Perhaps the least-welcoming sight at an airport is the blue-gloved hands of sullen TSA agents as they reach for your belongings. Maybe it’s having to wear latex gloves all day that makes them such a miserable bunch. Or perhaps it’s having to watch tens of thousands of passengers fumfer around in their bags, unload their electronics, plastic bags, shoes and water bottles. That his sad circus must wear them down.
Well you know what? It wears me and my fellow travelers down too. With all the joy sucked from modern air travel, we do what we can to make the flying life better. When given a choice between a two-hour layover at O’Hare and a colonoscopy, a surprising number of travelers would choose the latter. The savvy travelers I know store hundreds of ebooks and films to help make myriad delays more enjoyable, others load their toilet kits with TSA-approved 3-ounce bottles of saline solution with Tanqueray gin.
Thanks to one clever luggage company, a new suitcase may help take some of the pain out of travel. The Sparrow rolling bag ($399.99), made by ECBC, is a good-looking piece of luggage. Made from durable, waterproof material, it has nice things like a fold-out garment area and a battery pack to you give and your tablet much-needed power as you wait on the tarmac for a gate to come free. It’s most important feature, however, is its TSA compliant “Fast Pass” compartment. Place your electronic gear inside and all you need to do is unzip the compartment and lay it out for all the agents to see. No more unloading all your equipment into those dirty grey boxes and then having to repack it all as you stand there barefoot on the other end. It seems too good to be true.
So I gave it to my husband to try.
Nice guy that he is, and willing subject for anything that could make his frequent flying even vaguely better, he took the Sparrow for a test fly, albeit grudgingly. He was skeptical that he would make it through without a long discussion with a more skeptical TSA agent. I watched as he trundled the bag down the front walk to his waiting taxi, and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t be getting an angry call from a holding cell.
After 90 tense minutes pondering whom I could call for a good lawyer recommendation, I received a text from my pleased husband who’d passed through the security screening without having to do more than flop open the front flap of the bag.
But would it pass the ultimate test? Would it work for a family of four travelling with enough electronics to make the Apple store look as barren as a Soviet supermarket mid-winter? You know my family. You’ve been behind us in line at the airport. I recognize you from the tsking and deep dramatic sighs you let out. Yes, we each have a device to unload, some of us two or three (for work!). I have an early adopter brother who is very generous with his cast-offs, thank you very much. And I allow my children to enjoy screen time until their brains are pureed into applesauce because it makes travel more pleasant for everyone. Except maybe you there, stuck behind us in line...
We got to the airport at a vulgar hour of the morning, the TSA person took one look at us and motioned us into the fast lane--something I normally would be grateful for. No shoes come off, no bags of toiletries come out, nothing. Didn’t they know I had a bag I wanted to test? I tried not to seethe my way onto the No-Fly Watch List and walked through.
Lucky for you, my readers, we got the full-press TSA treatment on our way back home. The agent took one look at our happy, tanned faces and picked us for terrorists who would get the works. I was ecstatic. I placed the bag on the conveyor belt, and unzipped and unfolded the front flap so they could see the multitudes of devices. No one looked twice, no one questioned us, and the kids and I zipped through. So while my Sparrow-less husband got patted down, his bags hand-searched and swabbed for explosives, we were sucking down Cinnabon samples in the food court.
Aside from its ability to scoot you through security, the bag is cleverly designed with a variety of inserts that allow you to adapt the packing space to fit all manner of electronics. It is very good at organizing all the cords and cables as well. My husband’s only complaint was reasonable: the shirt he packed came out wrinkled due to the weight of his laptop.
Before the TSA puts me on their Snark Watch List let me just say that I think you guys are doing a great job and many of you manage to be very, very nice. And the blue gloves coordinate beautifully with your shirts.