A Shout-out To The TSA

Lost and Found
Lost and Found

I’ve been traveling for business on an average of one week per month for the past six years. Include personal travel, and this means a lot of time spent in airports. With airports come the TSA security checks and all the related security theater that comes with the TSA. I have never said or written anything nice about the TSA in the years I have been dealing with them; until now.

I flew out of Washington National airport last Friday morning for another five night business trip. It was an early morning flight requiring me to catch my shuttle ride at 5:10 AM. I had been busy with packing the night before and didn’t get to bed until past 11:00PM so I was pretty tired.

Once at the airport I checked in, dumped my check baggage off at the TSA scanners and made my way to the security line. I unloaded my company laptop computer and prepped for passing through the security gauntlet. The lines were already chaotic with early morning travelers. I won the lottery and got to go through the x-ray machine instead of the porn scanners which I thought was a good deal. Except that I had to go through three times because I keep missing metal stuff in my pockets. Each time the machine beeped at me I had to go back out and empty my pockets into another tray. While I was doing that other people were going past me through the x-ray machine.

I finally cleared and retrieved my gear. By now the receiving trays were in complete chaos but I found everything, so I thought, and left the security area.

The rest of my flight was a routine one connection trip. Once at my destination I paid a visit to my work site, said hello, and headed for my hotel and check-in. In my room I unpacked and opened my computer bag to setup my laptop.

It wasn’t in my bag.

After a brief moment of horrified confusion I realized that I must have left it at the airport security line that morning. I spent a few moments panicking, then settled down and thought through what I needed to do next.

I went downstairs to the hotel computer, pulled up Mr. Google and did a search on “Washington National airport lost and found.” I found the info and pretty quickly learned that airports have two lost-and-found centers; one for TSA security lines and one for the airlines themselves. For the TSA lost-and-found there was a webpage with both telephone and website claims processes.

By now it was about 5:00PM. I called the lost-and-found claims number only to learn the office was closed until Monday, but helpfully they had a voicemail option. I left my voicemail with name, contact phone, and description of what I lost along with where/when I lost it. Then I went to the website and filed the same claim online.

Both the recorded message and the website claims page promised a response “within one to two business days.” That suggested two business days if lucky and I would not have an answer until at least Tuesday. Both the telephone message and website gave the airport’s lost-and-found location so I planned on making a visit when I returned the following Wednesday. Then I called my boss to let him know what happened, and figured out how to do my work over the next four days without my computer.

Monday morning, about 6:45AM while I was eating breakfast at the hotel restaurant, I received a call. It was a representative of the Washington National Airport TSA lost-and-found informing me they did in fact have my laptop. The lady provided a description that I confirmed, and she explained it would be waiting for me at their lost-and-found when I returned on Wednesday.

Sure enough, yesterday morning I landed, retrieved my check bag, and headed over to the lost-and-found. It was conveniently located in the “A” terminal right across from the airport USO. I provided the desk person my name and what I lost; she went into the back room, rummaged around a bit, and then came out with my laptop. I signed for it, checked that it would power up, and was headed for home mission accomplished.

So, I need to give credit where credit is due. Thank you TSA, for operating a lost-and-found that actually finds lost things and gets them back to the owners.

Editors Note: For people traveling through Washington National Airport, the TSA Lost and Found contact number is 703-417-0673.  This webpage provides a complete list of contact numbers for all US Airports.

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