I flew to my in-laws recently, bringing along one of my spare spider plants, stuffing it in a old Macy's bag in my backpack. It was a replacement for their old spider plant that had finally kicked the bucket, possibly due to being knocked off of the plant stand one too many times by cats. It's also a way to get rid of my excess plants to make room for more plantlings.
I'm the Michelle Duggar of spider plants. Spider plant is almost impossible to kill, and grows almost as fast as bunny colonies. Spidery stolons sprout several inches a day, and along the stolons, baby spiderlings grow in clumps, which I cut off and plant carefully in moist dirt, whereupon it proceeds to expand rapidly with love and water.
My husband looked it up on the TSA website, and yes, you can take live plants through security. Presumably so long as it's not a pot plant. And presumably so long as you're not trying to hide a knife in the plant, because then it would make the TSA blog of dangerous or illegal items that they've confiscated in recent times.
I dutifully removed my laptop from my backpack, took off my sandals, and withdrew my quart bag of liquids. All went through just fine, even my quart of liquids which far exceeds to the "four bottles to a bag" limit. I'm female, I have lots of liquids I need to travel with. Like a powdery gel for minimizing the chafing I get from stuffing my boobs into an ill-fitting bra. Fortunately, they don't care as long as it's nothing suspicious.
The spider plant was suspicious, though, the dirt showing up on the Xray in psychedelic colors. Is that what cats see when they eat the feline-psychoactive plant? A nice, talkative TSA woman asked whose backpack it was.
At least, I think she said that--I just said, "That's mine" when she picked it off the conveyer belt and carted it over to a metal examining table. I knew a lot of people get upset when they have to go through secondary screening, but I wanted to be a helpful passenger. I wanted to prove that not everyone gets cranky, that some people do, in fact, appreciate the fact that the TSA provides security for air travel.
"I'm going to look through your backpack, okay?" the woman asked.
"Sure, go ahead! Thanks!" I said. I don't know why I said "Thanks." I just wanted to prove I was happy for the security.
It was loud in the airport. I couldn't hear her very well.
"I'm going to check your backpack, and you can't touch it while I examine it," she said.
My backpack is one of those expandable Brenthavens with a gazillion pockets, and she started unzipping each pocket methodically, her gloved hands examining some of the crevices.
She said something else, but it was unintelligible. I figured she was making sure it was okay to check the pockets, so I said, "Mmhm." Of course it's okay to check my backpack. I tucked my hair behind my hearing aid to try to hear her better.
"Oh, you have a hearing aid?" she noticed. "I'll make sure you can read my lips."
Thank goodness! I thought. How nice of her to be understanding!
She looked at me and repeated the last, unintelligible question. "Do you have anything sharp or dangerous in your backpack?"
I had seriously said "Mmhm" to that?? Did I seriously say that?
"Oh no, no I don't. I have a spider plant in there, though," I said, babbling on about how fast spider plants grow, that I'm giving it to my in-laws, and so on.
She ran a soft round cloth over the pot and the plant, and slid it into a slot for a computer to analyze. It was clean. They ran it through the Xray again. The colors were still colorful on the screen, but they realized it was probably the fertilizer. Good to know. Miracle Grow dirt looks weird on the scanner.
She finally gave me the okay to re-pack my backpack, and I took the time to thank her for being understanding about my deafness, and let her know how friendly she and the rest of the Midway TSAs are. They really are awesome, compared to the O'Hare people who act like someone put salt in their coffee. She said that really, they're not there to make travel miserable--"why not be nice to people?" Especially while they're traveling.
Moral of the story: Be nice to people. And if you can't hear, always, always ask them to repeat it before you utter "Mmhm."