© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, airport security, homeland security, contraband humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)
“Sir, please unsnap your pants,” the security guard said. My husband, Russ, looked at me, shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Well, he’s got a gun, so I can’t refuse,” and did as ordered. I raised my eyebrows, and tried to look repentant. After all, it was my fault he was being asked to disrobe in the middle of the airport. I know it’s not supposed to be funny when a grouchy guard is frisking your husband, but it almost gave me the giggles. Almost.
It all started at home, and the manicure set was to blame. It contained a small folded knife, which, along with dangerous chemicals like toothpaste and hand cream, are considered contraband when an innocent person boards an airplane. If my husband had taken my advice and walked in wearing a towel wrapped around his head and the living room curtains draped about his person, he could have smuggled in hair gel, after shave, and a stick of dynamite. No one would have asked why there was a fuse sticking out of his waistband.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t actually give him that advice … but only because I knew he wouldn’t take it.
“Look at this! It’s a folding knife,” I’d said earlier, as I removed fingernail clippers, nose-hair tweezers and something resembling a jar of snuff from my husband’s shaving kit. “This little penknife is great! Since you can’t carry that machete of yours, you could take this on the plane.”
Russ looked at me, his green eyes full of disbelief. “First of all, my Leatherman tool does not resemble a machete. It’s just a nifty, all-in-one-gizmo that gives you a small tool for every need, and is conveniently carried on a belt.”
I shook my head in mock amazement. “Yup. Unlike this inconspicuous one-blade knife, your Leatherman has different implements to cut, saw, stab or hammer all man-made materials. In addition, it has a blade that allows you to skin any wildlife that wanders into the airport. Oh, and let’s not forget the screwdriver, toothpick, and corkscrew. Why would a man who is LDS need a corkscrew?”
“And second of all,” Russ interrupted, “I thought you were trying to keep me from getting rousted at the airport, not help me get rousted. If I carry that little knife you found, Homeland Security will land on me like a boll weevil on a cotton boll.”
He paused and looked longingly out the window. “But I do feel naked without at least a small pocket knife.”
I handed it to him. “Carry this, and when you get to the airport, take it out of your pocket and leave it in the car.”
Russ hesitated, and then shook his head. “No, that’s a bad idea. I’m sure to forget and walk through the metal detector with it on me.”
That’s when I uttered the thought that later required repentance, “No problem. I’ll remind you about it.”
Those words floated back through my mind as the security guard ran his hands around Russ’s waist. “Sir, you can refasten your pants and then please pull out your pockets,” the guard instructed. Russ meekly obliged. A piece of pocket lint and a half-wrapped butterscotch fell to the floor. I wondered what else the guard thought could possibly constitute a threat, as Russ stood there shoeless, beltless, and walletless.
The security guy picked up the butterscotch, unwrapped it, and popped it into his mouth. “Sir, are you a member of, or affiliated with, any terrorist organization?” He eyed Russ suspiciously, and scrutinized the lint as if it were the makings of a pipe bomb.
Russ shifted his weight from one stockinged foot to the other. “No. I wouldn’t know a terrorist organization if I ran over one with the car.”
The guard picked up my husband’s wallet from the bin on the conveyor belt and opened it. “Ah-ha! What have we here?” the guy said, pulling out a card that gave instructions for tying the ten knots most used in Scouting. He waved it in the air. “Were you planning on tying up the captain and crew?"
Russ’s face turned pale as a second guard approached. By now a large group of bystanders were chanting, “Free Willy, free Willy.” Apparently, they weren’t a very savvy group of protestors, since Russ’s name wasn’t “Willy.”
The new guard scrutinized the knot-tying card as if looking for a clue. Taking Russ’s wallet, he rifled through the credit card section. I had visions of smuggling Russ a metal file concealed in a homegrown zucchini so he could break out of prison.
The guard raised aloft a piece of white and gold paper from Russ’s wallet, waved it in the air … and a whiff of homemade wheat bread floated off the man. “This evidence proves he’s not a terrorist. You can all go on your way.” Then he leaned over to Russ and said in a whisper that I could hear, “Brother, we’re sorry for the inconvenience. You’re cleared to move to your boarding gate as soon as you gather your belongings.”
He handed the paper back to Russ. As we gathered up our shoes and socks, I said, “What was it that he pulled from your wallet? Your voter registration?”
Russ grinned. “The guy was LDS. And to put a new slant on the American Express commercial that you hear on TV: Your temple recommend—don’t leave home without it."
What's playing in my head: Leaving on a Jet Plane (by Peter, Paul and Mary).
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