An Epic Tale of Texans, Tacos and Guns

airport security

Our last few years in China, we went on visa runs every 60 days. Since all my kids have November birthdays and our one-day trip to Seoul came up in the same month, we decided to take them to Toys R Us to pick out a toy for their birthday.

We landed at ICN, took a long subway ride and found the toy store without a hitch. The kids shopped for over an hour before deciding which toy to take home. The boys chose Nerf guns and my daughter chose a doll. We shoved the loot into the empty duffle bag we brought along, explored the neighborhood and returned to the airport to catch our flight back to China.

We arrived with time to spare and only had one duffle bag, which we chose to carry-on. Upon reaching airport security, I placed my backpack on the baggage x-ray conveyor and stepped through the metal detector. I turned to grab my backpack which had already received the all-clear just in time to see the x-ray screen displaying the contents of my husband’s duffle bag.

The highlighted outline of an assault weapon flashed on the screen, and the security officer, pale and frightened but trying to keep her calm simply asked me, “Is this your bag?”

“No! It’s his!” I exclaimed, pointing a finger at my own husband.

“Sir, you are not allowed to carry guns into the airport,” the security officer explained.

As we frantically explained we were carrying TOY Nerf guns in our bag, the situation quickly escalated to a full-blown security breach. People snapped into action, unzipping the bag and revealing our concealed guns.

As my husband pleaded to be permitted to return to the ticket counter to check the bag, the straight-forward response from the security officer (who was now flanked by three additional security officers) was “Sir, please come with me.”

I stood there with my three children (aged 2, 6 & 8) and watched them escort my husband out of the area, suddenly realizing he was carrying ALL FIVE of our passports. All I could do was wait and pray that they would view the situation with humor and not wrath. 

After what felt like 5 lifetimes, my husband appeared back in the security line. He looked unharmed and didn’t have the duffle bag, and I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. He wouldn’t be spending the night in a Korean jail and we wouldn’t be stuck in transit like Tom Hanks in the movie “The Terminal.” I love airports, but I don’t know how long I could sustain myself and the children on a diet of ketchup packets.

Thankfully, the airline agreed to check the bag, and everything worked out swimmingly. We continued our journey, but we were running a little short on time. Since we’d heard that a brand-new Taco Bell had opened in the transit area, we were determined to get our taco fix before returning to China. The time crunch lead to a hasty family pack order of 20 tacos to go. So, there we were, two tall Texans, two bags of tacos and three kids rushing through the airport to catch our flight.

We arrived dead last at the gate.

The airline staff saw us coming and greeted us with “Are you Jeremy Taylor?”

This struck us as a bit strange and we exchanged worried glances.

“Um…yes,” my husband replied.

“I need to talk to you about your bag.”

“Oh, no!” I thought, “He’s definitely going to prison this time. At least I’d start my terminal stay with 20 tacos. The children and I could probably last a few days on those before we’d have to resort to ketchup packets.”

“You can’t check the guns to China. It’s not allowed,” they said.

“They’re TOY guns!” we replied.

“Sorry,” they said.

“That’s our kids’ birthday gifts! We just bought them today!” we pleaded.

LONG PAUSE. Up to this point, the kids had been fantastically calm. But the boys were paying very close attention to this conversation (which, truth be told included the dialogue from above repeated 3 times with increasing passion).

“No. I’m sorry. It’s not permitted,” was the final answer.

Upon hearing this, my oldest son LOST IT. He threw his head back like Charlie Brown and wailed. But, guns or no guns, we had a plane to catch. We promised our son we’d make it up to him and reminded him of the taco feast. That calmed him a bit, and we headed down the tunnel for the plane.

Everyone else was already seated, and somehow, by the grace of God, we were in the bulkhead row.  As we settled in, my husband placed the two bags of tacos on the floor in front of him in order to help situate the kids. Like a seagull swooping in for a Cheeto at a beach picnic, the flight attendant snatched up the bags containing our dinner (and at that moment our happiness) and crammed them into the overhead compartment.

“Sir, you may not place your bags there during takeoff,” she said.

