16 March 2012

How is a fork like a lightsaber ?

Both are considered risks to aircraft security, as explained in an Ask The Pilot column at Salon:
Safely assured of a top spot in the Hall [of Shame], or so I thought, was the time I had a butter knife confiscated by overzealous TSA guards. I mean, what could be more ridiculous than taking a butter knife from a uniformed, on-duty pilot?

Answer: confiscating a fork from a uniformed, on-duty airline pilot.

It happened the other day in Mexico City, at the special crew inspection checkpoint at Benito Juarez International Airport. Yes, I’m dropping the “American” part and changing the name to the “Security Hysteria Hall of Shame,” since, as you’ll see, we are not the only ones who have lost our minds...

Every day, hundreds of thousands of stainless steel forks, not to mention knives, are handed out to passengers in the forward cabins of airplanes. (And why not? The hijacking paradigm exploited on Sept. 11 no longer exists.) Yet on-duty pilots are not allowed to carry them through the checkpoint?...

This is the lunatic world of security we now live in: one of blind adherence, stripped of reason and logic, in which even the stupidest policies are enforced to the letter of the law...

One day, flying from Dallas to Jacksonville, Fla., Goldring and her toddler son were refused passage through the TSA checkpoint because they boy was carrying … get ready now … his Star Wars lightsaber. A lightsaber, if you’re not familiar, is a flashlight with a plastic cone attached — or, perhaps more to the point, a toy in the shape of a make-believe weapon from a galaxy, and a line of reasoning, far, far away.

“I believe it was green,” says Goldring, “indicating my son’s future Jedi path. We were told by the TSA professionals that the saber, which technically is something that does not exist, was a weapon. We were escorted out of security and sent to the ticket counter, where I had to fill out paperwork in order to check the lightsaber in as baggage.”..

Like I said, you can’t make this up.

The saddest part is that few people seem to care. We grumble, we gripe, and sometimes we laugh, but there is little if any organized push to change this madness, neither by citizens nor their elected leaders. In the end, we get what we deserve.


  1. I care. My representatives stopped caring what I care, though. I'm not sure who they represent, but it isn't anybody I know.

  2. Finally a reasonable explanation for all this nonsense:
    Airport security is a conspiracy to fill little would-be jedi knights with hate and anger, thus turning them into sith lords at the service of the empire!
    All becomes clear.

  3. The intentions of the laws are for safety. Box cutters took down planes and killed thousands on 9-11 so we took extreme actions. There is a reason after all. Test showed just a little liquid explosives could blow up a plane, so they took our liquids. They also watch people's behavior now. They didn't want to target people on their race, and white people can be crazy, too, so they treat everyone the same. For a while, they thought someone could plant a bomb on their dying grandma or innocent child, so they screened them the same way. Now, they've announced older people will soon get to keep their shoes on, etc.

    They take kid's toys because there are a lot of things that aren't allowed, such as club shaped objects and even mini toy guns. People get confused over what is allowed. There is no leeway for senior screeners to make judgement calls or people would start making all kinds of exceptions. They try to take the personal calls out of the equation.

    That's the reason people don't get too mad: it's designed for our safety no matter how stupid it may appear, or even actually turn out in real life.

    It's a First World Problem.

  4. "This is the lunatic world of security we now live in: one of blind adherence, stripped of reason and logic, in which even the stupidest policies are enforced to the letter of the law..."
    Well written Stan - I might well be quoting you in related discussions in future!

    1. Credit where credit is due: the words you want to quote were written not by me, but by Patrick Smith, author of the "Ask The Pilot" column at Salon.

  5. My friend was stopped on an Australian interstate flight for carrying a weapon. The weapon was a boomerang. A ceremonial, decorated boomerang. Mounted and framed behind glass... luckily good sense prevailed (when they saw her business class ticket) and she was allowed to travel.

    Mind you, you could give someone a good bonk over the head with that frame - but I suppose if it contained a mounted butterfly or a ink sketch it wouldn't be a weapon? Provided the sketch was not of a bullet, perhaps...


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