The fun of flying

I have previously written about what a pain in the butt it is to travel by air. Flying back from Hong Kong, the poor woman I observed going through customs in Chicago only to be pulled out of the line because the TSA beagle sniffed out a banana in her purse is a good example. After a snarky lecture about bringing fruit into the US of A (incidentally United Airlines offered everyone a banana on the flight to the States), and the seizure of the offending banana, the beagle and her handler, resplendent in her military outfit, strolled away with her sidearm at her hip stoney-faced but triumphant.

Guess what, that sort of nonsense is not limited to Amerika. Our son, Keller, recently visited his sister in New Mexico. She bought Keller’s little boy, Fletcher, a cowboy outfit with a toy gun and a holster. Keller dutifully packed the outfit in his checked bag, and flew off to Australia. Arriving in Sydney yesterday on his Australian passport, he was pulled out of line and questioned extensively as to why he had gun in his baggage. When he calmly explained that it was a toy as clearly shown on the x-ray machine by the orange stopper in the barrel, he offered to open his bag and show the screener.  Oh, no. This called for questioning and a search by the Australian Federal Police.

toy gunAfter the search was over, and the offending toy seized, Keller was informed never to do that again. While he was not fined or arrested, and was treated pleasantly, he was firmly informed that a record of his offense (having a toy gun in his baggage) would be made. If he ever did that again the Aussies would come down hard. When pressed to explain where it says that you can’t bring your Australian kid a toy pistol from the US, no explanation was forthcoming. Just don’t do that again, he was told.

So, Keller is apparently on a “no fly” list, sorta. He can keep himself off the list so long as he does not shop at Toys R Us. At least he was not accosted by a Beagle with an attitude.




16 responses

  1. If only there was a branch of government with the authority to stop the stupid that irrationally impaired the rights of citizens to go about their lives unmolested.

  2. We really need to just fire every one of these damned goons and start over from scratch. This security theater bullshit is NOT making us safer. As cliche as it may sound, the terrorist already won the second why decided to go down this route.

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
    – Benjamin Franklin

    If I sound a little angry, it’s because I am. How dare these assholes claim to be doing all this stuff in our name? It’s a blatant theft of power, nothing else.

  3. It’s the arbitrariness that leaves a bitter feeling about Homeland Security. A couple of years back we got caught in a traffic jam and barely made it to Orlando airport after a week at the theme parks. My husband, son and I were rushed to the head of the line at security, took the shoes off, put the luggage through the machine, and stood for the revealing photos. Then we ran to the gate. The plane was being held for us and all the other passengers had boarded, but there was a very officious-looking TSA agent waiting for us. He asked my 11-year-old son to step aside, and proceeded to pat him down, carefully examine every item in his backpack, and do a hand-swab for explosives. My husband and I were told to keep behind the rope while all this took place, and when I asked what was going on he simply said, “Random search, m’am.”

    An Israeli friend told me that in Israel, airport security searches for people. In America they search for objects.

  4. I remember sitting in a Security room at the Frankfurt (GER) airport with a huge duffle bag full of baggied samples from an archaeological site in Turkey. I could see the wheels turning in their heads, debating whether there was something else in the bag besides rocks. After about 15 minutes they let me catch the flight to Detroit. I had a similar experience at the Blackpool border crossing into Canada when I brought a big box of rocks (flint, this time) out to Edmonton.

  5. I can’t imagine what Homeland Security would have thought about that bag of rocks. Each one would, of course, have to be sent out to a lab for forensic examination. Germans and Canadians seem to have a bit of common sense.

  6. Sean —

    The Australians probably aren’t claiming to be doing anything in our name — and we probably cannot fire any of them.

  7. As of 1st July 2011, under new Victorian legislation, some imitation firearms (both longarms and handguns) will be classified as ‘prohibited weapons’ and regulated by the Control of Weapons Act 1990. This means that Victorian customers who wish to purchase affected* toy guns for sale from this website must obtain the relevant Chief Commissioner’s Prohibited Weapons Approval (issued by the Victorian Police) prior to the purchase of this product. *affected toy guns are clearly marked
    Same planet, different world.

  8. Judge:
    Americans will someday regret (if they don’t already) allowing terrorism to fundamentally change what was once the freest nation on Earth. I weep for my country.

  9. RNJ,

    I will tell Keller to stay out of Victoria. Living in Aubury, he’s right on the border between NSW and Victoria. By the way, here’s how toys are dealt with in Victoria:

    As a general rule, toy firearms are considered items that resemble firearms, but cannot reasonably be mistaken as working firearms by the general public, and do not have the functionality of working firearms. As such, toy firearms can be lawfully possessed by anyone within the State of Victoria.

    The defining characteristics of toy firearms are:
    1. They are solely manufactured and used for the purpose of a plaything or for
    providing amusement; and
    2. Their method of operation (if applicable) falls outside the definition of a
    firearm in the Firearms Act 1996; and
    3. They have a resemblance to a firearm, however their appearance cannot
    reasonably be mistaken for a working firearm by a reasonable person. Some
    characteristics that influence this determination may include:
    • The shape and size is of a kind not associated with a working firearm; and   
    • The overall colouring is not normally associated with a working firearm;
    •  The materials used in their manufacture create the immediate
    impression that the device cannot be functional.  

