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How to Speed Through Airport Security: Michael Chertoff

How to Speed Through Airport Security: Michael Chertoff
Photograph by Ocean/Corbis

It starts before you get to the airport. Get your liquids in a clear, quart-size bag. I keep a cache of travel-size toothpaste and shaving cream in a sandwich-size baggie; I’ll reuse it on about a half-dozen trips before it wears out. Put the baggie on top of everything in your carry-on. The people who have the hardest time are the ones opening up their bags in line to find their liquids. That wastes precious time. I put my laptop and Kindle in an accessible pocket outside my carry-on. Next, take your ID out of your wallet and put it in a breast pocket with the boarding pass. I almost always wear a sports jacket when traveling. Why do I do that? Pockets. Take all of your small electronics and put them in jacket pockets, along with change, keys, and your wallet. When you get to the line, you just take your jacket off and put it in the tray. That’s the main trick: Instead of unloading my pants pockets in the line, I prepack my jacket. In the airport, after you show your documents, put your license back in your pocket—you don’t want to lose it. At the bag screening, the shoes go off first—I always wear loafers. Then I put my jacket in a tray behind the shoes, and my liquids on top of the jacket. The laptop goes in the next tray, then my carry-on follows. I sequence it that way so I can reverse the unpacking process at the other end. You put your shoes and your jacket on, then your hands are free to grab the liquids and the laptop, and the bag’s right there. I don’t use the benches. I’m dressed within a few seconds. I’ll chitchat with the screeners, if they have time. Occasionally people will come up to me, and they always ask why I can’t get out of going through the line. I tell them because we’re all in the same boat. Or on the same plane. — As told to Brendan Greeley