“Those are my tacos! We were about to eat them!” the hungry Texan replied.

“You may retrieve them after we reach cruising altitude,” she said.

Cue the Charlie Brown wail. My kids FREAKD OUT. At this exact moment, an official looking airline employee boarded the plane. He stopped right in front of us.

“Are you Jeremy Taylor?” he asked.

For the third time in an hour, I’m thinking my husband is about to be hauled away.

“Yes,” Jeremy reluctantly answered.

The man explained he could keep our Nerf guns until we returned to Seoul on our way home in a few weeks to get them. We’d be allowed to check them on a flight to America. It was a nice gesture, but since we lived in China, we wouldn’t be traveling back through Seoul to America for nine months.

There we sat, guns and tacos surrendered, defeated and headed home to China. That’s the end of my sad, sad story. I’m so glad it didn’t end with me stuck in the airport feeding my kids condiments while awaiting my husband’s release from prison.

Do you have an epic airport story to share? Share in the comments below!

Photo by Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash

37 Comments

  1. Patty July 28, 2019

    My story isn’t as fun as that one but it was a God story. For many years i took teams of women to Panama to minister to women and children. Many times we would leave Panama to hit a snow storm in Atlanta but this one trip was different. They had just delayed our last flight. From Atl to our city for the third time. Everyone was tired. We were ready to go home. When out of the corner of my eye I noticed this mom and her two girls that looked to be 4 an6 years of age. They were signing to each other. The girls were talking among each other but not to mom. I realized that mom was deaf. I felt a prick from the Spirit that she was why we were still sitting in the terminal. On my team was a friend who also had a daughter that was deaf. She knew sign language. I told Glenda what I was seeing and she went over and struck up a conversation. We found out she was from PR and was traveling to Miami to see her mom. They had been traveling all day and she was a tired momma. So we all pitched in to watch the girls and give mom a 5 min bathroom break. After she returned, Glenda continue to talk with her but I hear her flight had been moved to a different gate. She would have missed her flight but God knew that and sent a team of women to help her get home. Glenda went with her to the gate to make sure it was the right one and told the airline reps the situation. They would make sure she boarded early with no problems. Minutes after Glenda returned they announced we were boarding. God knew who to send. A bunch of tired women who knew what it was like to travel with little ones.

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Patty, I love this story! What an amazing God stop! I always tried to look at a situation when I barely missed the bus or a flight delay as the hand of God leading me along in my journey, but this story is such a great example of God’s perfect timing for a divine appointment. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Krista B July 28, 2019

    I was exiting a Florida airport when I overheard a TSA agent yelling at a woman trying to re-enter the secure area through the exit. The woman kept waving her boarding pass and walking closer, which only caused the TSA agent to yell louder. (TSA seems to believe yelling is vital to national security.) Since the agent was yelling in Spanish and I speak conversational Spanish, I decided to stop and see if I could help the passenger. She explained she needed to get the train to her gate. I told her she had to go through security. She said she already had gone through security. Stumbling for a moment on the Spanish vocabulary, I could only come up with the unintentionally-snarky “And then you exited.” Several rounds of explanation later, she understood that she needed to go BACK through security. Which felt like an accomplishment considering I was speaking rusty Spanish, and I’m pretty sure she was speaking Portuguese!

    The passenger was understandably worried about time. When I explained the situation briefly to a TSA agent at the security line, I think he let her go to the front of the line. Without even yelling at her!

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Krista, I’m so glad you were there to help! It’s always nice to be able to use language skills of any kind to help someone! I had a go at being an interpreter once between a woman who spoke English and Korean and another who spoke only Chinese. The Korean woman spoke to me in her second language (English) and I used mine (Mandarin) to get her message to the Chinese woman. It wasn’t heroic, though, because we were just trying to get through the Starbucks line! I am cracking up that the woman in your story actually spoke Portuguese but your Spanish got the message across!

  3. Elizabeth July 29, 2019

    Oh my goodness, very epic!! I’m glad you were hurt, but I know how these things disappoint kids. They probably still talk about it — I know my kids still talk about traumatizing travel stories!

