The trip home from Edinburgh counts as one of my most irritating and ridiculous airport experiences ever. I packed light for this eleven-day trip—just a backpack and a small shoulder bag—yet at the Edinburgh airport, just before I got to security, having passed through two checkpoints already with nothing said, a woman stopped me and said I had to stuff my shoulder bag into my backpack or else go back to the ticket counter and check one of the bags. “One bag per passenger,” she said. “Women can’t have a purse?” I asked desperately. “One bag only,” she said.
There was no way to fit even a lipstick in my overstuffed backpack, let alone squeeze in the entire contents of my shoulder bag (laptop, glasses case, wallet, huge book). But I refused to check a bag—I’ve sworn off checked luggage since Andrew and I had our bag “delayed” on a direct, two-hour flight from Venice to Barcelona. I left the security area and found a chair. I opened the backpack and proceeded to put on every sweater I’d packed. First a pink sweater over the long-sleeved black shirt I was wearing under a blazer. Then a white sweater. Then the blazer back on. I needed more space, so I tied two sweaters around my waist. Finally, finally, I could shove the bag—just barely—inside. The backpack wouldn’t zip, but I knew I’d have to take out the laptop and my one-quart resealable baggie of liquid toiletries once I got to security anyway, so I just carried the backpack in my arms. This time, the woman waved me through. I heaved myself through security then carried an armload of my belongings to a quiet spot and put myself back together. I never like flying but this counts as a new low, a more intense collision of stubbornness (I will not check a bag) and undeniable, immeasurable, I’m-never-flying-again hassle. There has to be a better way.