September 22, 2009
Chad Love: Horseshoe Crabs and the TSA
By Chad Love
This past weekend found me strolling along a beach on the beautiful (seriously, it really is) south New Jersey coast. And since my sons enjoy me bringing them mementos from my trips, I collected a menagerie of interesting items that had washed up on the beach, including this small horseshoe crab.
The crab, however, was a problem. A dried-out horseshoe crab is a delicate thing and there's no way it would survive the flight in my checked baggage. My only option was to carry it on and hope I wouldn't end up in a TSA interrogation room at the Philadelphia airport.
So when it was time to go through the TSA checkpoint yesterday morning I placed the crab in a clear plastic bag along with whatever other gels I had, dropped it in the container, crossed my fingers, walked through the metal detector and waited for it to come out the other side of the x-ray machine.
I stood there, smile frozen on my face, nervous sweat beading my forehead, watching the TSA screener. Suddenly her bored "I've seen it all" look disappeared. She hit a button. The conveyor stopped, then backed up, then stopped. She squinted at the screen, then looked at me. I kept smiling. She didn't. I expected blaring klaxons and Tasers. But without a word she turned away, the conveyor started up and out came my crab.
I was now loose in the Philly airport with an unregulated horseshoe crab.
Who knows what kind of havoc I could have wreaked with that crab, if I were so inclined. Look at the tail on that thing. It's like a dagger. And as such, I believe horseshoe crabs represent a major security flaw in the TSA screening process and should immediately be banned. Could you imagine a terrorist holding a horseshoe crab to the neck of a hostage as he attempts to take over a plane?
I certainly could. That is, if I were stoned out of my gourd.
Of course it's ludicrous. But you know what? It's no more ludicrous than the very real ban on carrying on fishing tackle. I have made numerous phone calls to the TSA and very patiently tried to explain that half-ounce spinnerbaits do not pose a national security risk, nor so crappie jigs, worm hooks or shad raps. But I still can't carry any of those items on a plane. Because they're metal and they're pointy.
That point, so to speak, was driven home as my crab was emerging from the x-ray machine yesterday. The guy in front of me was in the process of having what looked to be a keychain nail file confiscated by a TSA employee. All in the name of safety. I grabbed my six-inch dagger-tipped horseshoe crab and walked by him, unnoticed and undetected, a ticking crustacean time bomb.
So if you're standing in the airport screening line some day and notice a shifty-looking dude holding a horseshoe crab, don't say I didn't warn you...