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No-Fly List Candidate

March 8th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Personal

Everyone is going to get a real hoot & holler out of this one, especially after reading the story of how I got arrested in NYC for carrying one of my knifes onto the subway (in case you didn’t know). In some ways, this little fiasco tops that story, but at the same time it’s outcome is a bit surprising given the supposed severity of the situation as opposed to the subway incident.

So I like carrying around a knife. Let’s ignore for the moment that it can be used as a deadly weapon and accept that it’s a very useful tool to have for a variety of decidedly non-lethal situations (opening packages, peeling oranges, picking dirt from beneath the fingernails, tightening eyeglass screws, etc). However when I travel I usually have to resign myself to leaving them behind because you obviously can’t take a knife onto a plane. Obviously. However in cases where I check luggage, well that’s not a problem at all. For the past 8 years, I have been checking luggage in order to fly out to San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference.

To keep the knife from sliding all around in my suitcase and possibly unfolding and slicing shit up, I clip it inside the pocket of my pants I pack away in the suitcase. But this year, after dragging out the huge luggage piece, throwing in all my clothes and seeing how much room I had left over, I decided to leave a few articles of clothing behind and squeeze everything else into the small carry-on piece. With check luggage fees increasing, I had no wish to add to the cost of my GDC trip. I was, actually, rather proud to be fitting my entire week’s worth of necessities into one carry-on and one personal item.

So I head to the airport, check in, and proceed through security. Several times they halt the belt to peer at the x-ray images as I wait to load up my stuff and get through – I have about 30 minutes to catch my flight. Finally I pass through the metal detector and am pulling my things off the conveyor belt when one of the TSA agents asks “who’s bag is this?”. I immediately stick up my hand and go “yea that’s me,” as I put my belt and shoes back on. She pulls the suitcase off the belt and brings it over to one of the screening areas. Okay, this has happened to me once or twice before – they open it up, poke around and that’s about it. So I gather my stuff up and join her as she proceeds to extract items from my suitcase. No poking. Searching.

I ask: “Are you searching for something in particular?” To which the TSA lady replies: “Just a moment, sir.” By now the queasy feeling that was forming in the pit of my stomach had slowly worked its way up to my brain, as I belatedly realized that I had no memory of ever removing the knife from my pants pocket when I decided to carry-on rather than check my bags. Before I could say anything the lady had separated my suitcase contents into two smaller piles and was walking back to run them through the x-ray scanner again. At that point I decided speaking up was pointless, so I just hung back and waited for the inevitable.

After a second run through the x-ray machine, she came back and pulled out my pants, unrolling them and extracting the knife clipped therein.

Now, demeanor is everything. Obviously I’m not the kind of person to break down and babble apologies (and besides I wasn’t sorry. Chagrined at the mistake, yes. Sorry, no), however neither do I want to appear so calm they consider me to be completely uncaring (I had that backfire on me once during a traffic stop). So I carefully voiced my concern over the find as “Ahhhh, that explains it.”

Okay – it’s not like I practice this shit alright?

So she asks me to take a seat as she radios the find and I’m joined shortly by another TSA agent, who takes the knife and unfolds it, then places it on the table and whips out his Android phone to snap a picture. Whistling while he worked. I was both tempted to ask how he liked the ‘Droid, and whether he whistled because he actually enjoyed his job or to attempt to make his job seem more enjoyable – but I figured it was a better idea to just answer questions if he asked me any.

As the agent is typing out his email report on his ‘Droid, I’m imagining the small interrogation room somewhere undoubtedly close by where I’ll soon be taken to answer questions and be generally harassed. As I mentally prepare my defense, I think ahead further to waiting on stand-by to the next flight out to California since I was sure to miss the one departing in just under 20 minutes. Of course once that thought enters my head I consider the possibility that they just won’t let me fly – period. That would have been rather inconvenient.

So the TSA agent comes whistling back over to me and asks for my ID and boarding pass, which I hand over. He then instructs me to pack up my things and proceed down to the station at the end of the terminal before the gates. Aha – the small interrogation room was indeed close at hand. I get there and turn around to find him strolling leisurely down the hall a couple feet behind me, lost in the little diddy he was currently whistling while filling out his paperwork. He told me to wait outside and went into the checkpoint, reappearing about 3 minutes later with my ID and boarding pass in hand, sending me on my way.

No alarms. No interrogation room. No handcuffs. Heck, they didn’t even ask me why I had a knife clipped into my pocket. Given the shit storm I caused carrying a knife onto the NYC subway, I was expecting the response to this infraction to be magnitudes larger. Like, 8.8 Chile earthquake shit. I’m not even going to guess why it was handled this way, only that it was done efficiently and professionally – so I admit in this case I have to give props to the TSA. Lucky? Oh without a doubt. I’m sure there are crazed zealots working in this agency that would have called down Homeland Security on my head and then danced on my grave.

I boarded my flight with 15 minutes to spare.

It seems my notoriety has leveled up – as I am now not only a convicted felon, but am undoubtedly also on the TSA “Watch List”. I suppose my vanity is also temporarily appeased.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • dwarfsoft

    ROFL! Well, the hilarity ensued for me when I forgot to remove an adjustable wrench from my carry on backpack (which doubles as the backpack I use for riding to work).

    Fortunately the staff at security just said “uh, oh… looks like we've thrown a spanner in the works” before laughing it off, confiscating the spanner, and sending me on my way.

    We had this happen with a Pocket knife a year or two ago as well.

  • Dave Mark

    But did you get to keep the knife?

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