    1. Elizabeth July 29, 2019

      Sorry, meant to say, glad you WEREN’T hurt. Sheesh!

    2. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Funny that I haven’t asked my kids for their version of this story now that they can really articulate it! I wonder what they’ll say!

  4. Andie Wade July 29, 2019

    İ was flying from the states to the middle east on my own with my 2 kids. They were doing awesome; i was a nervous wreck trying to keep track of everything on my own. We boarded our flight at Munich and i was getting the kids situated. My 6 year old son turned to me and innocently asked where his carry on was… İ realized I had put it down on the floor while we were waiting to board and never picked it up again. İ had left an abandoned bag in an airport with all of my so ‘s special possessions, plus my laptop. İ climbed over people to get to a flight attendant to ask if i could go grab the bag… As the plane started taxiing. She told me i can get the bag when I go back through Munich… İ explained I wasn’t doing that, maybe ever. She looked so sympathetic, but what could she do? We had started backing up. İ happened to glance at the door of the plane, i noticed the door had been opened again, and an anonymous arm tossed on my son’s bookbag… The unaccompanied airport bag. I’m preeetty sure that was an angel. Now that I’m shaking with embarrassment, relief, and all the adrenaline, i return to my kids and find them in complete freak-out mode. 2 very confused flight attendants were doing their best to comfort them. When the plane started backing up, the kids thought I had gotten off and I was being left behind. This was 5 years ago now. They never fail to remind me of this story every time we get on a plane🙄

    1. Elizabeth July 29, 2019

      Also very epic Andie! Both scary and funny at the same time!

    2. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Andie, this is hysterical!!! I think we all would’ve done what you did and assumed the kids would be fine without thinking they’d think the plane was leaving you! So sorry that’s funny and so not funny all at the same time!!! Loving the ending when an angel tosses your bag on the plane. Wish we’d had an angel to rescue my husband’s phone he left plugged into the wall at the boarding gate. Never saw it again…but in all our travels that’s one of our few losses (unless you count the guns)

  5. Ruth Felt July 29, 2019

    M’Lynn, this is a hilarious story. I love it and can picture it all! I can think of more bad stories than funny ones… Pregnant and throwing up in the Beijing airport. Running through a LOT of airports. So many last minute ticket issues (it’s always the infant tickets!) Of course some have turned out amazingly well – so many flights we shouldn’t have made. I’ll have to think about funny stories. Now if you were asking for funny hospital stories…I’ve got some great ones.

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Ruth, I think we need you to write us one of your hospital storiesfor a submission to Velvet Ashes soon! I’m sure there are so many out there we could all share (like these airport stories!) Also, I’m thinking I was pregnant or nursing more than half of my overseas flights over the years we lived in China! That creates a whole new brand of story…

  6. Maria July 29, 2019

    What a story! One to live on in family lore for ages, for sure!

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Definitely one for the books!

  7. Sarah Hilkemann July 29, 2019

    I’m laughing reading this story now, but I can only imagine how stressful it was in the moment! I can’t think of any tales I have that would be quite that adventurous. 😉 Like Ruth said, I definitely have the stories of running through an airport, not missing flights I really should have, the Father’s provision in so many ways. When I came back unexpectedly to the US for my grandpa’s funeral last year, I didn’t think I was going to make it out of the Bangkok airport. It was the start of Chinese New Year and Valentine’s day (not sure if that actually had anything to do with it) and the lines were the worst I had ever experienced! Going down the escalator to immigration, the line was so backed up there was no place to go to get off the escalator so people were getting shoved back and it was so scary- I thought I was going to get trampled and caught on the escalator or something! I FINALLY made it through all the lines, and took an extra five minutes to buy warm socks and a jacket at a store on the way to my gate because I had nothing with me. I made it to my gate and walked straight on to my plane just in time. Pretty sure I sat down in my seat and bawled because I had never been so stressed about missing a flight and so thankful to have made it in my life.

