Nose hair in the name of homeland security
It was a disaster narrowly averted. This summer, a middle-aged man was prevented from boarding a commercial airliner armed with nose-hair clippers. That man was me.I love knives. When I first met my mate, a vegetarian liberal from an intellectual family, she had trouble reconciling the fact that she was involved with a man who carried a shiv.I was unable to explain myself then and still can’t. Suffice to say it is a force of habit left over from adolescence. Not all my knives are dangerous. I have several small souvenir knives, some from childhood, with logos of Hopalong Cassidy, Niagara Falls, the Boston Red Sox. I also love those small multitools with scissors, toothpicks, cranium drills and tweezers.There are various blades stashed in my briefcase, truck and day pack. Since 9/11, my wife insists I diligently perform a knife purge before we head to the airport. I always comply; not only to keep her happy but because I dread losing even one of my most inexpensive blades.This summer I flew alone to my niece’s wedding in Boston. Before leaving home, I performed my preflight ritual. I left my German-made Puma stiletto on my desk. I removed a small multitool from my briefcase and took the Swiss Army penknife off my key chain
Traffic at DIA was light. With only carry-on luggage, I was able to arrive at the security check-in early. To facilitate an easy passing, I wore soft running shoes, a belt with a plastic buckle and had removed the steel plate from my head. With an air of superiority, I placed my bag on the scanning apparatus while others were asked to remove their shoes, belts and IUDs. As I took my garment bag from the conveyer belt, a lady in uniform grabbed it and said, “Will you come with me please?”She placed my bag on a table between us and asked, “Do you have any weapons or metal objects in your bag?””I hope not,” I responded honestly.That evidently was the wrong answer since it brought another security person into the fray.I sincerely thought it was a mistake. Not only had I left all knives behind but I also abandoned my small world-band radio, money clip and metal “Fischer Space Pen” just to avoid an occurrence such as this.After about 10 minutes of searching, they found it. Tucked in the ripped lining of my shaving kit was an old pair of nose hair clippers, with a quarter-inch blade. I thought I had lost it years ago. I should point out that I probably had flown several times with that same kit and scissors.
Both security personnel looked at me like they found a small child hog-tied in my carry on. “You can’t fly with this,” I was told. “I won’t,” I said, and then added, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was in there.”I was then asked if I wanted to go back to ticketing to check in my nose hair scissors, go to the post office and mail them to myself or throw them away. I explained that the wedding was the next day and that if I was allowed to trim my nose hairs right then, they probably wouldn’t grow back before the reception. I was told that federal law prohibits nose hairs trimming within 100 feet of security. Hearing that, I opted for the throw-away option. The other security guy, having lost interest, walked away, leaving me with the lady who walked me to a five-gallon bucket filled with tiny knives and scissors and tossed them in.
Before leaving, I once again apologized for taking up her time, explaining that I didn’t know the nose weapon was in my shaving kit.But, unable to help myself I added, “I know that you are just doing your job, but don’t you think taking nose hair clippers from a 50-year-old Irish guy is a little like getting your parakeet neutered because your cat got pregnant?”From her look, I knew it was time to go.Granted, the world has changed since 9/11. I am willing to accept a substantial loss of convenience and civil liberties in the name of homeland security. But it seems what our government lacks in progress in increasing inter-departmental communication, tightening restrictions of cargo shipping and adopting the recommendations of the 9/11 commission it makes up with picayune scrutiny of air travelers. With the current measures in place, such as sky marshals and reinforced cockpit doors, it is unlikely that terrorists will ever be able to hijack a plane with nose hair clippers. There is the “letter” of the law and the “essence” of the reality. The letter of the law states that any cutting implement is a weapon. Reality affirms the only ones who need to fear nose hair clippers are nose hairs …Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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