“What about the 4-inch rule? The blade is under 4 inches,” I said to the knowledgeable, well-trained, and intelligent TSA agent.
“But this is a KNIFE. The 4-inch rule only applies to scissors,” he explained to me, a feeble-minded, annoying, likely terrorist. “See that,” he pointed to my Leatherman Micra, “that’s a knife blade.”
Well, that depends on your definition of a knife. Crocodile Dundee would not agree.
It’s a knife by the most pathetic definition possible, and because of this, it’s flown on many planes … because it’s only 1.5″ long. It’s a knife that Crocodile Dundee would laugh at and intimidate with a car key. It’s basically a fingernail cleaner. It’s a knife that’s spent too much time in a cold pool. It’s a knife that Papa Smurf would use to cut butter.
“Can I see the rule in writing somewhere?” I asked. “When I flew out of Phoenix two days ago, there were postings that said blades under 4 inches were OK. I thought that applied to all blades, because they let me fly with this two days ago.”
In a huff that can only be described as courteous, wise, and thoughtful, he said he’d get his supervisor. I explained my request to the supervisor: I wanted to see the rule in writing. He didn’t say a thing, just looked at me, trying to drill knowledge into my too-thick, likely-terrorist skull with his wise and judicious eyes. He came back with piece of paper. Knives, except plastic or round-bladed butter knives, are not allowed. Scissors, with metal tips and blades shorter than 4 inches, are allowed. Sabers are explicitly prohibited. This means that these metal martini sword-skewers are not allowed … you know, so we’re safer. And since they weren’t busy and were overstaffed, they had plenty of time to terrorize us travelers. If only it had been busy. It reminded me of a short story I wrote years ago.
But since I was as close as they’d get to a terrorist in Milwaukee on the day after Thanksgiving, they decided to hassle me good. My first thought was to just snatch the mini-knife back, but I knew that wouldn’t work. I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch it, so I touched it as much as I could, poking it when asking questions. I could go out and check my bag, they suggested. But only a terrorist would do that. I asked about gate-checking — they told me airlines didn’t do that anymore. They are geniuses.
In the end, they took my Leatherman because I could have hijacked the plane with it … or tightened the screw on the pilot’s glasses or changed my watch battery or trimmed my nose-hair or tweezed a rogue eyebrow hair or filed a fingernail. “I hope you enjoy it,” I said to the supervisor. “It’ll be a nice Christmas present for somebody.”
“We don’t keep the stuff.”
And this is why I dislike airport security — it’s bullshit and it’s inconsistent. Even the government knows it.
But when life gives you lemons, you need to make Lemon-tinis. I’ve got two ideas:
I’d like to sue the TSA for violating our presumption of innocence rights. They treat us all like terrorists. Nearly none of us are terrorists. A policeman can’t just pull you over — they need probable cause. If your bag was in your home, they’d need a warrant to search it. Enough is enough. Jackie Chiles would take this case.
I’d like to introduce a new product: Uncle Al’s Traveling Craft Scissors. They have a 3.9″ blade. They have a brass handle with loops for each of your fingers … to protect them from paper-cuts. The blades can be detached for easy cleaning (they’re even dishwasher-safe). The fatigue-proof handle contains 2.9 ounces of comfort gel. Includes one zip-top sheath / baggie. To be used during all your TSA negotiations. You are, after all, a terrorist. You may as well arm yourself like one. Just don’t use them on the plane.