Petzal: Which Blade Switchblade? *

I'm fond of dumb crap because there's so much of it spewing forth every day, and particularly of old dumb crap because it has a nice comfortable feel to it. This past week I encountered some authentic mid-1950s vintage ordure, courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Back in the 50s, juvenile delinquency was seen as a major threat to the republic, so Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee decided to outlaw the principal weapon of the JD, the switchblade knife. (Senator Kefauver was also hell on comic books; that gives you some idea.) Accordingly in1958, we were treated to Public Law 85-623, which made illegal both gravity knives and spring-operated knives. As with most laws of this type, it had no effect on anything and was ignored by nearly everyone.

Now, as illegal people by the thousand and contraband weed by the ton pour across our borders, CPB has decided to save us by decreeing that any knife which can be opened with one hand qualifies as a switchblade. Not to worry, says CPB, this rule will apply only to imported cutlery, conveniently ignoring the fact that all major knifemakers rely on imports from Italy, German, Japan, China, and Formosa.

The real danger in this s**t is that Customs agents, taking their cue from TSA agents, are going to decide for themselves what is and isn't illegal, and you may find that the Buck Model 110 at your belt is a switchblade because somewhere, someone has figured out how to get it open with one hand.

My advice is to either start drinking heavily, because there is no hope left, or write to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, inquiring if her agency lacks for some useful way to occupy its time. Then, go out and buy several one-hand-openers.

*In the manner of the "Where wolf?, There wolf." Scene from "Young Frankenstein."