When the safety or the efficiency of a task is of great concern, it is often true that a checklist (in the proper order of operations) is of paramount importance in making sure that the task is accomplished with a minimum of risk. Airline pilots, for example, have an extensive checklist to undergo every time they sit down in a cockpit. That checklist is in a very particular order because some things cannot be checked unless other things have been checked first.
I love to fish but before I put my boat in the water, I undergo a simple but important checklist of my own. I check the voltage of the battery, the safety lights, bilge pump, and live well pump before I decide to go through with the day’s events. If those check out, I’ll make sure the boat’s plug is in place and THEN I’ll check the level of gas in the tank. The plug is a small thing (it only weighs 3oz) but if it’s not in place when I get to the lake, it wouldn’t really matter how much gas I had in the tank, would it?
You can move through the line at airport security faster if you go through the routine in a very specific order. It may seem like a small thing but if everyone did this, I’m convinced the lines would be much shorter. Here’s the order I use and it seems to work very well:
1. Put your shoes through first. If you’re wearing slip-ons, loafers, or sandals, this works much better. The idea is that when you’re on the other side of the metal detector and your shoes come out first, you’ll have a quick chance to put them on while they scan the rest of your stuff.
2. Next, your cell phone and watch (and big metal belt or belt buckle if you were foolish enough to wear one) should go through in a bucket all by themselves. Once your shoes are on, you can put your watch back on and put your cell phone away while the TSA grunts and points at the rest of your stuff.
3. Slide the rest of your things through the metal detector in order of least complicated to the most complicated. This often proves difficult because the TSA is very easily confused. I have a small travel alarm clock that has baffled three for four of them for more than ten minutes. It’s ironic, but a laptop computer that has 5 or 6 different circuit boards should require some scrutiny but it rarely does because the average TSA primate will easily recognize one and then assume it must be something safe. Therefore, the laptop goes next.
4. By this time, you should have one bag left with the rest of your stuff. This should always go last because you never know how long it will get stuck in there while the main group of TSA primates mulls them over. Shiny things keep them baffled, flashlights, alarm clocks, GPS devices, carabineer clips, and corporate identity badges also seem to cause them great confusion.
I’m not kidding about this. I’ve had the TSA pull my bag and me aside for “further scrutiny” and I watched as they completely unpacked my bag only to find the cause of their great concern to be a small penlight flashlight. “What’s this, then?” I replied, “It’s a flashlight, sir.” “Hmm?” *sigh* “Yes if you push this button, it produces light, see?” “Oooh!” At least I already had my shoes on!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.