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      So glad you made that flight! It’s so weird when you think you know what to expect at the airport and arrive to find mass chaos! I’ve only experienced that feeling of “this is how people die in a stampede” once, and that was enough for my whole lifetime!

  8. IstanJules July 29, 2019

    I would’ve been the one crying… probably louder than my kids… If they had taken away my babies’ birthday presents AND my tacos. I felt that familiar panic in my chest as I read your story! My worst testimony moments have come from dealing with unreasonable airline employees while pregnant.

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Traveling while pregnant is so difficult, but I always thought it would be no big deal because it wasn’t like I was on bed rest or anything…but the pregnancy hormones, etc seem to be amplified the moment you step foot in an airport…third trimester, first or second…I finally realized to give myself some grace and suggest everyone else give me space when traveling pregnant! Thankfully for everyone involved in this story, I was not pregnant and stayed relatively calm.

  9. Grace L July 30, 2019

    Many years ago, as my husband and I were in the process of moving to China, we were delayed in the states for a couple of weeks so my husband could get a stent implanted into his heart. When we got to the airport, we requested a wheelchair for him to minimize the stress. Right before we were about to go through security, I heard my name being called over the loudspeakers, asking me to come to the check-in desk. Hmmm, what was that about? I was curious and a bit anxious as I approached the customer service to inquire. I was told that the zipper on my suitcase had broken and they were giving me a chance to go down into the baggage room and try to secure it. Alas, what could I do? The burden was on me to get this taken care of. It was 6 am and most of the shops in the airport were not open yet, but I managed to find one that was opening and bought all the luggage straps they had. The broken suitcase was an old one, quite large, that had been given to us by friends. And inside this suitcase was a king size memory foam mattress topper that we had bought at Walmart. That is what burst this old suitcase open. So down into the baggage room I went, accompanied by a sullen airport staff woman. No air conditioning down there and it was sweltering. I strapped the suitcase as best I could and then took a roll of duct tape from the airport staff woman and wrestled that suitcase around to try to somehow secure it for the long journey ahead. The sullen woman, even though she was 30 years my junior, wouldn’t lift a finger to help.

    Once that task was completed as best I could do, and with a prayer that the precious contents would not spill out between here and China, I made my way back upstairs. The time was growing short before we had to board our flight. My husband was waiting in a wheelchair with a very large man waiting to push him to security. This man took one look at me and said, “Mam, I think you need a wheelchair too!” What could I say? I was exhausted and must have looked even worse. So I hopped in a wheelchair and this kind man put on hand on each of our wheelchairs and literally ran through the terminal, wildly swerving around the corners, right up to security. Hubby and I just held on for dear life, with gratitude for the free ride! Our dear helper whisked us through security, right up to the gate, down the tunnel, right to the door of the airplane. We had made it!

    What was more interesting about the whole ordeal was that we were met with TWO wheelchairs in Dallas and Japan where we were transiting through. And when we finally arrived in Guangzhou, China, we were also met with wheelchairs. But what to do now? We didn’t want it to look like we were invalids or handicapped as we were about to move there. Right before we went through China customs, we politely let our wheelchair helpers know that we could walk from here, so we could look “normal” as we entered the country where we wanted to live.

    I think some of the most interesting travel memories can come from the difficult and challenging experiences, at least, once we are through them. I have told this story a number of times as we recount some of the interesting things about our life over here. And, oh yes, the memory foam mattress topper did make it and served us well for many years!

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      And that’s how God whisked you through the airport! I love this story! And that suitcase explosion zipper situation is one of my biggest fears while traveling! Glad your mattress topper made it!

  10. Stacey M Covell July 30, 2019

    This is one of my favourite posts ever. Thanks for sharing your crazy airport story! We’ve had a few of our own over the years as we’ve traveled back and forth from our host country to home country and in between but this was really takes the cake…or taco. =) Thank you!

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Thank you, Stacey! Putting this one in writing made me realize I need to put more of my family’s crazy traveling stories in writing (or find the ones I did write down!) Have your written any of yours so they can live on?

