Armed and dangerous

FLINT – While flying along at 37,000 feet last week I had an awful realization: I was armed.

Attached to my key ring – along with my car keys, house keys, keys that I no longer recognize and a dozen tattered plastic bar code cards for the grocery store, the gym, my insurance company and so on – was a Swiss Army pen knife with a 1-? inch blade.

I had forgotten to remove it before heading to the airport. Security had somehow missed it, and now here I was, a potential terrorist capable – at least in the eyes of the Transportation Security Administration – of pulling off 9/11, Part II: The Revenge of Osama’s Ghost.

For a moment, I considered alerting a stewardess. But I imagined how well that would go over: “Excuse me, miss. I have a teeny-weeny knife here and was wondering if you could … zzaatt!”

That would be the sound of me getting Tasered. I don’t know if they use those on airplanes, but I didn’t want to find out. So I kept quiet and occupied myself by thinking about ways to talk my way out of a full cavity search, should it come to that.

Is it any wonder I hate to fly? Is it any wonder we all hate to fly? The airline industry and the government have combined to make what used to be an exciting, often pleasant experience into an exhausting, expensive and tension-filled slog.

Security, of course, is the worst part. Aren’t you tired of worrying about whether you’re carrying too much shampoo or whether the fillings in your teeth are going to set off the scanner?

Aren’t you sick to death of shuffling shoeless and beltless through the line while the TSA stares at you like you’re a newly-minted summa cum laude graduate of Taliban University? How about seeing grannies getting pat-downs and little kids go through the full-body scanner?

Yes, security is obviously important. It’s a dangerous world. But common sense should prevail at some point. One guy trying to blow up his shoes shouldn’t mean an everlasting pain in the tush for the rest of us.

And speaking of tushes, you’ll notice they didn’t start making us put our underpants through the scanner after the underwear bomber. So why the shoes? It’s been more than a decade since 9/11. Aren’t we to the point yet where we can say enough is enough when it comes to the more overwrought aspects of flight security?

As it turns out, the answer might be yes. The TSA announced that within a few months it will start allowing passengers to carry all sorts of things that were previously banned, including mini-baseball bats, hockey sticks, ski poles and teeny little pocket knives like mine.

Some people hate the idea. But I think it makes sense.

As others have pointed out, airports and cockpits are more secure these days and passengers aren’t likely to sit idly by and do nothing if a hijacker tries something. They’re going to fight back, and when they do I hope some of them are armed with ski poles and hockey sticks.

Besides that, my hope is that where a little bit of sanity goes, more will follow. First, they ease the restrictions for carry-ons. Next, they let us keep our belts on through security. After that, maybe we’ll get to wear our shoes.

And if that happens, we might just get back the best thing of all.

Our dignity.

EDITOR’S NOTE – Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Write to Andrew Heller at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.