Friday, March 6, 2009

Flashback Friday: Security breach

A similar event in Sarah's history reminded me of this memory to share.

My mother, my sister and myself have traveled together a number of times on business-related excursions. The most frequent destination has been scenic Waco, TX for training at Curves International HQ. But we've also enjoyed the finer life in such hot spots as Las Vegas, NV and Olympia, WA.

While these have all technically been business trips, the primary purpose involving training, education, or a convention of some kind, the sensation of a girls' weekend away can't be escaped, and we always try to make the most of our time together. Sometimes that means splurging on pedicures, other times just watching a chick flick on pay-per-view in bed. But there is always a great deal of girly giggling and sisterly bonding reminiscent of our relatively carefree childhood.

If you know my mother, then you know she typifies the adage, "be prepared." Some of our Curves team members affectionately refer to Barbara as their "den mother" in light of her uncanny ability, among other talents, to produce exactly the odd object needed when it becomes unexpectedly necessary.

This skill is only heightened while traveling since delays and unfamiliar surroundings are just part of the gig. Any travelling companion of my mother's is guaranteed a sweatshirt if the plane is too cold, an extra bag if the load is too awkward, a band-aid if the shoes were too tight, a snack if the delay is too long, and a stick of gum if the snack was too offensive.

It was near the conclusion of a girly getaway/business trip that my sister and I learned how being too prepared can get you in trouble. And also that ignorance is not bliss--it only makes you appear to be an idiot in front of a lot of people.

We packed our suitcases and carry-ons for the trip home and headed to the airport. I love airports when filled with the excitement of an impending adventure to somewhere far away. But when facilitating the return home, airports serve as a depressing reminder that the trip is already over. My mom had surely completed advance check-in online, but nevertheless we endured the usual hustle and bustle of checking baggage, hauling the suitcases to the CTX, dumping liquids in the trash, and standing shoeless in the security line.

My mom escaped through the gateway first, with Diana and me trailing shortly behind. She was in need of the facilities, so quickly laced up her tennies and ran off to find the nearest Ladies' Room. My sister and I waited for all of our carry-ons to emerge from the X-ray tunnel to be re-situated for the trek to our departure gate. (Have you ever noticed that Southwest inhabits the furthest gates possible from the main terminal in every airport? I guess that's what we get for selecting the best-priced and most friendly airline. Southwest should add that to their "no hidden fees" campaign: "Pre- and Post-flight exercise program included at no extra charge!")

Diana's big bag tumbles down the conveyor belt, followed by my backpack and then the gray plastic tub containing my flip-flops and cell phone. We were still waiting for my mom's bag to appear when a large and important-looking security guard asked us to follow him. After exchanging an anxious glance, Diana and I trailed the guard to where another huksy man in uniform was hovering over my mother's black canvas tote bag, still full of its contents. One of the men motioned to the satchel belonging to my sweet, innocent mother, and very seriously inquired if there was a knife inside it.

Without hesitation, Diana affirmed that there was not. I think she even laughed. We didn't know what my mom might have inadvertently put into her carry-on that could have looked like a knife in the X-ray, but we were sure it was a mistake. Until we were asked directly by the second man.

"Are you sure?"

And suddenly we weren't. But we continued to protest the possibility. Our mother is an experienced traveler, and there was just no way she would bring a knife in her carry-on. If he could indeed produce a weapon from within this very bag, then surely it was slipped there by a mischievous degenerate, unbeknownst to Mom.

By this time, we weren't altogether astounded when the guard withdrew from Mom's bag the knife he seemed calmly certain was there. What did come as a shock, however, was our immediate recognition of exhibit A: serrated steak knife, worn wooden handle with brass rivets, blade dull from decades of use atop our family's kitchen counters. No reaction would be more appropriate at this moment than nervous laughter. Which is what our audience of rubberneckers witnessed.

Exhibit A

The security guards had unceremoniously confiscated the weapon and returned the bag in which it was concealed before Mom innocently power-walked (that's how she always walks) up to where we were waiting to collect her for the journey down to gate C-427 or whatever. We reported with great animation how her inexplicable inclusion of a steak knife in her carry-on forced us to play the part of knife-wielding maniac's unsuspecting daughters amidst the wary eyes of onlooking travelers.

With a horrified and apologetic look on her face, my mother sheepishly dug through her backpack, retrieving the simple explanation. An apple. Lovely to snack on while waiting for the plane. And what sort of barbarian eats her apple directly off the core? She brought the knife in order to facilitate quartering the apple for civilized sharing amongst ourselves. Of course.

There are some grey-area items I think are easily overlooked while packing, or don't immediately register with us as post-9/11 airport security threats. A nail file. A tube of toothpaste. A fork. But a steak knife doesn't really leave a lot of room for "maybe" when it comes to carry-on allowances, no matter how dull the blade or benevolent the intentions.


Sarah Rose Evans said...


Bridget said...

Likely story...

Yeah, there's no "maybe" about that one.

Annie said...

I will never, ever look at your mother the same again!

Love it!

jaeyde said...

we've lost scissors (sewing snips are ok. a forgotten pair of 7 inch shears not so much), nail clippers (from when that was a nono... seriously? NAIL CLIPPERS?!?), a leatherman multitool (who knows. my parents are engineers. *shrug*) and countless other items in similar ways.


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