  11. Monica F July 30, 2019

    This is great! I love reading all these epic travel stories! One of my own favorites, is when I was pregnant and traveling domestically within China, from a Big City back to our rural area. I had loaded up on goods from a place called Paul’s Shop- tons of cheeses, cereals, Dr. Pepper and Balsalmic Vinegar (this was before taobao). I was taking all the goodies back home to my waiting kids and had put several things in my carry on bags to ensure they made it- this included the small treasured bottle of balsamic vinegar. When I went through security, EVERYTHING was taken out of my bags and some very funny conversations ensued- me describing all these foreign delicacies:) Though I could effectively describe the vinegar in Chinese, and what it was useful for, they wanted to confiscate it. Finally, practically in tears, I just said it was pregnancy medicine- is that bad!? I NEEDED it during my pregnancy, right? Ha ha! In the end, they let me have everything, but I barely made my flight:)

    1. MG August 1, 2019

      HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! It took like no time in Asia to learn that when all other language explanations break down, use the baby as an excuse and call it a day.

      1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

        MG…I loved that playing the pregnancy card got me out of the full-body scanner at airports. I just recently had to go through that hideous thing.

    2. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Fantastic!!! I’m loving the common thread of pregnancy and crazy airport stories that’s developing in these comments! You were really thinking on your toes that day! What’s your favorite thing to TaoBao now? (I haven’t been out of China that long but I know things there change quickly.. please tell me TaoBao is still a thing!)

      1. Grace L August 7, 2019

        For sure, Taobao is bigger and better than ever. My husband even got me signed up for Taobao in a way that it all automatically translates into English. It’s much easier than copying and pasting everything into a translate program just to figure things out. We live in a remote area with limited access to “stuff” and Taobao has been such a blessing.

    3. Ruth Felt August 8, 2019

      Pregnancy medicine – that is genius!! It’s hard to argue with a pregnant woman, right?

  12. MG August 1, 2019

    So my comp medically evacuated me for some troubling pregnancy issues…. the in-country hospital didn’t know what to do with me so they stuck me on the “just delivered” wing. I was stabilized, but our country and the good-hospital country didn’t communicate with each other, so when their docs arrived at the hospital they whisked in with an ambulance and guerney like I was dying and strapped me in (though I could walk). As they rolled me down the hallway to the waiting ambulance, literally the entire hallway came out (new born babies and all!) to watch what was happening to the foreigner. We rolled up to the airport in the ambulance and I, in really crummy language, had to serve as the interpreter between immigration, the ambulance driver, and the good-hospital-country doctors.

    Another time, we discovered our baby’s passport had been stolen like .5 seconds before checking in to our flight home. It was an insane next week trying to get a new passport and visa and then reconcile with immigration in our vacay country. Thankfully, their officials felt sorry for us and our whiny small tribe of kids and pulled us to the front of the line to expedite the whole process.

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Gotta love it when whiney kids get you to the front of the line. Hahaha! Kids were not made for long lines, and they definitely remind us about it when traveling!!! The ambulance express is pretty funny! The foreigner was not going to die on their clock!!!

    2. Ruth Felt August 8, 2019

      My husband was must medivaced out of the country last month (he’s okay), and I must say I laughed over all the attention of a foreigner being strapped down on a gurney and wheeled through the hospital. I told my husband to look like he was dying (he wouldn’t do it). Another friend suggested we pull the sheet over his head and REALLY freak people out.

  13. Rebecca Lynne Zimmerman August 4, 2019

    Don’t take homemade orange playdough in your carry-on. It will get mistaken for the plastic explosive c4 !

    1. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      LOL!!! The things we pack and view as completely harmless until we realize our fault while being interviewed by security!!!! Bahahahahaha!!!!

