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

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]

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Chicago's New McDonald's Serves Sandwiches From Hong Kong and McFlurries From Brazil
McDonald's
McDonald's

If you want to get a taste of local flavors when visiting a foreign country, just duck into the nearest McDonald's. The quintessential American burger chain adapts its menu wherever it sets up shop to reflect local palates and dietary restrictions. Now, Mickey D's super-fans interested in sampling every menu item offered abroad can get a little closer to achieving that goal without leaving the U.S. As Eater Chicago reports, the restaurant at the new McDonald's headquarters in Chicago will feature a rotating menu of food served at international locations.

The new nine-story corporate headquarters in Chicago's Fulton Market district is still under construction, but as of April 25, 2018, the 6000-square-foot McDonald's restaurant on its ground floor is open for business. The initial menu includes the McSpicy chicken sandwich from Hong Kong, cheese and bacon loaded fries from Australia, the Mozza salad from France, and the McFlurry Prestigio (with strawberry sauce and chocolate-covered coconut bites) from Brazil. Classic American menu items such as Big Macs and McNuggets are also available to guests.

The new restaurant features all the updates McDonald's has been gradually introducing to its stores in recent years. Customers can use unmanned kiosks to order their meals, take advantage of the location's table service, or order their food online and pull into one of the spaces outside for curbside pickup. The company aims for all of its franchises to offer the “McDonald’s Experience of the Future” by 2020.

“This is an exciting time for McDonald’s and the city of Chicago,” owner-operator Nick Karavites said in a press statement. “As a Chicago native who has grown up in the McDonald’s business, I’m proud to add the new headquarters restaurant to my organization.”

If you were hoping for a domestic McDonald's with slightly more exciting options, like India's spicy paneer wrap or Japan's shrimp burger, you may get your wish in the future: The Chicago restaurant plans to update its menu with new international items every few months.

[h/t Chicago Tribune]

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fun
Instead of Lighting Fireworks, People in This Chinese Village Celebrate by Flinging Molten Iron
iStock
iStock

Fireworks are a cultural symbol in China, but they weren't always easy to obtain. In a village in Yu County, China, people use a 500-year-old trick to achieve the same effect as fireworks with cheaper pyrotechnics.

This video from Great Big Story highlights the Chinese art of Da Shuhua, or splattering molten iron against walls to produce a fireworks-like shower of sparks. It started in the village of Nuanquan in the 16th century as a way for poor residents to imitate the expensive fireworks shows enjoyed by rich people in different parts of the country. Blacksmiths noticed that molten iron burst into dazzling sparks whenever it hit the ground and thought to recreate this phenomenon on a much larger scale. The townspeople loved it and began donating their scrap metal to create even grander displays.

Today, Da Shuhua is more than just a cheap alternative to regular fireworks: It's a cherished tradition to the people of Nuanquan. The village remains the only place in China to witness the art as it was done centuries ago—the people who practice it even wear the same traditional cotton and sheepskin garments to protect their skin from the 2900°F drops of metal flying through the air. As Wang De, who's been doing Da Shuhua for 30 years, says in the video below, "If you wear firefighter suits, it just doesn't feel right."

[h/t Great Big Story]

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