Kirby: Denied my right to bear knives
Houston • While the rest of America convulses over gun control, I have far more primal concerns. Knife control is sneaking under the radar.
Last week, I set off an alarm at George Bush International Airport. I was hauled out of the security line, given a quick rub and told to report to another station.
Shoeless, beltless and nervous about a pending exploration of my bottom, I complied. I found a security agent holding my backpack. Polite to the point of servility, the agent explained that my backpack needed to be searched.
Darkness gathered. I'd been in similar situations before, so I knew this was not going to end well. I was in the hands of the TSA ("Take [Stuff] Away") from which there was no escape.
Disclaimer: None of the following complaints have to do with the TSA people at the actual gates. They aren't responsible for making policy. Their job is just to scrutinize us and say stuff like, "Are your underpants made out of gunpowder?"
They do a good job most of the time. This was one of those times. A thorough examination of my backpack revealed a miniscule Swiss Army knife.
It was a knife only in theory. The blade was an inch long and every bit as dull as a church talk. I only pack the thing because it has a pair of tiny scissors. I've reached an age where, without scissors, it doesn't take long before I can tie my eyebrows together.
Here's the thing: I had just hauled my Swiss Army scissors through two other airports, a customs checkpoint, half a dozen shipboard metal detectors and a police search in Belize. Nobody said a thing.
Not this time. The full weight of the knife-control lobby descended on me in Houston. Knives are dangerous weapons. Apparently in the wrong hands, even a knife that is largely imaginary constitutes a real public threat.
TSA agent: "Sir, you can't bring this knife through here."
Me: "That's not a knife. You want to see a real knife? Here."
At this point, several family members frantically motioned for me to shut the hell up. Because one of them was my wife, I did.
The agent explained my options, of which there were only two. First, I could return to the terminal and mail the knife to myself in Utah, or I could surrender the weapon permanently then and there.
Note: I immediately thought of a third option involving the knife and someone's else's bottom (preferably the one belonging to the director of the TSA), but I kept that one to myself.
Defenseless and highly annoyed, I trudged down to the gate and fumed about the growing call for knife control in America.
Look, I'm in full favor of government control of lots of stuff. I don't think citizens (idiots by and large) should be allowed unregistered possession of assault weapons, dynamite, plutonium, anti-aircraft missiles, plague viruses, light sabers, any form of theology or even a mean dog.
But a sharp point? What if it was a flint chip?
I'd like to meet the guy capable of hijacking an aircraft full of really pissed-off air travelers by using a knife with a blade no larger than a human incisor. In fact, if he's ingenious enough to figure that out, I say we make him our king.
Fortunately I'm an American, so I don't really believe the law applies to me. I had the flight attendant bring me a soft drink.
It's possible to make a real knife out of an empty Diet Coke can. Just don't let TSA or your wife see you do it.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.