Our travels take us to Nice, France once more. We are meeting my sister and brother-in-law, Margaret and Burt, who are joining us for a couple of weeks. Those of you who have visited us when we are sailing, know that payment is frequently exacted in our many requests to bring things we need from the States. Requests may be as innocuous as crackers (very difficult to find in France), or desperately needed such as a new keel winch. Oftentimes, we simply order what we need and send it to the home of the next person who is visiting us.
We let Margaret and Burt know they would be receiving several packages. We asked that they remove the packaging and bring the items along in their checked luggage. Apparently, according to Margaret, those instructions admittedly were received, but promptly forgotten. Being the sweetest and most considerate sister anyone could hope for, she put them in her carry-on to make sure they were not damaged or lost. She also, thoughtfully, did not open any of the packages, as she explained, they were not hers. When their carry-on luggage was screened, a bag was pulled aside and an item was pulled out.
The TSA agent asked “Do you know what is in this package?”.
Margaret stammered in response “No, they just kept mailing us stuff and told us to take it on the plane.”
I would not kid you – this is a direct quote from Margaret. The TSA agent opened the package and presented them with the two sailing knives George had mailed to them.
Now, it wouldn’t be fair to poke fun only at Margaret and Burt. First of all, we do appreciate their carting things over for us. It was also very fortunate that they were so obviously no threat to anyone, the TSA agent allowed Burt to have their checked luggage retrieved so he could add the knives to it (although he was escorted). But the real reason it would not be fair, is that George has had prior experience talking himself out of incarceration by TSA because of knives in his carry-on.
Some years back, George was flying to Florida to help his Mom and Dad after Hurricane Charlie. He had a particular razor knife that fit his hand just so, and he wanted to bring it. He travels light and was not checking any bags so he dissembled it and brought it in a clear zip-lock bag with no razors. When he reached security to have his luggage scanned, he immediately brought it to their attention to make sure they were OK with it. They were absolutely not OK with it and he had to throw away his favorite razor knife.His luggage was scanned and pulled aside. They had seen something that looked like a knife in his bag. When they opened it, sure enough, he had a pocket knife. This knife is one he always carries on his belt. When he packed his belt, he did not give it a second thought. It is worth mentioning that he packed his belt inside his work boots inside the bag. OK, his pocket knife was now added to the garbage can. When his Tilly hat went through, there was another issue. On inspection of his hat, they found a small knife in a pocket on the inside of the hat.
George said sheepishly “I am not going to make my plane, am I?”
The TSA agent said seriously “No, I don’t think you are.”
However, believe it or not, a TSA supervisor appeared shortly after this exchange and asked George if he was a contractor. George replied that he was and the supervisor replied that he had been one previously, as well. He then let him go to catch his plane (without his little pocket knife).
When such good fortune befalls you, I know it is in particularly bad taste to criticize the benefactor. However, it does make you wonder about “reverse profiling” – a term my daughter used the time she was pulled aside by TSA.She frequently returned to college after visiting home with as much food as she could stuff in her bags. We have watched her bring whole frozen, home grown, chickens in her carry-on without being questioned. On the occasion she was pulled aside, she was carrying some very large beets. The TSA agent asked what they were and was told they were beets. They were VERY large. The TSA agent wiped them and tested them for explosive residue (or whatever they test for). The agent returned and told our lovely, young, Caucasian daughter and her equally handsome, mid-western husband, that the beets tested positive. He then let them take them on board anyway.
Marilla said to us later “How is that for reverse profiling?”.
On a subsequent trip, when she was carrying a set of silverware, she was not able to bring the butter knives on the plane.
Marilla said “Just in case there was any butter on the plane.”
Ha, ha, ha – we also got pulled aside by security on the return flight. They went through ALLof our carry on luggage before they gave us the OK to proceed. I was pretty nervous because I couldn't remember where I had packed a certain \”unmentionable\” (which will remain unmentioned) but, it turns out it was in the checked luggage. Traveling can be stressful!