Salon's Patrick Smith, author of the excellent Ask the Pilot column relates the incredibly frustrating — and quintessential — story of the day a surly TSA screener confiscated the airline-issue, safe-certified knife from his luggage (part of his hotel stayover emergency kit):
"No, this is no good. You can't take this."
"It's serrated." He is talking about the little row of teeth along the edge. Truth be told, the knife in question, which I've had for years, is actually smaller and less sharp than the knives currently handed out by my airline to its first- and business-class customers. You'd be hard-pressed to cut a slice of toast with it.
"Oh, come on. It is not."
"What do you call these?" He runs his finger along the minuscule serrations.
"Those … but … they … it …"
"No serrated knives. You can't take this."
"But sir, how can it not be allowed when it's the same knife they give you on the plane!"
"Those are the rules."
"That's impossible. Can I please speak to a supervisor?"
"I am the supervisor."
There are those moments in life when time stands still and the air around you seems to solidify. You stand there in an amber of absurdity, waiting for the crowd to burst out laughing and the "Candid Camera" guy to appear from around the corner.
Except the supervisor is dead serious.
Realizing that I'm not getting my knife back, I try for the consolation prize, which is getting the man to admit, if nothing else, that the rule makes no sense. "Come on," I argue. "The purpose of confiscating knives is to keep people from bringing them onto planes, right? But every person on my flight was legally handed one of these knives with their meals. How can you … I mean … it just … At least admit to me that it's a dumb rule."
"It's not a dumb rule."