that were bought at Duty-Free in Nice) and I’m pretty sure that some airport workers had some nice drinks later that night on me 🙂

    1. Right? It is super stressful – even if I have nothing bad with me. However, when they do take stuff I kind of hope that they actually eat/drink it because if not it seems like such a sad waste!! 🙂

  8. None of my visitors believe me when I say they won’t get soft cheese through border control! Fools. This entire post made me giggle from start to finish – thanks! 🙂

  9. I was flying from Toulouse to the U.S. via Paris and had two 1.5 kg cans of cassoulet plus, and this was probably the bad idea, two “gourmand-size” 3 kg cans of cassoulet in my suitcases for family who would never visit France or taste my region’s renowned cuisine any other way. No problem in Toulouse, but when we tried to board the next flight in Paris, we (my husband, 7-year-old daughter and myself) were taken aside by security. “Is there anything suspicious in your luggage?” the official asked. I said, “Oh, it’s probably the cans of cassoulet.” The official looked as thought she would spit out laughing. She even had to walk away for a minute to regain composure. We were questioned for a while and she finally decided that we were not only harmless but in fact heroic by taking French cuisine to the heathens. Our luggage didn’t make the flight, unsurprisingly, but was delivered to the house the following day, with all the cassoulet cans intact.
    BTW, customs and security are two different things, and luckily they don’t work together. Customs doesn’t want French cassoulet entering the U.S. Security couldn’t care less, because beans never blew up a plane.

    1. Ha – that is a great story!! Thanks for sharing – I do feel like you always gain a bit of French respect when you value their food (especially enough to fudge the rules a bit). 😉 And yes, I do know that customs and security are looking for different stuff – just threw both examples in the post because U.S. security is so intense and Australia and New Zealand customs are so intense and those the places I lived before France…hence my hyper-paranoia anytime I am traveling. They have collectively scarred me! 🙂

  10. Hahaha! I’ve taken lots of food to many places, but hardly ever in the carry-on. The last time I had Bavarian pretzels and Wurst in my carry-on when boarding in Munich, I managed to talk the employee into letting me take them – by speaking in a broad Bavarian accent and telling him how sad my little half-Bavarian children would be if I didn’t bring these treats back with me. Another time, a Paris CDG employee confiscated a box of Mon Chéri because “the liquid inside the chocolates combined amounts to more than 100 ml”. I flew from Toulouse to Lyon to Lille and back to Toulouse with a small pocket knife in my handbag, but after still having it from Toulouse to Munich, they took it away from me in Munich for the flight back…
    Also, I have – with the complicity of my local “charcutière” – sent tinned foie gras disguised as tinned pork pâté to places where it is forbidden. She put pork pâté labels on foie gras tins – and told me she does this for very few hand-picked clients.
    My favourite story about the French bending the rules happened to a German friend of mine. He spent hours visiting Paris on foot and had duly stopped at a red pedestrian stoplight. A French policeman walked up to him and said “hey, you, move on, cross the road! can’t you see you’re holding everyone up?” 🙂

    1. LOL – that is a great story about the Policeman…typical!! I also can’t believe they took your candy because of the liquid inside – I’m calling B.S. on that one…clearly they just wanted your sweets! And it sounds like you have an amazing charcutiere – that is awesome that she will work with you to make sure you can take/send what you like. Good on you!! 🙂

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