    Victoria Police, LICENSING & REGULATION DIVISION, QUICK GUIDE,IMITATION FIREARMS:Distinguishing Imitation Firearms from Toys
    & Other Firearm Themed Paraphernalia.

    I found this caution particularly interesting: “Victoria Police strongly recommends that independent legal / expert advice specific to your circumstance be obtained in relation to decisions, whether of a commercial or personal nature.”

    Keller is such an idiot. He failed to hire a lawyer before buying the toy gun.

    All the best.


  10. The-times-they-have-a-changed.

    The airlines don’t give out Pilot’s Captain Wings pins anymore to the children and rarely do you see commercial aircraft models for sale in the airport gift shops. But you can get a LEGO AIRPORT SECURITY CHECKPOINT Body Scanner Luggage Baggage X-Ray (available on EBay for $19.99

    I don’t know, but my guess would be that If Auntie would have sent her brother back home to Australia with a toy ICS-193 MGL Generation 2 Multiple Gas GRENADE LAUNCHER Black Short Barrel 6 shot (available on EBay for $157.99 so he could play tag with his buddies in the back yard while emulating Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Units, ironically known as Tactical Assault Groups or TAG, I am guessing her brother might not have even made it on the plane in New Mexico.

    What-are-you-gonna-do? Walter Cronkite is dead our nation and the world has “matured”, or something like that. Who knows…if that is a good thing or a bad thing? Seems to me the world today could learn a lot from the fantasies of my generations youth. We never even saw it coming until it was too late. One of these days that might change.

    When I was young you had to alternate between playing the good guy and the bad guy several times between noon and suppertime. I can still remember my friends and I “terrorizing” the alleyways, backyards, and parks of the neighborhood I grew up in all the while putting new twists on who were and who was going to play the role of the good guys and the bad guys. We roll-played hundreds of scenarios fortified with “real cap guns” (definitely illegal contraband these days) while playing cops and robbers. Real dirt clods and broom stick machine guns were added when we were playing war.

    Somehow without even noticing it, or getting arrested, just about the time we were allowed to ride our bicycles unsupervised more than a few miles from home, we traded the toy guns and dirt clods in for slingshots and fishing poles as we shed make believe and started to walk through puberty. Then just about the time we were going out on our first dates we traded the sling shots in for shotguns and rifles while riding our bicycles before and after school to part time jobs. Funny thing is we never bragged about our shotguns and rifles they were just tools for killing birds and deer. We did brag and strut when we saved enough to by buy our first used car though. Unfortunately, that was just about the time we realized we weren’t kids anymore.

    Those days are long gone and my guess would be that most parents under forty today would consider giving such unsupervised latitude to their children dangerous if not illegal. Hard to argue with there perspective, change it, or condone it. Troubling and twisted it is.

    Keep on blawing Judge. Walter Cronkite is dead. With any luck something tells me with a bit of persistence, innocent childhoods may one day come back again through scattered voices dancing across the telegraph wires of our time.

    Please forgive my trip down memory lane.

    P.S. Send your grandson a copy of Lonesome Dove to go with Aunties revolver and badge before he mistakes the revolver for a grenade launcher and the badge for a flag exposed or covered up under a velcro cloth tab depending on the “mission”.

    Long live the jackaroos as your grandchildren find the layers, characters, and voice of the Larry McMurty’s of their generation while looking back and into the future.

  11. John,

    I loved the interview. The fact that Christopher Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011) is gone, however, makes me sad.

    Anyway, when Larry M. calls cowboys fascists, I almost split a gut laughing. Can there be “good fascists?” Sorta like asking whether there were “good Germans.” I can just imagine a group of cowboys debating Hegel after a day of burning brands into the hides of the very dumb beasts we call cattle (or Americans).

    You made my day!

    All the best.


  12. Jill,

    I am glad you weren’t in Chicago. The rocks would have hurt the poor Beagle’s teeth. You would have been in real hot water then!

    All the best.


  13. mswales,

    I heartily agree with you about the seemingly arbitrary approach taken by TSA. I have registered with TSA so that I don’t have to take my shoes off. After flying from Lincoln where I was told I could pass with my shoes on, I arrived in Denver and was told that I had to take my shoes off because my ticket didn’t have some magic marker. I told the guy to check his computer, and he told me in no uncertain terms to take my shoes off or else. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but with chemo therapy and a history of rather severe blood clots in the leg, putting my shoes on and removing them is a bigger deal than you might expect.

    At least I wasn’t carrying a toy gun in my bag. Since I am bald, and when angry do a passable imitation of someone with a really bad case of Tourette syndrome, the nasty, swearing variation, I probably would have ended up in the slammer after being savagely bitten by one of TSA’s beagles.

    All the best.


  14. Pingback: The “down under” Cowboy « Hercules and the umpire.

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