By Rita Charles

Every AG has a theme for the annual dance event. Usually it’s an elegant black tie affair. This particular AG dance theme was “Royals” which covered a wide range of what constituted Royal, including the winning horse and jockey from the Triple Crown. There were several Mensans from England and Canada who had their own interpretation of Royal, conventionally dressing as royal family members.

Queen Elizabeth mask

Queen Elizabeth mask

After the dance two English Mensans posted a note asking if anyone would like their Queen Elizabeth costume as they did not wish to carry it home. An old Anglophile, I was quickly in possession of a frumpy blue dress, handbag, grey wig and face mask of the Queen in an English shopping bag.

As I only take small carry on luggage when I fly I was forced to hand carry this costume in the separate white Harrod’s bag I had been given.

My friend and I got to the airport easily for the flight back to California and he easily cleared TSA and waited for me. Not so easy for me. I was stopped by security after the cursory check and informed that I would have to be searched and questioned. My son is a pilot for American Airlines so I am well counseled in not joking with TSA.

Both my carry ons were carefully examined by several security personnel. I was questioned as to why I was flying and the “purpose” of my trip. Explaining what an AG was to non Mensans took enough time that I became concerned about actually missing boarding my flight. Security seemed particularly interested in my Harrod’s bag.

I finally asked as calmly as possible, “What are you looking for?” The TSA security chief looked at me and asked “ Why are you flying with a disguise?” At first I had no idea what he was asking. Then I realized – they think I am going to board a flight to California, run into the tiny restroom, change into a dowdy dress, wig and Queen Elizabeth mask to do what? Hijack the plane in a disguise in flight? And go where?

This was a very novel terrorist disguise. I was able to explain very carefully that this was just a souvenir from a normal convention-like gathering and I had no intention of any overt activity on the plane. I even offered to let them keep the costume so I could fly. TSA did not want it. They taped and stapled my Harrod’s bag. I made the flight as the doors were closing and I took Elizabeth home to California.

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