On the TSA Allowing Teeny Tiny Knives Aboard Planes, Part II.

The “scandal” continues.

Several people, including Charlies Schumer, have managed to bring up one valid point in regard to the TSA’s new policy on small folding knives and sporting goods: it may lead to screeners standing around on airport checkpoints measuring knives in order to see if they fit the 2.36 inch criteria.  But as a former TSA screener, I can tell you exactly how the policy will work, in practice.

The majority of TSA screeners, when spotting what is obviously a small Swiss Army-style knife on their x-ray screens, will not bother to call a bag check (after taking a glance at the passenger and sizing the situation up, in toto). They will very rightly reason that there will be no point in initiating the whole “pull the bag off to the side, rummage around in it in order to find a tiny blade (that is much smaller than the 6 inch scissors and 12 inch knitting needles that the same passenger has been allowed to carry on planes for the past 10 years) so as to pull out a ruler and measure the knife per security theater guidelines” procedure.

And guess what, people who are all up in a tizzy over the TSA finally attempting to be sensible? What I just described is what has been happening at airports all across the nation for over a decade, now, anyway. 

Look. Imagine working a job where you have to confiscate 2 inch Swiss Army knives from people. As often as not, the tiny blade is an expensive Swiss Army knife with sentimental value to the person. Now imagine that, as you take this person’s Swiss Army knife with one hand, you hand the person their 6 inch razor-sharp scissors back with the other.

Finally, imagine that the person whose knife you are taking looks you in the eye, and says, “This makes absolutely no sense at all. Tell me: how do you sleep at night, being so nonsensical like this? Do you even have a brain with which to comprehend what you are doing right now?” And all you can say in response is, “Sorry. It’s the rules. I am not allowed to think.”

Wouldn’t you want to avoid this absurd scenario? Of course you would. Which is why– and I’m letting you in on a little hard-dose-of-reality secret here, so close your eyes, opponents of the knife rule, if you’re unfamiliar with matters of Realpolitikthousands of TSA screeners across the nation have already been letting tiny knives pass right through security for the past 10 years, either failing to see the tiny things, or pretending not to see them in order to spare everyone the little security theater show. The TSA is just making official something that has been in effect, de facto, for years. 

I’ll close this post out with a letter I received from a passenger, January 2nd, 2013. I have several more where this came from, but this one nicely sums everything up. Urs wrote in:

It is with sadness that I have lost my 2nd Swiss army knife to the TSA just very recently. It was all my fault, I should have known better – but in all honesty, I simply forgot about it because I just happened to take a different bag that morning. 
 
But here’s the kicker, on my flight out, the TSA did not see the knife.
 
So this brings me to two questions about Swiss army knifes: 
 
a) Was it a simple mistake by one set of TSA-eyes that couldn’t make out the shape? Or did that TSA agent feel sorry for taking away yet another Swiss army knife? Is this common? The TSA agent on my return trip was surprised when I told him that it was in my bag all along. 
 
b) What can a single Swiss army knife actually do on today’s planes with fortified cockpit doors and federal agents on the planes? Or is the problem that we lack the intelligence about who else would have a Swiss army knife on the plane – or in short, it’s not the one knife that bothers us but potentially if there were dozens? What should the TSA actually do?
 
Thanks for bringing your experience to the public’s attention.

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