Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Public Enemy Number One

          God love the TSA. They never fail to provide excellent material for a rant.

          I thought I wouldn't have anything to post today, but I went to the airport a few days ago and tried to clear Security. With a—gasp!—pocket knife in my purse.

          Now, I had read earlier in the spring that TSA, in its infinite wisdom, had finally decided that pocket knives are as innocuous as those of us who carry them know they are, and that you could now carry them on a plane.

          "Great!" I thought. I always carry a pocket knife, and I hate that airport travel restrictions have made it necessary for me to leave it home any time I got on a plane. It's excellent useful, is a pocket knife, for opening cartons, deadheading flowers, sharpening pencils, cutting string, harvesting rhubarb, and whatnot. The one I carry is called, amusingly, a Peanut. It is less than three inches long. It has a blue bone handle. 

          It's kind of girly, to be completely honest. Were I a terrorist, it would most certainly not be my weapon of first choice for a hijacking (too small; too lacking in scariness; not hardly big and manly enough). So I popped it in my purse (because TSA agents won't even let you carry a Chapstick* in your pocket through their X-ray machines. I've had to take my handkerchief out, too. Apparently a really accomplished terrorist can build a fully-functional, mayhem-ready, shrapnel-infested IED out of nothing more than a tube of Chapstick and a slightly tired hanky. Or possibly TSA agents have elevated flat-crazy paranoia to a new art form.)

My knife. If you'd like one like it, go here to shop.
But lordy, don't take it on a plane.
          When I stepped out of the X-ray machine and began collecting my belongings off the conveyor belt, an agent asked me if the purse he was holding was mine. With a sinking feeling, I said that it was. He informed me that there was a knife in my purse, which I already knew, having put it there, and I said, hey, wait a minute, I read in the newspaper that pocket knives were okay on planes now.

          (Before I start my rant in earnest and forget all about it, I just want to say that this TSA agent was both helpful and non-hostile, surprising the heck out of me. I am not accustomed to decent treatment by the grimly jack-booted minions of TSA. I will also admit that it was entirely my own fault I tried to carry a newly-again-contraband knife through security. I should've checked the airline's website. Because who knows what terrorists will use next to further their nefarious ends—although I'm betting it's Chapstick.)

          Well, yes, he said. They were allowed. But then there was the Boston bombings, so pocket knives are not allowed any more again.

          Oh right, I had the good sense not to say. Because the Boston bombings happened in an airport, and consisted entirely of pocket knives.

          Does TSA have trouble distinguishing stabby-type weapons from explode-and-maim and bullet-stuffed types of weapons? Are they unclear on what exactly a marathon consists of, and why no one holds them at airports? Because no one confiscates my pocket knife because of recent terrorist bombing activity when I walk around on city streets, even though that was where the recent terrorist activity recently happened.

          But let me walk into an airport with a pocket knife in my purse that can't be used for anything more bloody than a little bad whittling, and suddenly I am toting Terrorist Contraband and must surrender it (or TSA will also thoughtfully provide me a mailer and charge me $12 so that I can mail my Forbidden Item home**).

          So because a terrorist stuffed a pressure cooker full of hardware (which is not the same thing as a pocket knife), attached a timer thingy (also not a pocket knife), and then detonated it (no pocket knives involved) and subsequently got into a firefight with police officers (which was an entirely pocket knife-free undertaking), every pocket knife in the country is suddenly seen to be A Major Threat?

          Well, I suppose it's possible, in a Highly Unlikely sort of way. But if I were the TSA, trying to identify The Next Terrorist Threat, I'd be looking pretty hard at the Chapstick.

*Oh, don't even get me started on the Chapstick.

**Demonstrating rather neatly that the agency doesn't actually believe my knife is Terrorist Contraband; they simply want to demonstrate that they are doing something—however mindless and ineffective—to combat Bad Things, whatever they may be, and whether they involve pocket knives and Chapstick, or not. 

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