Ever smuggled things on to airplanes? Dangerous and illegal things? I have. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. Here are some examples:

Years ago, on purpose, some weed. A couple times. In my checked bags. Not a problem.

Another time, not on purpose, a small firework in my winter jacket, which I wore on to the plane, and didn't notice until long after I sat down. Nothing big enough to blast open the side of the fuselage, but probably not something they'd want me to have on the plane, not even to entertain the passengers on the long, cross-Canada flight. Apparently fireworks don't get noticed in the metal-detection process, though, why would they? No liquids allowed, however. You never know what that Evian bottle might be disguising. Liquid nitrogen perhaps. In any case, wouldn't taking a sip of the threatening liquid in front of the security personnel be proof enough that it's fine for the plane? But in airport security common sense rarely prevails. Which brings me to my next example.

I flew out of Prague just a few days ago and as I went through security the man on the X-ray machine asked me if I had a knife in my carry-on bag. I said, "Uh, no," honestly not having a clue what he was talking about. He said, "That, what's that?" pointing to a vague shape on the screen that he obviously had more experience identifying than I did, since I don't work an X-ray machine. Then I realized what it was. "Oh, right," I said. "That's my Swiss Army knife." I'd forgot to pack it into my checked baggage, and so I took it out to show him, assuming it would have to be thrown away. He examined it and asked where I was flying to. "Ottawa," I said. "Ottawa...America?" he asked. "No," I corrected him, "Canada." "Oh, Canada. Okay." And he handed me back my knife. Confused, I looked around, and tucked the knife back into my bag, realizing I could probably cause an international incident with it once I was up in the air. The X-ray man the said something in Czech to his security coworker, something, despite my minimal Czech language learning, that I didn't understand at all, except for one word: "Canada".

It's as if he said to his coworker, "This guy has a small knife, but he's only flying to Canada, so big deal." Of course, I don't know what he said, but he did let me keep the knife. At the moment, Canada and the Czech Republic have a tiny diplomatic beef, because Canada has reinstated Visa restrictions on Czech travelers to Canada, since in the last year there's been a significant increase in refugee claims from Czech citizens seeking asylum, mostly by the persecuted Roma gypsy population. The Czech Republic even recalled their ambassador to Canada recently.

So (and this is unlikely) perhaps the X-ray guy knew about this little diplomatic squabble and didn't care about me and my knife going to Canada (although I was actually flying to Frankfurt, Germany first). Or maybe he thought us Canadians particularly trustworthy. Or maybe he didn't like Canadians for other reasons. But it was probably none of these things. Probably just a slack security guy, lucky for me.

In Frankfurt, after checking in with Air Canada, the guy behind me in line got pulled aside for a "random" bag check. A white guy, young, with a long, light, scraggly goatee-beard. They found nothing, of course, and I felt glad, as I looked back to see the two security personnel rifling through the guy's carry-on, that they didn't "randomly" check my bag. They might not have been as slack as that Czech guy.



2009-07-23 03:45:40

Interesting. I guess Swiss Army knives must be common at airports though. When I flew to Nashville I had a Swiss Army knife attached to my keychain on the day I was to return to Vancouver, I realized "Hey, I took a few flights through America without anyone ever checking this knife." The knife had been part of my keys for such a long time that I never looked at it as a "knife" but rather as just part of my keys. And as I packed I thought "Well, there's no reason to take it off my keychain now." Oddly enough, it was only when I had gone through this thought process while packing that they did take the knife from me. Had it been any other flight I would have been surprised, but having gone through the actual surprise moments earlier that they didn't take the knife before on any of my previous trips I simply agreed that they take the knife without any reaction. It's always felt odd that it was only when I had consciously became aware of the knife that it had been taken away.



2009-07-30 14:23:38

I took a six inch hunting knife onto an airplane, on my belt, in 1993. I was thirteen and in a scouts Canada uniform. Ten years ago I had a watergun confiscated (it was bright lime-green)



2009-07-30 15:03:21

Replying to Jackson:
Irrationality prevails!

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