If you think coming through airport security in North America is tough, try South America — in particular — Brazil. I couldn’t believe what was confiscated from me in the Manaus airport recently.
We arrived at the Eduardo Gomes International Airport in plenty of time, but still we waited in an enormous line, a line that moved very slowly. Once I reached the actual security screening area, I discovered why the line moved so slowly. It was relative to the time taken by the security officers to check passenger’s hand luggage.
I travel frequently, and have changed the way I pack since 9-11. But restrictions have lightened up considerably, everywhere, that is, except in the airport at Manaus, Brazil.
I finally reached the X-ray machines and the security screening agents after a good hour of standing in line. I don’t carry any prohibited items in my carry-on baggage, or so I thought.
I was pulled over by a female officer, who grunted her requests at me, with many gloved-hand flourishes. Since she didn’t speak English, other than a few words, I could only guess what she wanted. One word she did know well was, “Open.”
She pointed to my flight bag and growled, “Open.” I thought she was telling me that she was going to open my bag. So, I agreed. This just made her say the word louder. I finally realized that she wanted ME to open the bag. So, I complied with her agitated requests.
Upon opening the bag, she began scrabbling around trying to find something. Somehow, she managed to explain that she was looking for nail clippers. Nail clippers? Those haven’t been considered security risks for years, in my neck of the planet.
I pointed to a clear pouch filled with my toiletries, whereupon she once more began to demand, “Open.” I nodded again, and again realized she wanted me to open the pouch. So, I did so.
She found the dangerous nail clippers, and then horror of horrors, she espied a small pair of tweezers. I think she used the word, “forbidden” — over and over again. But she still wasn’t satisfied.
I began to re-pack my small clear pouch, but she smacked my hand away. I had an empty ZipLoc bag in the carry-on. She grabbed it and began to dump my items into it. I tried to explain that my zippered pouch was CLEAR, but no, she wanted everything in the ZipLoc bag. “Have it your way,” I thought. “Just let me get through.”
All of a sudden, she snatched up another item, actually two items that I had with my make-up. “Forbidden!” she advised me again in her most unpleasant growl. I stood with my mouth open.
“What?” I just looked at her as she repeated, “Forbidden.” I couldn’t believe my eyes as she waved around two tiny everyday items as though they were 2-foot machetes.
“But,” I stuttered, “Those are eye pencil sharpeners. They sharpen eye pencils.”
She shook her head firmly and would not relinquish my eye pencil sharpeners. I let her finish throwing my items into the ZipLoc bag and waited for her final approval. She showed me my dangerous items and made sure that I understood they were being confiscated. She didn’t tell me in English, but I understood her. Completely. I shook my head in disbelief, collected my belongings, and stomped away.
Eye pencil sharpeners, indeed. Who do you think I am? James Bond?
For the record, no nail clippers, no tweezers, and no eye pencil sharpeners if you will be flying out of Brazil.
Wishing you safe and happy travels,