Get Rid of Your Baggage!


In the post-911 world of airport security the phrase “Get rid of your baggage!” is not an invitation to lessen your psychological load but a command to fork over some of your prized possessions.   While I’m all for trying to ensure that passengers get to their destination safely, there is no standard, worldwide code of what items will be confiscated from your carry-on luggage and sometimes the decisions made by security screeners are arbitrary and downright absurd.

On our last day in Nicaragua, a young boy and his even younger sister walked the aisle of our local bus that was waiting to attract a few more passengers before it took off; the kids were trying to sell brightly colored clay whistles and wooden slingshots.  When there were no takers they got off the bus and slowly trudged away, looking dejected.  William is a real softie so he leaped out after them and bought one of the slingshots for a buck.  (See picture above)  I’m not sure who was more delighted by the transaction, the children or my beloved.  He returned to the bus with a huge grin on his face, waving the slingshot and declaring that he had been pretty good with one as a youngster, maybe he would reclaim his ability. 

Alas, he was never given the chance.  The next morning, as we were moving through the airport security line for our flight from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, the slingshot — a harmless thing concocted from a slender forked twig, a tiny piece of leather and two rubber bands — was removed from William’s carry-on and declared a “dangerous weapon.”   Even as William argued that it was only a toy, the item was unceremoniously dumped into a plastic discard bin.  I wanted to ask the authorities how a slingshot could pose a threat without a projectile — after all, William wasn’t carrying a rock or a metal ball.  I received my answer during the flight — the stale dinner roll could easily have killed someone if William had inserted it into the leather thong, pulled the bands and let it fly.

That wasn’t the only loss that William had to incur at the hands of an overzealous airport security guard.  While we were proceeding through the security line in Costa Rica’s airport as we prepared to fly home to LA, the screener removed the two-foot long  chain that William sometimes uses to secure our luggage to hotel furniture when we’re staying in an “iffy” place and declared that it had to be jettisoned in the name of airline safety.  A dollar slingshot was one thing, but a $30 bike lock chain was quite another.  William argued passionately to be allowed to keep it but even with his formidable lawyering skills the chain was confiscated because it could theoretically be used to strangle someone.  Which sounds reasonable, except for the fact that leather belts could be used for the very same purpose and everyone is allowed to wear them on flights….             

Perhaps you’re congratulating the security screeners for their vigilance in the fight against terrorism; after all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  But don’t high-five them just yet.  Because mosquitoes were constantly sucking the blood from my beloved, he carried a huge spray can of insect repellent with him everywhere we went.  On the day of our flight he forgot to remove it from his backpack.  The can, which could have easily exploded midflight from the change in air pressure, or could have been used to spray someone in the eyes to blind them, passed through the security line undetected.  Go figure….

Peace & Blessings,