A semi-frequent flier, I have not adapted well to the annoyance factor of the Transportation Security Administration's heavy-handed and bureaucratic rules and regulations as to what a passenger is allowed to carry or wear aboard an aircraft. That I am not alone in resentment of these often nit-picking inconveniences is a matter of record.
The serial silliness of banning such innocuous items such as fingernail clippers, small scissors in sewing kits and pen knives was bad enough. However, I experienced the granddaddy of all absurdities a few years ago when an over-officious TSA official relieved me of the P-38 I had carried on my key ring since 1957.
For those who are not familiar with the nomenclature of the P-38 (or John Wayne, as it is affectionately dubbed), it is a pocket sized can opener, designed to open military "C-Ration" cans. Approximately 1.5 inches long, the device consists of a short metal handle with a minute, hinged metal tooth that folds out to pierce the lid of a can.
For the life of me, I wonder to this day just what mischief that TSA official believed I might perform to hazard the aircraft or crew. My belt buckle was a more lethal weapon than that P-38 that had faithfully served me for nearly 40 years.
I viewed a glimmer of hope in March 2012 when TSA relaxed the rules on shoe removal, decreeing passengers 75 and older could remain shod through the check-in process. This was particularly gratifying to this geezer fellow — I wear cowboy boots and removing them required a boot jack as part of my carry on luggage.
However, the TSA's announcement that passengers will be allowed to carry small pocket knives when boarding aircraft might be the light at the end of the tunnel. One can see the logic in this decision — it frees the screeners from the tedious task of searching for minutia and enables them to concentrate inspections of more serious threats that could actually bring down the airplane.
This decision has earned a large measure of criticism from the U.S. Marshals Service, at least two airlines (DeltaAir Lines and US Airways) and the "nanny" Congress, which has introduced legislation to reverse the decision. Hopefully reason and logic will prevail over hysteria and histrionics.
Coming from a generation that views males without pocket knives as undressed or unprepared for small repairs, I find the critics to be laughable. There is any number of hazardous substances that could severely damage an aircraft or cause it to crash — the pocket knife hardly fits that category. As for the air marshals' fears — let's face it, an armed marshal who cannot handle a passenger with a pocketknife is of little use.
Perhaps this small ray of common sense will spread to include ending the absurd "criminalizing" of school children who incur innocently and unintentionally the full wrath and punishment of an unyielding/easily daunted school district. There are far too many instances of children, third grade and below, who have been expelled or suspended for absurdly silly gun or knife infractions.
A recent example involved 7-year-old Josh Welsh, a student at Park Elementary in Baltimore. Josh, while eating breakfast there, chewed a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun. For this heinous act, he was suspended for 2 days which was not only ridiculous but also possibly damaging to his self-esteem and attitude.
There was an incident in Newark, Del., where 6-year-old Zachary Christie proudly took his Cub Scout combo knife, fork and spoon to school to try out at lunch. For this offense, he was suspended and faced up to 45 days in reform school. Cooler heads prevailed to prevent his "incarceration," but why should that have been a consideration?
There was also a Delaware case of a young third-grader who brought a birthday cake to school to share with classmates along with a cake knife her grandmother had provided. The teacher cut and served the cake and then reported the young lady for bringing a knife to school — she was suspended.
The school districts that hand out these draconian punishments to children claim their hands are tied — a so called "Zero Defects" rule applies that must be obeyed. I maintain this is hogwash — a superintendent or principal who cannot use judgment and common sense in applying the rules is as useless as that armed marshal who is no match for the knife wielder.
Our children are precious and will inherit the future all too soon. Let them be kids while they can — punishing them for being and behaving as children is foolish. Superintendents and principals, you have an awesome responsibility, that responsibility requires leadership — if you punish by the "book," a computer can do your job.