Saturday, December 11, 2010

The importance of checking your bags...

A while ago I acquired one of the coolest self defense items ever: an extendable baton. With a flick of the wrist and a wonderfully loud ssscwinnk noise the innocuous black cylinder expands into a formidable weapon. The idea behind carrying it, and the reason why my father got it for, is that- much like the sound of pump action shot gun being cocked- the act of extending is supposed to scare off any potential baddies before they actually get up the courage to jump you.

Unfortunately, my baton is so cool that I really just end up carrying it most everywhere I go. Not only is it a great conversation starter but it also is a reassuring weight whenever I find myself exploring the misty streets of Seattle.

I say unfortunately because I've gotten so used to carrying it around with me that I didn't even think twice about when I packed my bag to head home to Tucson. I barely even noticed it was there.

The scanners in the airport, however, picked it up right away.

I was immediately pulled aside, all of my baggage confiscated, my boarding passes and ID's scrutinized, my weapon photographed and described in triplicate. The TSA agent who wrote up my information barely even looked at me, standing a full five feet away as if he could catch terrorism by close proximity. I meanwhile, sat subdued in a dark corner of the security area with a steadily sinking pit in my stomach.

When the actual Port Authority officer got there it got a little better. At least he spoke directly to me. Alas, most of what came out of his mouth were questions. Things like, “why do you even have something like this?” or “Why did you possibly think this was okay to bring on an airplane?”

At this point I was convinced that I was going to miss my flight. As they filled out very official looking paperwork I started to worry that accidentally bringing my baton through the checkpoint was going to result in legal action, at least on the level of tickets and fines if not the level of getting my name stuck in a database somewhere for the rest of eternity.

I started to tear up a little and the officer finally relented a little. “Hey, we get people who try to bring guns through here. You're going to be okay.”

After some more paperwork he escorted me through security so I could mail it back to me and, through trying to make the walk a little less awkward, I learned that he had spent some time as a paratrooper in Poland before he moved to Seattle. I managed to make it back through security without further incident and just managed to catch my flight.

Next time I fly I'm leaving the freaking thing at home.

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