Apr 12, 2024, 06:27AM

The Terrorist Candlemaker

Hiding who knows what in these potentially explosive candles.

Tsa border.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

It’s been awhile since I was held up as a potential shady person by TSA officers at an airport. Longtime readers might recall a 2016 incident where I had to spend some time in a room with some female federal agents and their rubber gloves searching through my allegedly potentially hazardous drug-scented sea glass in California.

This time I was on my way out west, and (as a candlemaker) had packed a dozen custom candles in my carry-on bag because I hadn’t had time to ship them and didn’t trust they wouldn’t get broken in a checked bag. I’d checked the airline and TSA websites and saw that candles are an acceptable carry-on item. There was a mildly nerve-wracking disclaimer about TSA agents having the final say about what can and can’t be permitted onto an airplane, but I had faith in my bullshitter abilities; the candles were for a special event and I needed to get them to California.

I did what most do when nervous about something in our bag: watch the TSA person to see if they’re paying it any attention. She did. Worse, she asked another officer to look at it. That didn’t seem good. They pulled the small suitcase, and me, over to the “You better hope nothing embarrassing is in here” area.

I was scared, and did what I do when I’m nervous: I talked too much. I explained that I was on the way to a 50th birthday party and had designed this line of Golden Girl candles, and had checked the website and saw that candles were allowed. I was chattering on like it was knitting group on the second Tuesday night of the month at the Protestant church hall that I’d pre-gamed with two glasses of rose.

The officer looked at me calmly while he unpacked my bag and simply said, “Ma’am, I haven’t even said anything yet.” This was a valid point, and, I thought, a polite way of telling me to shut the fuck up so he could do his job. His job, in that moment, apparently involved removing every single item from my suitcase (except my toiletry bag that had pot gummies and my weed vape pen in it).

There were two packs of Party Cake marshmallow Peeps in the bag. As he lifted them out, he looked at me curiously, raising his eyebrows. Seeing an invitation to chatter, I inquired, “Do you like Peeps? The Party Cake ones are hard to find, I got them on the after-Easter sale at Target because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find them in California.” Which reminded me they were for the pot cocoa that was also somewhere in that bag. He asked if I was bribing a federal officer with Peeps. I said, “I mean, can we each have a pack because Party Cake is hard to find?” I caught him smile as he un-bubble wrapped every one of the 12 candles.

He carried them one by one over to a large machine that had a bunch of writing on it that included the word “explosives.” Then he carried one of the candles over to someone who looked like the head honcho of the area, and that’s when I realized: it wasn’t the candles they were worried about, it was what was in them. Every candle I pour is a treasure candle; there’s something hidden inside each one—generally sea glass, beach-found marbles, or crystals. What they’d seen on the x-ray was that 12 unknown objects were inside these mystery candles.

As I stood there though, I thought, what were the chances that I, a suburban woman wearing yoga pants, a sweatshirt and a beanie, whose suitcase contained nothing but a Philadelphia Eagles hoodie, multiple packages of Party Cake Peeps and 12 candles, was a terrorist suicide bomber who’d orchestrated taking down a plane via a dozen hidden-explosive candles?

There was a backed-up line of people waiting to have their bags inspected; they probably just had oversized hand lotion, and were annoyed. TSA man returned from the supervisory meetup, asked me what was inside the candles, I told him, “Sea glass, marbles, and crystals.” He pointed to the small mountain of bubble wrap, told me to pack the whole bag back up, and do it quick because people were waiting, and added that he was from Chicago, and a Bears fan. 


Register or Login to leave a comment