Travel's a lot harder than I remember, what with late and canceled flights, Midwest ice storms and kids whose parents are taking a little break.

Recently, how tough the airport security screening process was seemed to depend in large part on whether the traveler was me. I thought it was hearteningly stringent.

On a trip overseas this month, I was singled out for extra security screening here and abroad no less than five times, starting with the check-the-purse-for-explosive-residue test and pat down here in Salt Lake City.

I'd allowed plenty of time and knew I wasn't carrying anything more exciting than a Robert Ludlum novel, so I didn't care. I want to get where I'm going safely, and hijackers and hijinks don't help that, so I'm happy to see someone paying attention. But on a later leg of the trip, separated from other passengers with the contents of my backpack spilling onto a table, several long minutes into a very thorough search — and what was I thinking when I bought a backpack with 11 zipper compartments, anyway? — I was feeling a little "why-me-ish."

When I asked the screener if she knew how it happened that I was pulled from various lines for a secondary screening at every step of my journey, she swore it was coincidence.

Later, I heard two women talking about how lax security is.

Not if you were me.

That wasn't the only bump. I was almost to Chicago when I learned that my connecting flight had been canceled many hours before, although it showed up online when I checked its status that morning, and I was given a boarding pass, along with printed instructions for how to find the correct gate in Chicago. A friendly flight attendant told me some passengers had been rebooked hours before. I had to go from Terminal 1 to Terminal 5, get the airline to rebook me through a different country, then zip back to Terminal 1, fingers crossed that my luggage would find me. I killed the remaining time between flights by being searched.

The actual aggravating part of my air journey, though, came not at the hands of an airline but from other travelers. I returned to America on the most pristine, beautiful piece of equipment I'd ever seen. It looked new. It was also half empty, and I had a row of seats to myself, although a mother traveling with her two sons was across the aisle.

I've traveled with my kids, so I pride myself on being tolerant.

The older boy, about 7, wanted to sit alone, so his mom and baby brother moved back a few rows into the middle section. He did not, however, want to be lonely, so they shouted to each other over the heads of the passengers in between. "Mom, you buckled?" "Yes, son, I am." "Mom, can I play with my toys now?" "Yes, son. Show me what grandma gave you." "It's a truck. Look! Vroom. ..."

After a while, Mom pulled out her MP3 player and tuned out, which left the toddler free to roam, shrieking in the ears of anyone trying to pass part of the nine-hour flight sleeping. I dozed briefly and woke with wet jelly beans in my hair. I suspect I know where they came from.

After being moved from gate to gate in Chicago as the scheduled departure of my flight back to Salt Lake City was pushed back later and later due to icy weather, it was a relief to finally get on a plane. But we nearly didn't make it down the runway when a 4-year-old refused to be buckled in. He preferred to sit on his mom's lap and apparently thought he was in charge.

She seemed to think so, too.

The airport needs to update its announcement. Control your baggage? How about control your children?

Given a choice, though, I'll still fly every time.


Deseret Morning News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]ws.com.