August 30, 2015

Laptop removed?  Check.  Shoes off?  Check.  Bag of liquids in bin?  Check.

It’s an airport security ritual.  I got everything into the grey bins, hoisted my carry-on bag onto the belt at the security checkpoint and walked through the sensor without anything going off.  Whew.

“Ma’am, I need to inspect your bag”.

Oh no.  I could tell this bag inspector meant business as she rifled through the contents of my suitcase.  After about five minutes of searching through all my clothes, underwear, and make-up bag, she found the item.

“This tube of toothpaste is a problem,” she declared.

Oops.  I had forgotten to put my tube of toothpaste in the quart size bag with my other liquids.  I offered to add it to the liquids bag and run it through again.

“That’s not possible because this tube of toothpaste exceeds the 3.4 oz limit,” she said firmly.

Now I’ll confess, I’m not the most precise of individuals.  But my best estimation was the toothpaste left in this tube was MAYBE 4 oz.  And while I didn’t used to travel with large tubes of toothpaste, a few years ago I had to convert to cinnamon toothpaste after my dentist discovered I had a mint allergy.  Close-up toothpaste has become my brand of choice.  Close-up had it’s glory days back in the 80’s when “Big Red” chewing gum was popular but nowadays … not so much.  It’s more “retro” (which in this example is code for “bottom shelf in the corner, large size, and only used by people with mint allergies or cinnamon obsesssions”).

My mint allergy doesn’t often come up in conversation (especially with TSA agents), but I decided the truth was probably the best answer in this circumstance.

“I have a mint allergy and haven’t been able to find small tubes of cinnamon toothpaste.  I’m happy to squeeze out whatever amount you’d like,” I offered as a creative solution.

“Ma’am you can either turn over the toothpaste tube or check your bag,” she raised her voice as she delivered this news to me.

I could feel the annoyance stirring and other passengers staring.  Checking a bag would make me late for my meeting when I arrived.  And confiscating my toothpaste meant an automatic trip to multiple stores on the road to try to find cinnamon toothpaste.  I tried one last minor negotiation tactic which was immediately shut down as she raised her voice (for all who weren’t already looking) to either “surrender the toothpaste or check my bag”.

Did she really just use the word “surrender” to describe a toothpaste tube?

Full blown annoyance hit as I reluctantly turned over my toothpaste hoping that a TSA supervisor would see this whole thing going down and step in resolve.  But no.  Toothpaste tube tossed to trash.

I walked towards the gate ticked off – my scowl visible to anyone within 20 feet with decent vision.  God had been speaking to me about feeling his peace in times of stress or when things stir me up emotionally, but on this day I was anything but peaceful over something so small.

As I made my way towards the gate, I felt convicted for my bad attitude.  I wish this was the first time I felt airport annoyance.  But it wasn’t.  Just several months before after long lines and a pat down at security, I left feeling a similar annoyance.  On that day, I saw an airport worker flash an electric grin as he greeted his co-worker to purchase a bottle of water.  He smiled a double row smile at me as well and wished me a “happy day”.  It stopped me in my annoyed tracks.

And his big smile inspired this poem as a reminder emotions are contagious … what do you want to spread?


Cranky at the airport

Things didn’t go my way

The ugliness of annoyance

On full display


With each outward action

I pass on the disease

Annoyance breeds annoyance

And more “annoyance seeds”


The disease spreads quickly

Until someone breaks the cycle

A man with joy and grace

Greets with a smile


He wishes me a happy day

Expecting nothing back

Unaware his smile and greeting

Stopped annoyance in it’s tracks


Emotions can be contagious

So what you want to spread?

Seeds of annoyance and ugliness?

Or love and grace instead?


Categories: Growth
Tags: attitude, contagious, love, smile,

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