The Terrorists Won This One

I recently donated a knife to the TSA. It was a little Spyderco that I think had been developed precisely for airline carry—small blade, no lock. Old school. I thought that law had passed. I took the knife through security at Baltimore/Washington International without a hitch. But transferring to a local carrier in Anchorage, I had to leave and reenter security, which, of course, is where they found the knife. The smaller the airport, the more vigilant they are. "ISIS ain't coming through a puddle jumper to King Salmon, by God."

The TSA lady told me it was the airlines that had blocked the law. I couldn't have the knife. It had a 2-inch blade. She said I could exit and mail it to myself for ten bucks. I was tired. The line behind me was growing. "Just keep the damn thing," I said.

It reminded me of a vet I saw earlier this year while going through security in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was in his 70s at least, a ball cap bearing the name of the ship he'd served on in Viet Nam, or possibly even Korea. Tall man, slim, silver hair, watery blue eyes, very dignified. He'd been singled out for a pat-down. He looked at the kid who was running his hands over his shoulders and legs and said, "The terrorists won this one, didn't they?" There was no meanness in his voice. He just wanted the kid to see what was really going on. The kid was clueless. The man repeated himself. "I said, the terrorists won this one, didn't they?"

The kid waved the comment away like it was a gnat, some old man's demented gibberish. This former soldier, this guy proud enough of his service to his country that he wore a hat bearing the name of the ship he'd served on, the last guy on earth to pose any danger to The Homeland. And he was being patted down like a petty thief because of some algorithm or quota. It was heartbreaking.