I used to fly a lot. I don’t now, largely because my business doesn’t require a lot of travel. But I spend a disproportionately large amount of time at the airport, for someone who doesn’t fly much. You see, I am a member of a species expanding exponentially across America: Abruptio Abbas (Latin: “Divorced Dad”). I find myself going through airport security with an escort pass on a regular basis, to pick up or drop off my 12-year-old daughter at the gate. Going through the gauntlet of airport “security” has been much on my mind lately, since I have a concealed handgun license. Now I’ve never come close to having a handgun pop-up in my luggage, mistakenly attempt to carry a pistol through an X-Ray machine, or any of the myriad of things the rich and famous do on a regular basis. Nope. As a card-carrying member of the Great Unwashed, it is my lot in life to be the guy they would arrest in order to use as an example to all the other poor schlubs. So I tend towards the overcautious side of things when it comes to the Transportation Safety Authority. Or so I thought.
On a daily basis, I carry a tactical flashlight (the ever-popular SureFire E2 Executive), a tactical knife (A Kershaw Blur, if you must know) and a pen sturdy enough to be used as a hand-held tactical weapon, should I lose the other two. When I travel any great distance by car, I invariably travel armed with my trusty 1911-M1A .45 semi-auto within arms’ reach. When I reach the parking garage, the fun begins. I secure the handgun to prevent theft. I remove the tactical knife and tactical flashlight and secure them as well. Then I remove my miniature Swiss Army knife (with it’s positively lethal 1.5″ blade!) and hide it, then head for the concourse.
Now you’d think with all that, the TSA would be satisfied that I’m no threat. But you’d be wrong.
Last trip through Love Field in Big-D, I was stopped by some of TSA’s finest. Why? Did I look suspicious? Nope. Was I armed? Not a chance. Was I flagged for going through the metal detector with shoes, a belt, watch, ring, or any other potentially lethal weapon? Nyet. No, I was stopped because I had an inert .45 ACP cartridge with a eye-hook run through the primer as a fob on my keyring.
Okay, that might not sound as harmless on paper as it does in person. Allow me to explain . . .
I’m a huge fan of the BritCom, BlackAdder, starring Rowan (Mr. Bean) Atkinson as BlackAdder. In the first episode of Season 4 (set in the trenches of WWI), Private Baldrick is scratching his name on the casing of a cartridge. Captain BlackAdder asks, quire reasonably, “why?”
Baldrick explains that he’s heard that somewhere there’s a bullet with your name on it, and if he had that bullet, he wouldn’t get shot.
Lovely theory. Funny bit. So when I started shooting, I bought two dummy bullets and had them engraved with my name for my keychain, and my then-wife’s name for hers. It’s been a cool thing to have: basically a spent cartridge that some enterprising entrepreneur used to screw in an eye hook into the spent primer, then cap with a FMJ roundball bullet. No gunpowder involved. Just a little epoxy, a cartridge, eye hook and chuck o’ lead and copper. I’ve carried it for years, with nary a problem. Until two weeks ago.
Now keep in mind, I’m positively anal about getting rid of all of my potentially objectionable stuff. And I try to wear things that will keep me from having to slow down through the gauntlet. (I’m STILL ticked about the shoes and belt thing. I bought a special pair of shoes without any metal arch supports, so I could go through X-Ray without going shoeless. (I’d friggin’ pull the trigger on that Richard Reid clown in a heartbeat.)
So I bop through the screening line, expecting no worries, when . . . they stop the X-Ray conveyor belt to examine my keys. Now keep in mind, my keyring—with the Bullet With My Name On It—has been through X-Ray hundreds of times. But THIS time, they stopped, looked, and jumped on it, like fleas on a dog bed.
“What’s this?,” they asked.
“Obviously, it’s an inert cartridge. Don’t you see the eye hook screwed into the primer? It has no primer, and no gunpowder. It can’t be fired.”
“How do we know that?,” they queried.
“Run it through your GSR detector, and see.”
They demurred. And to their credit, cooler heads prevailed, and they allowed me to carry the keys through, largely because they realized I was only escorting my pre-teen to the gate. I obviously didn’t have time to go back to the car with the keys. But I was strongly admonished to never, ever, ever try to come through again with my keys.
Now I have no problem with TSA spotting potential security violations. Of course, even if it had been a live round, I’m not quite sure what mischief I could have started with one cartridge. But I’ll grant you that erring on the side of caution is a good thing. But—
Realistically, I could kill or incapacitate just about anybody with my pen.
While I’m no martial arts expert, I’ve taken some classes in self defense. I wouldn’t want to rely on my inner Bruce Lee to save my life. But in a life-or-death situation, I feel pretty confident that I could at least try to stop the bad guys. So if my inert bullet is bad news, and my penknife is strictly verboten, why are pens okay? I mean, if used effectively, I could impale a pen through a jugular vein, a trachea, or a sternum with minimal effort on my part.
In fact, I’d wager that just using a keyring (sans inert bullet, of course, with the keys spaced out between my fingers in sort of a nod to Wolverine) would be more than enough to seriously screw with somebody’s chi – not to mention their eyesight. Shouldn’t we ban keys and keyrings from flights? What about hot coffee on board? I mean, just ask McDonald’s how dangerous a cuppa hot Joe can be.
Then there’s all that carry-on luggage. I’ve been smacked in the head with a laptop bag before. Not fun. And the next time I see some innocent-looking grandma board a plane with some aluminum knitting needles, I’m gonna cry “foul!”
Seriously, I don’t wanna see the average citizen walking on board with bombs, guns, or things that can obviously be used to bring down or take over an airplane. But likewise, if we devolve to the point where nobody can carry anything onboard, the terrorists win.
That’s why I have the solution to the airline’s security problems: Naked Airlines.
Instead of an X-Ray machine, you’d go into a small dressing room, and strip down to your skivvies. The airline would supply you with a robe. You’d hand EVERYTHING else to an attendant, in a clear, ZipLoc bag. They’d take it to X-Ray. Anything that didn’t pass muster, they’d put into a second bag, with your name on it. It would get concierge checked. You’d be handed the non-contraband bag and allowed to board. At the end of the flight, you’d get your contraband valuables returned as you step off the plane, Step into another dressing room, get your clothes back (probably neatly folded and pressed, if I know Richard Branson), and return the robe to the hook.
Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anybody who’s gonna try and take down a plane, wearing a bathrobe. And the odds of anybody starting trouble where one good yank could expose your undies to a jeering crowd are slim to none.
Instead of “First Class” and “Coach” we’d have two similar sections: “Attractive People” and “The Rest of Us.” The babes, beefcakes, studs and models would fly up front, making boarding a relatively pleasant pastime. The rest of the customers would be herded into the back. Hell, they could even give those in the front of the plane a discount, just for prettying up the joint.
Of course, I suspect under this plan that the Mile High Club would be decriminalized, and certain flights and/or destinations might receive an “R” or even “NC-17” rating. But think of the advantages. Everybody in the standard-issue robes. No more Spandex. No inappropriate T-Shirt slogans. And everyone would be humbled equally.
The best part? We could divert the TSA manpower over to pursuits that really matter. Like thoroughly checking every checked bag, Or properly interviewing profiled passengers. Or properly interviewing profiled passengers before they get inside the terminal building. Or developing strong links with intelligence agencies to pre-identify potential threats. Or flying on board random or high-risk routes. Or confiscating bottled water and nail clipper. No wait; got that one. Whew!