Q. I travel weekly between Detroit and DC's Reagan National, and I thought I had worked out all the idiosyncrasies of TSA screeners and developed a good routine for getting through security fast.  I put my keys, change, and cell phone into my briefcase and run it through the X-ray, but I never remove my belt or watch, since they don't set off the detectors.  I never take my see-thru bag out and nobody ever complains about that.
Last week, I did the same, but I set off the detector.  I got the usual 'you are an idiot' look from the screener, so I backed up and put my belt in a dish and tried again.   This time my watch set it off.  Now I did feel like an idiot.  I wear this particular watch because it is titanium and weighs almost nothing.  So, my question is, do they randomly vary the sensitivity of the detectors?  This week I went back to my old routine, and went through with no problem.  A related question:  I flew through another airport this week also, and I took my shoes off and put them in a tray along with my jacket, which always work in Detroit.  This time I was reprimanded because shoes must be directly on the conveyor.  What's up with that?

A. It's happened to us too. Different equipment with different levels of sensitivity, much like anything else that can be calibrated and adjusted. As for the shoes, we've always tossed ours in the baskets, so the conveyor-belt-only rule is a new one for us. Maybe the TSA folks in DCA have sanitary objections to dirty old shoes sharing the same basket as cellphones and coats and keys? Which, now that we think about it, is a little blech maybe. Regardless, chalk it up to TSA inconsistency.

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