The 4-Letter Code You Never Want to See on Your Boarding Pass

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

There are plenty of reasons flying is stressful, but one of the biggest headaches of modern air travel is the security procedures. Who knows what fresh nightmares the TSA will have cooked up for you by the time you hit the terminal?

Well, there’s at least one hint you can use to determine whether or not you’ll be spending a little more time in the security area on your way to your gate, and it has nothing to do with that bottle of water you’re carrying. As both Refinery29 and Business Insider have reported, there's a four-letter code at the bottom of your boarding pass that can tell you whether you'll be pulled aside for extra screening.

If you see the letters “SSSS” at the bottom of your ticket, you’re in for a little extra attention at the security checkpoint. To compound the headache, you won’t be able to print your boarding pass at home, and will have to get it when you arrive at the airport.

If you’re predestined by the airport gods (also known as the TSA’s Secure Flight program) for Secondary Security Screening Selection, you’ll get an “enhanced screening,” which means you might get some extra questioning or be subjected to a pat-down, body scan, or luggage search.

While some passengers are chosen for extra screening at random, the TSA also flags people based on what they call “risk-based, intelligence-driven information." The so-called “selectee” list, a less strict version of the No-Fly list, is maintained by the FBI’s counterterrorism unit. Being on the list can be a huge pain: The ACLU reports [PDF] that people on the Selectee list “can be subjected to delays, humiliation, and improper questioning about the First Amendment-protected beliefs and associations—no matter how many times they have been through such screening and cleared security.”

As One Mile at a Time credit card blogger Ben "Lucky" Schlappig, who flies frequently and has been subjected to the process, explains it, it usually takes about 10 to 20 minutes of extra time in the security line to pass through the enhanced screening. Many people who receive extra screening believe it’s due to traveling to places that look suspicious to the government, as in the case of a travel blogger whose frequent flier points took him on a confusingly circuitous trip through Turkey. Even though he was already a member of TSA’s Global Entry background check program, he still seemed to have ended up on a watchlist. (That said, it's very difficult to figure out if you're on one of these lists and why, so it's hard to say for sure why you might get flagged regularly.)

But if you only receive the SSSS code once, you probably don’t have to worry about being on any sort of list. You may just have been selected at random. Lucky you.

[h/t Refinery29]

Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

iStock
iStock

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

7 International Names for American Products

Maksym Kozlenko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Maksym Kozlenko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

While available around the world, American products aren't always called by their red-white-and-blue names. Companies have to adapt to various languages and cultures, and what works stateside doesn't always translate. Here are seven American goods with unfamiliar international names.

1. Hungry Jack's (Burger King in Australia)

A Hungry Jack's drive thru sign
A Hungry Jacks sign in Bathurst, New South Wales

In 1971, Jack Cowin bought the Australian franchise for Burger King from Pillsbury Company (which owned the chain at the time). But because the name was already registered in Australia, he used the name Hungry Jack—originally an American pancake mix—instead. In 1999, Burger King began opening restaurants under its own name in Australia, but they combined with Hungry Jack's in 2003.

2. Doritos Cool American (Doritos Cool Ranch in Europe)

Cool American Doritos on a shelf
Cool American Doritos in Iceland
Funky Tee, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Cool Ranch is one of the most popular Doritos flavors in the United States. However, in many parts of Europe, the flavor is known as Cool American because Europeans often call Ranch sauce "American" sauce. Very cool, indeed.

3. Coca-Cola Light (Diet Coke in Europe)

Diet Coke is called "Coca-Cola Light" throughout Europe. The soft drink is exactly the same as its American counterpart, but the word light is associated more with lower-calorie items in Europe than diet.

4. TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in Ireland)

A TK Maxx in London
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for TK Maxx

The American department store TJ Maxx is known as TK Maxx in Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Australia and parts of Europe. Its parent company, TJX Companies, re-named it so Irish and British customers wouldn't confuse the store with the established retailer TJ Hughes, which is quite popular in the UK.

5. Kraft Dinner (Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in Canada)

Boxes of Kraft Dinner wrapped in plastic
Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In Canada, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is known as Kraft Dinner or simply KD. Kraft introduced the product as Kraft Dinner in both Canada and the United States in 1937. However, in the late '50s, Kraft added the words macaroni & cheese to its packaging of Kraft Dinner when the term gained more prominence. It wasn't until the '70s that Kraft Canada started using bilingual labeling (French and English) on all of its packaging. As a result, Canadian Kraft products included the words Kraft Dinner in a bigger and bolder font on one side of the box with Díner Kraft on the other side. The words macaroni & cheese were in a smaller font, so Canadians adopted it as merely Kraft Dinner. (Americans can buy a box of the Canadian version for themselves on Amazon.)

6. Meister Proper (Mr. Clean in Germany)

Bottles of Meister Proper on store shelves
Alf van Beem, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
 

Procter & Gamble’s Mr. Clean is a global product, so its name has been translated into various languages, including Maestro Limpio in Mexico, Monsieur Propre in France, and Meister Proper in Germany. It’s the same product—with the same sailor mascot—as you can find in the United States.

7. Walkers Potato Crisps (Lay's Potato Chips in the UK)

Walkers potato chips on a shelf
Ben Babcock, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Founded in 1948, Walkers quickly became the United Kingdom’s leading potato crisps snack food company. However, Pepsi acquired Walkers and re-branded it with the Lay’s logo and products in 1989. The snack food is exactly the same, but PepsiCo decided to keep the Walkers name to ensure customer brand loyalty in the United Kingdom. Walkers also has more exotic flavors than its American counterpart, including American Cheeseburger, Lamb & Mint, and South African Sweet Chutney. Adventurous Americans can get some of them, including Prawn Cocktail, Tomato Ketchup, and Worcester Sauce as well as a variety of different meat flavors on Amazon.

A version of this article first ran in 2016.

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