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Theft, Lies, and Videotape: A US Shuttle Trip Report

Theft, Lies, and Videotape: A US Shuttle Trip Report

Old Feb 4, 11, 10:29 am
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Theft, Lies, and Videotape: A US Shuttle Trip Report

Normally I’d find writing a trip report about the USAirways Shuttle between LGA, DCA, and BOS about as entertaining as reading a report about a bowel movement. You lock yourself in a cramped space for about 30 minutes, read a newspaper and/or magazine, maybe doze off for a minute, and you stand-up just as your legs are falling asleep. On the Shuttle to and from DCA you have the added experience of elected official spotting (which may or may not also correlate with my bowel movement reference).

This week’s Shuttle running was a little more eventful, permit me to explain.

Background

Due to the fact that the greater BOS area is apparently under attack by Canada, they’ve been receiving weekly dumpings of snow. For the three weeks prior to this trip I had planned to visit BOS only to have the trips canceled due to snOMG, Snopocalypse11, and Snowblitteration, respectively.

Entering into the fourth week of the year I was due to be in DC and then was going to make a hail-mary attempt to make it to BOS. The weather gurus were predicting ice in DC, sleet in NYC, and a 90% chance of a near-death experience in BOS. But I was determined. I was going to go to DC and just throw audibles based on the conditions as they developed. As a safety measure I booked my DC – BOS trip via LGA so I could at least have a fighting chance at getting home in case Logan resorted to cannibalism, as some TV weather-pundits were predicting. That and USAirways couldn’t figure out how to reprice my ticket from the week prior to include the stop in DCA.

LGA – DCA

This was going to be the easiest leg of the trip. No weather impacts predicted and I successfully navigated the VW Vanogan sized pot-holes on the RFK bridge without incident, making it to LGA in near record time. I parked my car in the lot in front of the US terminal and glanced at the metal shovel I had swiped from my house and stashed in my car in case I was plowed in (and had to club seals for sustenance).

I went to the kiosk and successfully moved to a Shuttle flight an hour earlier, went through security, and decided to hit the head before boarding. It was then, as I was zipping up my pants that I realized my load was a little lighter than normal. A quick pat of my pockets revealed I had been relieved of my iPod touch.

I walked back to the Shuttle check-point and asked if anyone had turned in an iPod in the past 5 minutes. The helpful Supervisor informed me that I was bothering her and I should go talk to someone else, and helpfully suggested they were wearing a blue shirt. I sought out another blue shirter, who told me that no one had turned in an iPod. I asked if I could fill out a missing property report, or something, and she looked at me like I had switched to Swahili.

What ensued over the next 45 minutes can only be described as pathetically amusing. First we searched all the bins (I had been one of the last people through the security line for the night, so that helped), and the search revealed nothing. Then we attempted to watch a video of me going through security which presented two problems: no one had a key to the video system and then no one knew how to work it (presumably they knew how the key worked if they could locate it).

We eventually assembled an army of TSA agents who together, with their powers combined, not only accessed the system, but figured out how to work it. I’d love to say that the video clearly showed something. But, alas, it didn’t. Apparently the TSA hasn’t invested in high resolution security cameras.

What we could clearly see in the video is my iPod going into the x-ray machine in a plastic tub. You see the agent manning the x-ray machine stop it, do something, and the belt start back up again. You can’t see the contents of the tub as it leaves the machine but you clearly see me “re-assembling” myself. Then the helpful passenger behind me picks-up the tub tilts it towards the camera (where you can see it was empty) and places it on-top of some more tubs. A TSA agent then walks over to the stack, looks into it, and picks it up, placing the stack at the end of the belt where the stack doesn’t move until we searched it 5 minutes later.

1 + 1 was equaling 2 for just about everyone after we watched the video and the TSA then decided that it was protocol to search my belongings and treat me as a threat. I agreed, as I had nothing to hide, and the agent then pulls apart my bags. As this was going on a PANYNJ police officer happens upon the commotion and decides to stop and ask what’s happening. We show him the video and he, having jurisdiction over the TSA for crimes committed in the check-point, takes a report and marks it as a larceny.

I’m not claiming that a TSA security officer, tasked with securing our airports, stole my iPod as it’s not completely clear on the video. But I’m saying that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, tastes like duck, and also goes by the name mallard, it is wearing a blue shirt.

At this point I decided pursuing this further was going to be futile and left the checkpoint and boarded the flight (I had switched back to a later Shuttle flight as the TSA agents tried to find the key to the security system).

Plane was an a319 and there were about 8 people on board. Plane went up, I drank two Becks (free!), plane landed in DC.

DCA – LGA

The storm that was impacting the north east spared DCA and there was nothing more than rain. The NYC area had been glazed by a solid half-inch of ice and BOS was getting the brunt of the storm with snow. Flights were being canceled to BOS left and right, so I decided to just go back to LGA and re-evaluate if I could make it to BOS once I got to NYC.

