My mother, like all mothers, was always right about everything. One of the big deals for her revolved around underwear. Yes, underwear. Especially when we travelled. "Bobby, do you have on clean underwear with no holes?" That phrase has burned a hole in my consciousness. Heaven forbid I answer too slowly or too quickly, because that meant an underwear check, right there and then.
In 2004, I commuted via commercial flight to Washington DC on a contract. My week fell into a routine: fly out to DC on Sunday, rarely Monday; fly back home on Friday or Saturday. Since I was not only doing the 70 hour per week contract in DC, but another 30 hour a week contract in Cleveland, my weekends were pretty busy. It rolled around to fall, on a Sunday, and I decided to go hiking before flying to work.
I took my small camera in the bag, stuck in my Spydie edge, all stainless Endura, and did my hike. I was running late when I made it back home. I quickly undressed, showered, changed, and grabbed my computer bag; my wife was waiting to take me to the airport. I realized, as I ran out the door, that I didn't have my small camera; I signalled to my wife that I was a jerk, ran back into the house, and tossed my small camera bag into the computer bag. She signalled back confirming what course of action I should take to and by myself.
We made it to the airport in good time. Sharon dropped me out front; I walked into chaos. Apparently somebody, earlier in the day, had pulled out a pistol to shoot his wife as she was flying out of town to meet her lover. All flights had been shutdown for a period, and had just started back up. The security lines were long, and winding.
Nothing I could do. I took my place in line, moving 1.4 feet every 10 minutes. TSA was checking everything; that day, that afternoon, everybody was a suspect with a pistol.
I finally made it to the front; gave the first officer my passport and boarding pass. He directed me towards a line. I hurried over, took off my belt and shoes, emptied my pockets, and tossed everything on the belt for x-ray. As I walk through the scanner, I'm stopped. I'm holding my pants up by the waist; I had lost some weight, and without a belt, I quickly suffered southern exposure.
The xray operator looked me up and down, and asked "Is this your bag?" pointing at my Tumi. I answered affirmatively. He asked if I had something sharp in it; I said "No, just pens." I then noticed that there were a lot of TSA agents around me; I was still grasping my pants, and of course I heard "Sir, why don't you put your hands up here in plain view?"
Great. I asked if I could have my belt. They simply repeated their demand, except they were a little more emphatic.
I sighed. At least the underwear didn't have holes. As for racing stripes, well, one can only hope for some things.
As I moved my hands up into plain view, and enjoyed the air conditioning playing over my buttcrack, the x-ray operator was removing...yep, my small camera bag. Which I had taken hiking. Into which I had stuffed a Spydie edge, all stainless steel endura.
I said "Wait, wait. You're going to find a knife in there. It's folded shut, you will not get cut, you are not at risk. I am sorry, I just got back from a fall hike, you can see the pictures in my camera that is in the bag."
THe xray tech removed the Endura, and of course every yuppie in a 20' radius crapped his or her pants, and those closest to me stepped back. Well, if nothing else, that had improved the situation a bit: I no longer cared about racing stripes.
The xray tech then removed the camera, and reviewed a couple pics. While he was doing that, I explained what had happened. He looked at me and just said "You have two problems. Pull up your pants and put on your belt." So I did, thinking that was two problems...but no.
He then said "I believe you. That's not the problem. The problem is that you are now in Cleveland, and there is a 3" limit on blade size. I can't let you have this knife to mail back home; I'm going to keep it. This officer here will escort you over to holding, and you are under arrest. Be advised that since it is Sunday, and there are no judges available, you will be in jail for approximately 16 hours. If you're lucky."
I started to get really pissed, and I looked at the officer; he was from Cleveland, not TSA. I started to demand my rights, raising my voice, and telling the xray operator that TSA should not do this.
Just as things started to really escalate, the Cleveland cop looked at me, put a finger to his lips, and winked. I had never had a cop wink at me; I wasn't sure if this meant we were going to the cleaning closet for a date or what, he had seen me standing there in my tighties, but he was definitely cooler than anybody at TSA.
I shut up. The cop looked at the xray tech and said "You can't keep the knife. Nice try, though. If you keep the knife, we have no evidence of wrongdoing, and we have to let him go. I'll take the knife and the prisoner now." Turning to me, he said "Sir, please gather all your belongings. We're going over there," pointing to a door.
I did as I was told. We left the security zone, and the as soon as we got out of sight, the cop handed me my knife, and said "@W@#@#@ TSA. Think they can tell us what to do. I am not his b2312323."
We got over to the door, and he said "Stand here. You want something to drink?" I asked for some water, and he grabbed two bottles, and came back over. He told me that the Endura was a nice blade, that he didn't care how big it was, the rule was made for the fifth district, a notoriously bad precinct in which the airport just happened to fall. He didn't feel it made sense to enforce such a rule at the airport.
We talked for a bit, with him complaining about TSA and their attitude, and finally he said "OK, they just had their shift break. That operator and those officers are gone. Sorry for the hassle - just mail the blade back home or have somebody come pick it up. If you want to do the latter, I'll escort you so you don't have to deal with TSA again.
And that is why my mother was right when she told me to always wear clean underwear with no holes when I travel.
Last edited by RLDubbya
on Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.