I just returned from a three-week vacation that took me to Paris, Lisbon, and Tavira, a small coastal town in the Algarve region of Portugal. It was a great trip, but I’m not here today to write about that. I’m here to write about a personal loss I suffered while coming home.
I don't normally buy souvenirs, but, this being Portugal after all, I felt compelled to snatch up a duty-free bottle of Port on my way through the Lisbon airport. It wasn’t the most expensive Port in the world, but it wasn’t the cheapest either. It was, as far as I could tell, a middle-of-the-pack, 20-year-old Tawny that I was looking forward to sharing with friends back home in San Francisco.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
We had a quick layover in Newark. After passing through Customs, I would finally be done with security checkpoints—or so I thought. My luggage was already re-routed to San Francisco, and I just had to walk from one gate to another. There was no reason to go through security again, right? Wrong.
I guess I wasn’t in total shock when I saw the checkpoint in front of the departure gate. These are the times we live in after all. Still, other than it being a minor inconvenience, I didn’t think much of it as I removed my jacket and shoes and put them on yet another conveyer belt. Lastly, I laid my backpack—and the bottle of Port—on the belt, strolled through the metal detector, and waited for my stuff on the other side.
That’s when it all went down.
"Bag check." When the security agent shouted these fateful words, it hit me in a flash. What was I thinking? I couldn’t bring a bottle of Port through this checkpoint! Two agents, hardened veterans of the surveillance game, explained the situation, but I already knew the drill. I could either throw the bottle away right then and there, or I could go back to the ticket desk and figure out a way to check it through to San Francisco. I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with it. I told them to keep the bottle.
I don’t blame anyone but myself for the loss of my Port. It was a rookie move, and I should have known better. Now, safely home, I have two hopes in telling this story. The first hope is that one of those security agents slipped my Port into her purse and enjoyed it at home after a joyless day of bag checks and body searches. (The truth of the matter is that my Port was probably disposed of in the bowels of the Newark airport with so much other seized personal property.)
My other hope is that someone out there will read this story and be saved from the fate I suffered in the name of national security.