Monday, May 23, 2016

Packing Pictures Past Alaska Airlines And TSA

The renting guy in LA said to get rid of the valuables and particularly pointed out two pictures he didn't think we should leave in my mom's house.  Two were pretty big - more than I could carry on to the plane.  The biggest one had glass as did the smallest.  He said they all use plexiglass now.

two pics at Box Bros

I finally checked out shipping places to see about getting packing material.  That got me to Box Bros on Wilshire and Barrington.  Yes, they could wrap them for the plane.  I gave them Alaska Airlines size limits for oversized baggage.

I mention the company name because I think I got exceptional service.  It was clear that Dave saw these pictures as a challenge - how to adequately wrap them, particularly the big one, while staying within the size constraints.  He said he'd done a lot with art work.  I didn't give them a lot of time, because by the time I thought about just taking them home, there were just a couple of days left.  We even needed a friend to take them and pick them up because the big picture wouldn't fit in my mom's car.  And we would need a van cab to get them to the airport.
Dave [Dan, who has more hair] doing some calculations

We needed to be at the airport for a 10:30am flight.  I figured we needed extra time in case it was hard to get a van taxi, because it was morning traffic time, and if there were any problems with the boxes.  And then I realized that TSA wouldn't take kindly to these big sealed boxes.

I was ready to just leave them in the garage in their new boxes.  That's when I decided to write a letter to TSA explaining what was in the packages, why I was taking them to Alaska, why I was a very low risk profile (we're meeting our granddaughter during our layover in Seattle, so we really want to get there), etc.  Wouldn't X-ray or sniffer dogs do?   I taped a copy on each box in an enveloped marked. "TSA".

the boxes with suitcase for scale

The cab was late.  I called.  They were having trouble getting a van.  (I had called the night before.)  But we still had a lot of time.  I called again.  I'd just leave the boxes in the garage and get a regular cab, but they said a van was on the way.  We got to the airport ok.  The baggage guy at Alaska didn't charge for one of the boxes - "It doesn't look that big."  (It's $75 for each oversize piece. Alaska Club members (anyone living in Alaska) can have two free bags going to and from Alaska.

We lugged them over to the oversized receiving area, got through security - really not that many people, especially given the hype about big lines this summer - and to the gate with an hour to spare.  Then I hear our names over the loudspeaker.  The Alaska Airlines agent said they wanted me at TSA to open the boxes.

So I had to go back out of security to the oversized baggage area.  They called TSA down.  I pointed out the letters on the boxes.  He said, yes, that's why we called you to let you open them.  They're too big for the X-ray.  So with the boxcutters they had, I cut the tape along the seams of the cardboard outer box and showed them the foam and bubble wrap.  Both boxes.  I could see his brain working - he understood why I didn't want to unwrap them, but he did need to check.  He called a supervisor and they decided to use the chemical test strips.  I spread things enough for him to slide his hand in
with the tape between the bubble wrap and the foam in each box.  I asked if I could tape it while we waited.  He said that technically I wasn't allowed to touch it once it went through security and he'd retape it.  What time does your plane leave?  10:30.  Hmm.  40 minutes.  The OK came and he told me to go back to the gate.  They were loading the plane.  We got on and I sat in my window seat.  A little later a baggage cart came out with the two boxes and they were loaded onto the plane.

They made it through SEATAC during our layover.  And they were waiting at the oversized baggage spot in Anchorage.  There was one van in the taxi line and we got them home.  That was Thursday night.  I moved them from the garage to a  downstairs room on Friday, but didn't open them.  As long as I didn't, they weren't broken.  Schrodinger's pictures.

Saturday I opened them.  

Here are the two smaller ones packed together.  They were both fine.

Then to the big one.  It took a while to get it out of the box and then start unwrapping all the heavy duty clear wrap paper holding everything together.  Then getting the bubble wrap off.  It looked good so far.  Then the masking tape like paper Dave had put on the glass.  So far so good.

And when it was all off, the glass was fine.  It all made it in as good a shape as they started the trip in.

And they look good here.  The last picture, not shown, is of palm trees on the beach at Key West.  My dad was stationed there during WW II (some people get rough assignments) and my mom was there as well.  And a friend of hers did the water color of a beach they went to.  And since I was born there at the very end of the war, it has special meaning for me too.  It's been above my mom's bed all these years.

I called Dave to let him know his wrapping had kept the pictures safe and he sounded truly pleased to know.

And then there was all the debris to clean up.

The bubble wrap we'll use again - there is still a lot of breakable stuff at my mom's.  The cardboard we'll find a use for, and if not, it's at least recyclable.

In Amsterdam and in Israel security folks interviewed individual passengers and determine by what they say and how they act, whether to let people go.  In the US it usually seems much more mechanical and statistically done.  (J was randomly selected for a second check this time.)  So, it was nice to see agents who used discretion and evaluated our risk factor and found a way to check the boxes without tearing everything apart.

But I also recognize that several types of privilege were in my favor.  Because we've traveled so much while my mom was ailing, we're Alaska MVP, and we get TSA pre check 80% of the time.  So this is a frequent route and we've been ok in the past.  (Did they check that out?  I'm guessing they did, but who knows?)  I'm an older white male.  I'm well educated and know how to write out my case.  Would this work for my colleague who's Indian-American?  I'm guessing it would have been a harder decision for the TSA agents.

1 comment:

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.