Sunday, December 14, 2003

Tales of Airport Security

So I called United Airlines and asked them about taking earthworms with me on the plane. The conversation went something like this:

“Thank you for calling United.”

“Uh…hello…um, I have kind of an odd question about…uh, carry-ons, and…well, sort of…pets.”

(Pause) “OK, what’s your question?”

“Well, here’s the deal. I just finished writing a book about earthworms, and soon I’ll be going on a book tour and I’d like to bring some worms with me. They’d be inside a small Rubbermaid container about the size you’d use for a sandwich. I’ll have the container in my carry-on bag, and I’m just wondering if I’ll have any problems going through security.”

(Even longer pause) “Are these…like…man-eating worms?”

I laughed. OK, this guy was on my side. “No, no, they’re little red wigglers, the kind of worms you’d take fishing. I just didn’t know if the security people would get freaked out and think I was bring some kind of biological agent on board.”

“And these worms are going to stay in the container the whole time, or will you be taking them out on the plane?”

Now I think he was having a little fun with me. “No, I swear, they’ll just stay in my carry-on bag. Do you think it’ll be OK? I’d hate to have to surrender the worms at the checkpoint.”

“I think you’ll be fine. Why don’t you bring a copy of your book to show them—”

“Oh, that’s a great idea.”

“—and maybe even a letter from your publisher or an itinerary or something.”

“Perfect. I think that’ll work.”

“Good luck. Thanks for calling United. Is there any other travel we can help you with to day?”

I considered telling him that my next book would be about boa constrictors or Africanized bees, but I decided I shouldn’t push my luck. “You know, that’s probably enough for today,” I said, and hung up.

Tune in tomorrow, when I ask worm taxonomist Sam James if the worms will be harmed by the baggage X-ray machine…

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