I shall openly state for the record that I do not like airport security. I understand the need for it, but that is different. I do not like it because it is where two tributaries of stupidity merge into an Amazon-sized river of awfulness which encourages normally intelligent people to make very poor decisions indeed.
Imagine for example, someone so dim, that they innocently packed a three piece spear and an 18 inch ceremonial machete in their luggage and boarded a commercial airliner leaving from a nameless African country. Fortunately (depending on your point of view), I didn’t get into trouble and no one even noticed, but it still wasn’t that bright. This is why I find airports such a problem: passengers do mindless things and in my opinion, airport security is forced, by a hysterical, global press, into making knee-jerk, reactionary and unnecessary changes to their security procedures. Why, for example, because of one incident, do we have to have our shoes examined as we head toward duty free?
I wondered, given my inept packing performances, what really dim people had tried to bring through security at airports. American websites seemed a good place to start and I was not disappointed.
It quickly became apparent that I was, in fact, a comparative Einstein of the travel world, and there were many people out there far dafter than me on both sides of the security fence. What was good, wasn’t just the ridiculous things people tried to take on board, but what implied damage the security staff who confiscated them, thought they could do with the items. Everything mentioned below, is allegedly true.
I am prepared to accept that baseball bats and chainsaws are reasonable things to take away from people at airport security, and the single deer antler also made sense, though I feel it says more about the inadequacies of the owner’s hunting skills, than presenting an immediate and credible threat to the plane.
But the sausage grinder – that confused me. You cannot presumably threaten to mince a cabin attendant unless your meat-related demands are met – though I suppose it would hurt if you threw it at someone. The term we are after here is a “dual-use item” which means something which can be used as a low-tech weapon, as well as for its original, intended use. But that is…well…anything with a mass of more than about half a pound. If I bashed someone over the head with my laptop, that would really hurt, and I could swing my camera around my head like a gaucho’s bolas and garrotte the Captain – but in all likelihood would strangle myself instead.
The geologist who had his cricket-ball sized rock taken away from him fell into that category as well – just in case he went crazy and tried to hold up the plane with…a lump of granite. I also thoroughly enjoyed the confiscation of the man-sized, plastic palm tree too – presumably in case its owner hid behind it and crawled down the aisle (blending in with the other aircraft foliage) and sneaked into the cockpit unnoticed. And why would sex toys be taken away from passengers – dual-use items? “I take control of this plane in the name of Duracell. We change course now or the pleasuring starts!”
A quick delve around on the official Heathrow website reveals yet more “dual-use” irritations. The knives, razor-blades, scissors and sports bats are reasonable of course, but tweezers – can you pluck someone to death? Threaten to temporarily ruin someone’s eyebrow? I suppose I could poke someone in the eye with them, but then I could use my finger too. And snooker and pool cues – they’re just sticks – but then you can’t take walking and hiking poles onboard either. What if I have a bad leg and need a walking stick or crutches? Am I supposed to relinquish these at security and crawl stoically to my boarding gate with an “Oh well, that’s fair enough” look on my face? How are they any different? Knitting needles too are apparently out, but then apart from being a bit bigger, they are not significantly different from a biro or a pencil and those are fine. I’ve seen Jason Bourne in action and am confident I could take out a fair few people with my Bic and a rolled-up magazine.
Despite this flippancy, airport security is a serious business, but rather than having iron-clad rules imposed across the board, I do think the authorities could show a little more faith in their security staff and allow them to use their discretion. Until that changes however, I shall be much more careful with my dual-use items and next time I fly, my fists and teeth will be left behind.
You might also like to read