Travel is kind of a pain in the ass, nowadays. In America (the largest developed nation without reliable, efficient passenger train service) you’ve got three choices – automobile, bus, and airplane. And for all it’s speed, convenience, and relative low-cost, flying has gotten to be the biggest pain of all, thanks to the legacy of the late, un-lamented Osama Bin Laden. I’m all for our government trying to make air travel safe(r). But I just wish they’d find a way to do it without either making me feel LESS safe, or giving me a headache from all the convoluted logic they use to do their job. Case in point, my trip home from the NRA confab…
I don’t fly with my gun. Perhaps if I was lucky/wealthy enough to own a “travel gun” or one cheap enough that wouldn’t make me go nuts if it were stolen from my luggage, I’d fly with one. But if there’s a downside to being a 1911 fanboy, and replacement cost is it. So I make do with a tactical knife, tactical flashlight, and a tactical pen. Of the three of these, two have to go into checked luggage, making them bloody well useless on board the plane. (I do carry a smaller, less intimidating flashlight in my carry-on, just in case.) A knife is right out. I even check my fingernail clippers, due to the, shall we say inconsistent way that the TSA enforces their rules. Not to mention the way those rules keep changing, seemingly daily. That leaves me with a pen. Now any relatively well-made pen can be used as a Yawara stick. It needs to be something that won’t break, and be long enough to protrude from your hand to make contact with a jugular vein or trachea. But if you want something that can do a little more damage, you need a pen with a point.
There are plenty of tactical pens out there. But I’m wary of spending $100+ on a writing implement, only to find it going buh-bye at security. So whilst I was at the show, I brought up this topic with the head honcho at the Timberline booth, as he had a tacpen that looked pretty wicked. (See above.) His answer? No problemo.
He said that he carries that same pen with him every time he flies (and he flies a lot). He’s only been questioned on it once, and after demonstrating that it was a working pen, he was allowed to go through with it. Having seen the memo that the TSA was on the lookout for anything marketed as “tactical,” I found that a little hard to believe. And I said so. The man put his money where his mouth is, and gave me a pen to try for myself. I figured that going through airport security at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie airport would be a pretty fair test – after all, it was the last day of the NRA show, and I’m sure they were on “heightened security” due to the perception of the firearms-related protests, et cetera.
So I stuck it in my pocket and got in line. Now going through the security line is no small feat for me. Even though I do this a lot, it’s still a production number that would make Busby Berkeley proud – remove the laptop and iPad from the backpack, put them in trays. Empty my pockets of all metal. Remove my belt and cell phone case. Take off my shoes. Woof. So the pen went into the bin with all my other crap. And came out, unchallenged and unscathed, on the other side. (!) Now this bad boy looks intimidating. And they did nothing. Nada. Nyet. Bupkis. On the other hand, the one time I forgot an inert cartridge fob on my keychain (it has my name engraved on the casing, and an eye-hook screwed into it where the primer goes), you’d think I was trying to smuggle nuclear secrets to the Kremlin. Where’s the consistency?
I get that they want to keep us safe. But backscatter X-Rays are not the ticket. Neither is screening and X-Raying my worldly possessions. Nope. I do have the answer, though. All they need to do is to outfit the planes with cameras in the passenger compartment and monitors in the crew cabin, make the door into the cabin airtight, and outfit the planes with a gas delivery system that will allow the crew to instantly knock everybody in the plane out, and make them go sleepy-bye until they can land. Put ’em all to sleep and let the cops on the ground sort it out.
My other favorite idea for air travel is what I like to call “Naked Airlines.” You’d get to security and be issued a robe and a transparent Ziploc bag. You’d put your clothes in the bag, and tag it. You’d get them back on the other end. Now of course, flying with just a bathrobe on will change things. There’d be no first class and coach. It would be the poor and ugly in the back (as a consolation, they’d get to board first). The rich and beautiful would get the nice seats up front. When you land, you reverse the process, and get your clothing back. For an extra service fee, you’d get to keep the robe.
I guess in my dream world, we wouldn’t need this kind of security. I get why they don’t let guns on the plane for passengers. (Although I think the crews should be armed to the teeth, and trained to know how to use their guns.) But for the rest of it, blocking pens, small knives and fingernail clippers is just stupid. If you’re gonna go that far, you’ll have to start banning certain people from the flight. I have an ex that can kill with a sharp look. Do that, and we’re back to profiling again. And we know THAT will never fly.