I called my wife and she asked me if I had seen our metal shovel. I told her I was driving into a tunnel and hung-up.

Plane was a 319, lightly loaded and I had 10a (seat without a seat in front of it). After I booted a seat poacher from my seat I proceeded to eat my 5 Guys burgers. Plane went up. And then circled. And circled some more.

As I was listening to the family behind me talk, I realized that this was probably the first trip I had taken in about five years where I didn’t have some sort of noise cancelation / reduction device. I was fascinated at this way of travel and I listened in to their conversation.

The couple’s son, no more than seven or eight, was asking his parents what was happening. The ever helpful father explained that we were hovering and we were waiting to land in NYC. I smiled at this response as I too like to mess with the minds of children. I’ve been known to convince three year olds that when they hear the music of an ice cream truck that it’s called the devil. Imagine their parent's surprise when little Johnny comes running to them every day during the summer at 3pm yelling “the devil mommy, the devil.”

I may have also taught my nephew how to sing “Hail to the Redskins” every time my brother-in-law, an unabashed Eagles fan, mentions football.

As I was fondly thinking back on all the poor children I’ve damaged, I continued to listen-in to the family behind me. “Where are we hovering” the child asked. “Probably over NY” the helpful father replied. “Oh, but aren’t there tall buildings in NY” the son quizzically asked. “Well, we’re probably not over New York City, but New York State.” The son was very surprised by this answer. “You mean there’s a New York City and a New York State?” The father said “yup, just like there’s a Michigan City and a Michigan State.”

I suddenly had the horrible realization that the father wasn’t screwing with his impressionable child and I quietly cried. I wanted my iPod back.

After about 90 minutes of flying pretzel patterns (I think we had a German pilot) over New Jersey we touched-down in LGA. My wife called, having tracked my flight on flightware “your plane looked like a dog trying to find a place to sleep. By the way, do you know where the metal shovel is, the driveway is really icy?”

“Can’t talk I said, the plane is taxiing through a tunnel.”

Back at LGA

I walked over to the USAirways Club and asked what was going on with BOS. The helpful agent told me they weren’t having any operational issues between LGA and BOS and I should be fine, just as the agent next to her announced into the microphone that the 2pm to BOS had been canceled and passengers should seek reaccommdation. I got rebooked on the 6p Shuttle and with the weather set to clear BOS in the later afternoon, I actually thought I might make it. But I suddenly found myself with 4 hours to kill in LGA and I didn’t feel like spending the entire time in the US Club (if you spend more than 30 min. in there you should really be current on all of your shots and have a Tyvek suit handy).

Sensing my luck was changing I decided to go see what my friends at the TSA were up to. Imagine my glee when I saw some of my friends from Monday standing around. I asked if anyone had “found” my iPod and they told me, in fact, someone had. What?!?!?

They told me that I had left it in the tub. Yes, the same tub that we had all searched. The same tub that you can clearly see on the video as being empty. And the same tub that another passenger and a TSA officer had inspected. That tub.

Or maybe another tub that someone had dropped the iPod into after they realized my iPod was laser engraved with my email address, a larceny report had been filed with a real police department, and maybe a checkpoint – full of video cameras – was probably not the best place to commit a crime.

Yeah, they were probably right, maybe multiple people missed seeing the iPod in the tub, on a variety of passes.

They directed me to the main checkpoint and to look for a gentleman wearing a blue shirt.

I eventually found the right person wearing a blue shirt and he told me to go into a back office, and they would help me there. I could almost taste the progress, and I’m not going to lie – it tasted like bacon.

In full disclosure I probably am a little naïve. I held on to the Santa Claus dream a little longer than most kids, and I didn’t figure out there wasn’t a tooth fairy even after I caught my father lifting my pillow and stuffing a dollar bill under it when I was 8. I also continued to fly USAirways as a CP until about 2008 truly believing they didn’t actually have complete disdain for their passengers.

I envisioned a back-office for the TSA to be a well run, efficient organization, with agents receiving their daily briefings, an army of people monitoring CCTV’s, and where real, honest to goodness, hard work was being done. The back-office I walked into was occupied by an individual who, I believe, was a selective mute. “Sir, I was directed back here as I was told my personal property is here.”

Silence.

“It’s an iPod. From Monday night.”

Silence.

Another agent walked in, complaining that his walkie talkie was broken, completely ignoring a civilian standing in their office attempting to have a conversation with an Easter Island head.

“Do you think my iPod might be in this locked cabinet,” I helpfully inquired.

Silence, but action. The agent began scrolling through his personal phone.

I anxiously awaited if maybe his ring-tone would be the answer I was looking for. Perhaps my clue would be found in the song “Downtown…”

He then placed a call and in frustration, hung-up. “They’re closed.” Progress I thought, he speaks! English!

“Who is closed?”

“Lost and found.”

“Oh. But it’s only 3pm on a week day.”

“Government hours.”

