Operation Pony Rescue
by Teresa Buzzell
When I saw Darleen Stoddard’s post on The Jennifer Show Facebook group regarding her lost carry-on, I had to comment. Losing things at the airport is scary - I know, I’ve done it myself. Denver International Airport is not exactly a small airport. It's actually one of the five busiest airports in the county and in top twenty for the entire world. There are a LOT of places to lose things, and to make it even worse, the airport is a bit of a mess right now with construction in the terminal and concourses.
Jennifer Buxton had graciously offered to pick up Darleen’s carry-on if it was found at DIA, but why make Jennifer drive to the airport when I’m already there, five days a week, working for TSA? It was a no-brainer to offer to pick up her bag.
Before the Jennifer Show, Darleen and I knew each other vaguely. We were friends on Facebook and had exchanged a few messages over the years, but nothing more concrete. It was fantastic to actually meet Darlene at the show, see her lovely collection and do some in person chatting about the trials and tribulations of airport security. As I told her, I have ALL the good stories!
As chronicled earlier, Darleen’s husband had contacted DIA’s Lost and Found and located the lost bag. On Tuesday, Darleen messaged me about picking it up. We exchanged information, and I told her I’d figure out the best time to pick up the bag. Lost and Found closes before I get off work, and had moved locations in the airport. Then we got side tracked with other conversations, and she forgot to give me her address until a few days later!
I decided it would be easiest for me to pick up her bag when I did my biannual shift bid. TSA at Denver bids for the summer and the winter time periods and, as with everything related to the government, it’s all about seniority. Seniority determines if you get to get up at 1:00 am to be at work by 3:00 at the busiest check point or if you can roll in at 11:45 am and have a leisurely day at the quietest check point. But even more importantly for me, seniority means I should able to a weekend day off. Seniority = social life, riding time, hobby event days off and actually seeing the hubby for more than three hours a day!
The bid process started the Monday after The Jennifer Show, but my quite excellent seniority (69 out of 212) was not high enough to allow me to bid then. I had to wait until the following Monday, so I concocted a plan. I would “princess park," make my bid, find Lost and Found, grab the bag and go on my merry way.
“Princess Parking” is what we call parking in the garage. It’s at least twenty five dollars a day to park there - which some people do when they are running late or if the weather is complete crap. Otherwise, TSA pays for our monthly parking pass, or a public transit pass. The parking pass costs very little compared to what I've had to pay to park downtown, and it's a benefit I am happy to take advantage of.
My plan went off without a hitch. Monday came and the alarm went off at 6 am. Usually I don’t bother with an alarm, since I work from 12:30 pm-9 pm-ish. Seriously, the last time I checked the DIA website, that’s what they listed for a closing time! The sunrise was lovely on the drive in and I thought to myself about how I don’t see the sunrises and sunsets most days of the week.
I got to the airport and even figured out, appropriately, the best place to park to be as close to the bid location, which was upstairs from my work location. It’s rather fun to look down on the check point and recognize the people working.
I went into the bid process fairly positive that I should be able to get what I wanted, and I did. 11:30 am-9 pm, Friday/Saturdays off with every other Thursday off. Woohoo! I will have to work Thanksgiving, but I can show at BreyerWest and will have better Stock Show attending possibilities. Now if we can have some Saturday shows this upcoming year, life will be perfect!
With that done, it was time to find Lost and Found. It used to be across from the North check point, near International Arrivals. It was easy to find, but not so much with this new move. A friend, who works South in the mornings, let me know what door I needed to use on the fifth floor to take the elevator to the first floor. DIA is weird, from the cones that are supposed to mimic the mountains and the blue horse who killed the sculptor, down to the hotel shaped like a mustache. It can be confusing!
There was no line at Lost and Found, and getting the bag was easy. I flashed my SIDA badge (airport ID), gave the Stoddard name(s), signed some paperwork acknowledging I had picked up the bag and BAM! Bag acquired.
Some not so random comments based on other questions and statements made on social media.
- TSA does not look for drugs. We are not the DEA or Customs. That does not mean that we do not find them, however.
- The working dogs Darleen saw *do* work for TSA but they are looking for explosives. TSA is more worried about items that may bring a plane down, not any recreational stuff you may be bringing home with you.
- Darleen went through the South check point the first time and the North check point the second time. I know this based on the fact that I’ve seen the dogs on North once.
- I have no idea why the models in her bag were flagged for a bag search on North but not on South. Each X-ray is operated by a different person, and different people make different judgement calls.
- If, at any time, you are concerned about something you need to fly with, I recommend checking out TSA’s website first. There are also links there about how to get an answer regarding specific items. If you would like to see some items that passengers bring that obviously did not do their research about? Check out the TSA blog. I especially enjoy the week in review.