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Insider Series: 5 Crazy Things the TSA Has Found

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In any job where you regularly come into contact with all facets of the general public on a daily basis, you’re bound to come across some surprises. When that job involves you having to paw through their personal possessions, though, the surprises can get even stranger. In the latest installment of our Insider Series, TPG Contributor “Patrick Down,” a TSA officer in a major US airport, shares some of the most bizarre things he’s come across — all in a day’s work. 

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve found in someone’s bag?” Well, folks, ask and ye shall receive. Here’s are the five weirdest things I’ve personally found in passengers’ baggage:


1. Portable gaming system. The first time I saw one of these, I totally geeked out. It was a slow day, and a businessman came through the TSA Precheck line with one of these and was nice enough to stop and talk to me about it for a minute or two. He said his company always puts him up in Marriotts and that they sometimes block the inputs on their TVs, so he bought one of these and uses it instead of the in-room TV. I’ve since looked them up and they’re a little on the pricey side for me, but I still love the idea and am trying to figure out if I could hide one somewhere in my airport to use on my lunches … without causing a bomb scare.

2. Sex toys. Despite working for TSA, I’m a pretty open-minded, sex-positive person who, let’s face it, pats peoples’ junk down for a living — but I’ve seen some sex toys that have made me blush outright. What’s worse are the toys that (I know this is disgusting, and I’m truly sorry) have not been cleaned. As a public service, I’d like to ask everyone to clean their sex toys before flying. Most TSA officers don’t make much money, and it definitely isn’t enough to touch used blow-up dolls.


3. This. Seriously, if you feel like you need to use a portable security system in your hotel, then you might want to consider booking at a different hotel. If you think you need this in all hotels, then maybe traveling isn’t for you.


4. Really tragic luggage. I get that nice luggage is an expense that many travelers can’t afford, but the state of a lot of passengers’ luggage is shocking! When I received the bag in the image above it was literally bursting at the seams, and by the time I had repacked it following my search, it was completely unusable; the zipper had broken in many places and there were gaping holes where the the cheap fabric had torn as the bag was moved through the belt system. I taped it up as best as I could to make sure nothing fell out during transit, but as you can see above, it wasn’t pretty. Whenever you see “luggage” resembling the bag above, know that we at the TSA used a whole roll of tape to make sure that the passenger received their property in one piece … and not out of malice.

5. Dead people. I have found enough cremated human remains inside passengers’ bags that it no longer fazes me. The passenger flying with them will usually give me a heads-up before I go into their bag on the checkpoint, but in checked luggage I don’t have this luxury, and have unfortunately opened more than one nondescript, unlabeled cardboard box only to find ashes and bits of bone inside. Not a super fun way to start your day.

Safe travels, everyone!

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