  14. Tammy Salmon August 5, 2019

    I travelled back to the US alone which I never do, but it was my folks 60th wedding anniversary and I had missed the 50th being in Thailand so with peer pressure from my 10 siblings, I was determined to make it this time. Flight over went fine and I brought an empty bag just incase a trip to thrift stores required some purchases. Well then I remembered I did have a free carry on too and at the last Goodwill store we visited the plaid pink and purple carry on bag that could not be misplaced was just waiting for me! Got it and with one more trip to Target I was all set to return with gifts for all including kinetic sand for my 2 year old grandson. Weight is always a juggling act at the very end of the packing so all shampoo was in the check bags and sand ended up in the carry on. All was well till I arrived at the TSA security check in Orlando.
    While in line casually waiting, waving with tears to Mom and Dad, the german shepherds were casually walking around travellers when the man with the dog, told everyone to move away from….me! Yes, and the line in front casually walked forward while I was instructed to stay just where I was. I really hate to be the center of attention and that was exactly where I was! After the dog circled me several times they gave a signal to the guy with the x-ray machine and told me to move on. When I got to the bag X-ray my bag went in for a very long time and was pulled off the belt and I was ushered to a special place to wait for chemical analysis to come. Three different people came to ask permission to carry out the chemical analysis on my cute purple/pink plaid carry-on bag. Of course I said, “Go right ahead!” knowing I had no drugs or other prohibited items. Then all of a sudden visions of the previous owner who very quickly disposed of this bag in an overnight Goodwill Drop flashed through my mind. This was probably a bag used to transport drugs from Columbia or somewhere like that and what would be the odds but that trace evidence was even now being collected!! I really wanted to quickly tell them I had just bought the bag at Goodwill but I am sure they get that story all the time so I decided best to be quiet. After 45 min. which felt like 4 hours they said I could leave with all my belongings and my bag. I quickly asked what the problem was and they said the Kinetic Sand shows on the scanner as bomb explosive materials. Nearly running to get to my gate, I laughed and said thanks!!
    I was sure the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing only to find out in New York Airport, I was also pulled out of the line and to open my bag and not touch anything until they thoroughly tested everything. Round 2….Almost the same scenario and I asked the TSA lady what about in the middle east as my next stop was Doha. She assured me they wouldn’t have a problem with it as their security was not as tight.
    At this point I had no phone service but on WIFI, I had texted my husband a little bit of the situation and he was quick to respond with “ditch the SAND!” Now this posed a problem cause this was my special gift for Judah, my 2 year old grandson!! He NEEDED Kinetic sand! My heart said absolutely NOT! My hubby texted that we would find it in BAngkok and buy it no matter what the price! Ditch it…. So then comes the announcement over the PA. “Please report any suspicious activity or bags that are left unattended in the airport terminal” Oh my, now I felt like a criminal trying to get rid of explosives!! LADIES RESTROOM- there was an attendant in there cleaning. A store?? Too many clerks…. Getting closer to the time to board…The gate was full of travellers, many dressed in their islamic dress some were having prayer time in the corner. Awkward does not begin to describe the feeling. So I decided on a 2 step plan when boarding began. I would quickly exit to use the restroom, while accidentally leaving the sand in a chair. After using the restroom a little longer than normal I rushed out to get in line! It worked and I was off to Bangkok without my explosive Kinetic Sand. A word to the wise-put all Kinetic sand in your check-in bag!!!

    1. Elizabeth August 6, 2019

      This story is hilarious, Tammy!

    2. M'Lynn August 6, 2019

      Tammy, this is a great story! I’m laughing thinking about the panic you must have felt thinking there were traces of drugs from a previous owner (a real possibility now that you mention it!!), only to find out it was the kinetic sand! Did you find it in Bangkok? This also makes me think of the time we were going through American customs because of some sausage we packed in our checked bags (ummm…what were we thinking???) And while in the SULER LONG LINE during the 45 minute wait my kiddo stunk up his diaper, so we had to change it in line and then we couldn’t dispose of the diaper because there are no trash cans and no where to put it because they don’t want you ditching things you might have in your bag…so it ended up going through the X-ray machine because everyone was being so rude I didn’t want to ask what to do with it and then they ended up scanning it and asking about it. “It’s a dirty diaper, sir,” was all I could muster!!!

    3. Ruth Felt August 8, 2019

      I love it so much! Explosive kinetic sand.

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