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Flying solo with an unwelcome birthday surprise

September 12, 2006|by HANNAH TUSSING

So there I was, hundreds of miles from my family, all alone on a plane with total strangers and security had just been upgraded to Code Orange! How did I get in this situation?

It was a birthday present.

OK, maybe I should start at the beginning. My cousins live in San Antonio. I live in Hagerstown. My family paid for me to fly down to San Antonio as a present for my 14th birthday.

On the way down, I flew with my dad because he was on a business trip. I had an awesome time in Texas. I went swimming, visited Six Flags Fiesta Texas and hung out with my cousins.

Because my dad was on a business trip, he had to leave earlier than I had to leave. That meant I was to fly home alone. I had never flown by myself. Therefore, I was a bit nervous, to say the least.

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Upon arriving at the airport on Thursday, Aug. 10, I learned that security had been advanced to Code Orange. I also learned that 21 suspected terrorists had been arrested in London. Police said the suspects had planned to explode airplanes over the Atlantic Ocean using bombs made with liquid components. U.S. security officials said no liquids were to be taken on planes by passengers.

Although I was wearing flip-flops, I had to take them off to be scanned. Also, I had to show my birth certificate.

These were all things that did not occur on my flight down to Texas. On the way down, security had been a breeze. Luckily, airport security officials allowed my aunt to walk me to my gate. We wondered, with security being so tight, whether this would be permitted.

Thankfully, I boarded easily. The airline I was flying on had no reserved seats, so it was up to me to find a place to sit. This was not so easy. I was finally able to find a middle seat near the back of the plane.

If I learned anything from this flight, it's that middle seats are horrible. You have no armrests, you always feel cramped and someone is always invading your personal space.

The person on my right was a bored 15-year-old guy. He listened to his iPod the entire time.

On my left was a man who was reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee! Did I mention Code Orange? No liquids? How did he get the coffee on the plane? As if that wasn't bad enough, he pulled out a thermos of coffee from his carry-on bag! Then at least four times he pulled gel-based hand sanitizer from his bag and applied it to his hands. I don't think I will ever know how that man got on the plane with all these liquids and gels, but at least I got off the plane safely.

Happy birthday to me!

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