Saturday, April 16, 2005

It's all a conspiracy

we all have our opinions (those of us who've experienced it) about US airport security in the post September 11th world. In general I don't mind the extra rigamarole - as said more than once if it gets me to my destination alive I'll go with the flow. Which comment of course assumes that everyone on the plane including the flight crew are subject to the same checks. Seems fair to me. With the exception of late flights the extra security isn't that much of a problem. So it takes 10 minutes to get through security instead of 5? Big deal (unless your arriving flight was late as aforesaid). Secondary inspection takes 15 minutes? Ok, plan for half an hour, that'll give plenty of time to go through the formalities.

So on April 14th 2005 (yesterday) I had to pass through airport security at Detroit. The date is significant; it's the day upon which the TSA decided that cigarette lighters are no longer allowed. Neither on carry on luggage nor checked luggage.

Say what? I don't recall a rash of airplane crashes traceable to cigarette lighters in checked baggage! I do recall one incident where someone tried to set off some bombs in his shoes on December 18th 2001. That incident led to a couple of million people taking their shoes off and revealing the sins of their socks as they passed through security. It even led to my being deprived of my second lighter at Manila and Sydney airports. But a cigarette lighter in one's checked baggage?

So up I front to Detroit airport security after my experience with CBP. They're asking the question direct; do I have a cigarette lighter? If there are two things I've learned in this life they are these; never lie to an immigration officer and never lie to a TSA officer. So I surrender my cigarette lighter. Boy do I feel safe now that I know there's one less lighter on the plane! Naturally, after missing my original flight to Phoenix because of CBP I'm sent off to secondary inspection.

When I got to Phoenix I had ciggies and the desire to smoke; no lighter. Outside the terminal I found a TSA person smoking. So I asked for a light, which she graciously gave me. I couldn't resist. I'm already past all the barriers so what could she do? Some comments on how this is going to raise the sale of cigarette lighters in US airports. 'Oh no' she said. 'They're not allowed to sell cigarette lighters in airports. You'll have to wait until you get to your hotel'. Well I have an Australian accent so I'll forgive the assumption.

So this is really a conspiracy by the AMA isn't it? Having failed to convince Americans that they shouldn't smoke by 'legitimate' means they're attacking em by the impossibiltity of actually lighting a fag? I can't think of any other reason for banning the travel of cigarette lighters even in checked baggage; especially considering that there is no other country in the world I'm aware of with a similar ban.

No, I don't really think it's the AMA. I just think it's beauracratric stupidity; a decision by someone who's not a smoker and has no idea of the angst she's causing. But isn't this how conspiracy theories start?

For the record; there was a lighter in my carry on luggage that I'd forgotten. Obviously the flight from Detroit to Phoenix didn't crash and burn because of it. As the millions of flights from Anywhere to Phoenix before April 14th 2005 hadn't crashed.

So now the question is; do I hide a lighter at the bottom of my bag? It passed through secondary inspection at Detroit undetected. Indeed, of all the secondary inspections I've passed through (they've been legion in the past 4 months) not one would have detected my second lighter.

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