And then we looked at each other for about five minutes. Neither of us speaking. I strategized my next move, I was so close, I couldn’t give up.

Finally the phone in his office rang. The Lost and Found person was calling. After displaying an incredible talent of speaking on the phone without saying a word, my new friend handed me the phone. I was instructed to go to the Dunkin’ in the main terminal, to get there within 10 min. and to look for the gentleman with the blue shirt. He would have my iPod.

I thanked Mr. Easter Island for his gracious assistance and help and made the trek over to the main terminal Dunkin. I felt like I was in the book “Are you my mother” running around to everyone I could find wearing a blue shirt asking them if they had my iPod. I was getting frustrated.

I want my iPod
Yo quiero iPod
Ich mochte iPod
私はしたい iPod
Click click bloody click pancakes.

And then he appeared with my iPod in a zip-loc bag. “Sir, can you describe your missing property?”

“It looks like an iPod. Exactly like the one in your hand.”

“Okay.” And he handed it back. It was like I had been reunited with a long-lost lover. I wanted to hug the officer, but he had disappeared, just as quickly as he had arrived, into a sea of blue shirts.

I texted my wife to tell her the good news. Her reply: “where the F is the metal shovel? A hockey game has broken out on our driveway.”

LGA – BOS

E190 went up. I generally like these planes, except I want to buy the guy who designed the overhead bins a ruler and use it to beat him senseless. Plane went down into a winter wonderland. I really wondered what I was doing there.

BOS – LGA

E190 went up. Flight was pretty full. I sat next to a gentleman who, I believe, had small objects, and perhaps a Chihuahua, stuck in an orbit around him due to the fact that he was so large his body had created its own gravitational pull. But I listened to my music, and I was happy. Life was good. Crew was Philly based so they were absolutely miserable. Flight landed.

And that ended another week of the glamorous life of a business traveler.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my wife was happier to see the metal shovel than she was to see me.






First ever trip-report. Hope you enjoyed. I obviously took a little literary license (I didn't really want to hug the TSA officer) but it's very much based on actual events.

Last edited by belynch; Feb 4, 11 at 11:31 am Reason: mainly formatting
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Old Feb 4, 11, 10:46 am
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This, friends, is currently scheduled to be chapter 34 in belynch's book we're going to force him to publish in 20 years.
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Old Feb 4, 11, 10:50 am
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The people on my bus are looking at me like I need meds because I'm laughing so hard.
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Old Feb 4, 11, 10:56 am
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Hilarious.
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Old Feb 4, 11, 11:14 am
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Very well written, thanks for the TR!

Originally Posted by belynch View Post
Click click bloody click pancakes.
Gotta love Stewie
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Old Feb 4, 11, 11:28 am
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How a shuttle flight can turn into a chapter of a book. Well done. ^
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Old Feb 4, 11, 11:29 am
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Originally Posted by colpuck View Post
Hilarious.
+1!!!
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Old Feb 4, 11, 11:31 am
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Bravo. ^
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Old Feb 4, 11, 12:16 pm
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I haven't laughed so hard in a while, EXCELLENT report. My only advice is, never and I mean never place electronic devices in the bins. mine is places in the front pocket of my carry on.
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Old Feb 4, 11, 12:16 pm
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Yep, that's passed away 15 minutes of my train ride home.

Thanks - very funny.
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Old Feb 4, 11, 12:54 pm
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Originally Posted by FlightNurse View Post
I haven't laughed so hard in a while, EXCELLENT report. My only advice is, never and I mean never place electronic devices in the bins. mine is places in the front pocket of my carry on.
Glad you enjoyed it.

Yes - I've certainly learned my lesson. Unfortunately my company has issued me a laptop I affectionately call the Herniamatic3000. I'm always afraid that anything I leave in my laptop bag that is smaller than an anvil is liable to be crushed.

I'm not going to lie, although this whole situation angered me I really wasn't all that broken-up about losing the iPod, which is probably three or so years old by now. I was more worried that a TSA officer was going to take a look at my 25 Most Played Songs list and have them think less of me.
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Old Feb 4, 11, 2:15 pm
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Awesome report! Glad you got your iPod back!
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Old Feb 4, 11, 2:21 pm
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At last, a competitor for eightblack!
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Old Feb 4, 11, 3:39 pm
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You seem to be channeling the dry wit of eightblack!

I hope to see more TRs, you're a great writer.

EDIT: 53flyer beat me to the comparison, GMTA.

Last edited by BrewerSEA; Feb 4, 11 at 3:40 pm Reason: just over an hour too late
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Old Feb 4, 11, 4:49 pm
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Originally Posted by belynch View Post
The son was very surprised by this answer. “You mean there’s a New York City and a New York State?” The father said “yup, just like there’s a Michigan City and a Michigan State.”
But there is a Michigan City and it's not in Michigan but in Indiana. A Nevada City in California and a Virginia City in Nevada, too, but those are other stories.
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