Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers!
The fourth Thursday in November is the day Americans traditionally stuff themselves with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, some kind of token green vegetable, and pumpkin pie.
It also leads to the busiest travel days of the year as families and friends reunite from the far corners of he country, usually by auto or air, resulting in traffic jams on the roads and in the sky.
With airports jammed and bad weather often leading to delays and frayed nerves, security lines and procedures enforced by the federal Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) cause travelers — baby boomers and other generations alike — to sometimes lose their cool along with — well, the spare change they have to empty from their pockets.
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, passengers left more than $500,000 in spare change last year in the little bins that you have to slide through the X-ray machines, containing your shoes, coats, belts, cell phones, and anything else metal that you might be carrying, such as coins.
It seems all the little coins that travelers might overlook when they go to retrieve their belongings post X-ray add up. A penny here, a dime there, multiplied by millions of passengers at hundreds of airports, and pretty soon you have $531,000.
If it seems unlikely that people would leave real money behind, as it did to me, consider that I, for one, after a particularly chaotic trip through security a few months ago, got to my gate only to realize I didn’t have my boarding pass. Retreating to the security checkpoint, a kindly TSA officer returned it to me after I confirmed my identity.
But it’s unlikely I would have missed, say, 11 cents.
So the question becomes — what to do with the cash?
TSA pizza parties were apparently not considered, or, if they were, no one is copping to it.
Instead, the $500,000-plus has gone toward translating signs at security checkpoints into various other languages besides English, among other legitimate expenses, according to the LA Times piece.
Now a bill is before the U.S. House of Representatives to use the $$$ for funding nonprofit groups that run airport resting stations for military personnel and their families.
One creative suggestion is to give everyone a lottery ticket who successfully passes through security and hold a drawing at the end of the year for one lucky person to cash in.
My own take is that the money should stay with the TSA in some fashion, since, after all, it is their security rules and regulations that leave travelers so frazzled they forget to retrieve their coins in the first place.
Or maybe it could fund relaxation stations for everyone who has just run the security gauntlet to catch their breath, get their belts on straight and maybe get a nice neck massage to ease the tensions.
Not to mention a quiet place to check their pockets for all the other things they may have left back in those bins.