Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dangerous Weapon?

One of my coming-of-age milestones was carrying a pocket knife. Completing Cub Scout training at about ten, my mother allowed me to have one. For the last forty-seven years, the world judged me competent to carry it, but for about the last five it’s been getting me into trouble. It’s a little black one with a two-inch blade I got at WALMART for eight bucks. I can open the blade with one hand - which is handy since I often need it while holding onto something else with my other hand. It’s one of the six things I always have wherever I go, the others being my glasses, my watch, my planner/wallet, my pen, and my flash drive. All are essential: I can’t read without my glasses. I can’t be on time without my watch. I can’t remember much unless I write it down with my pen in my planner/wallet - without which I can’t buy anything either. I can’t transfer files between computers or back them up without my flash drive. Without my knife, I can’t peel the orange I eat every day, open envelopes, boxes, newspaper bundles, clean my fingernails, or countless other things I use it for.

All last week, however, I reached into my pocket and it wasn’t there. Finally, it was delivered back to me by Federal Express. I had to give up my little knife when I rushed through the Portland Jetport trying to catch an early flight and avoid a storm delay. I’d forgotten to put in into my luggage before checking it at the ticket counter and didn’t realize it was still in my pocket until I’d taken my shoes off and was about to go through the metal detector. The guard pointed to a little kiosk nearby where he said I could ship it to myself for five bucks if I stepped out of line. Though I had very little time before I had to board the plane, I did it. I addressed an envelope and paid the $5, then waited at the end of the line again. I still set off the alarm on the metal detector though, because I’d also forgotten to take out my pen or take off my watch. Again, I had to step aside and wait to be frisked before going to the boarding area. They let me keep my glasses and my watch.

I keep a Swiss Army knife with my traveling toiletries because it has scissors and a corkscrew. At the hotel I took it out and put it in my pocket. It’s bulky and I need two hands to open the blade, but it was better than nothing. It was okay for a few hours until I had to go through another security checkpoint to attend Vice President Cheney’s speech in the hotel’s ballroom. I had to turn on my laptop so the guards could ascertain that it really was a laptop and not a bomb, and I had to do the same thing with my digital camera. Because I was carrying that Swiss Army knife though, I had to step out of the line in which I had waited for half an hour. The guard wouldn’t keep it for me to pick up after the speech so I had to bring it up to my room, then go back down and wait in line again. Traveling between Israel and West Bank last year I could keep my pocket knife, but not while traveling between Portland and Washington DC. Israelis and Palestinians trusted me with it but my own countrymen are afraid I’m going to kill someone.

Sometimes I carry a handgun because I’m caretaker for properties with alarm systems and occasionally I have to answer one in the middle of the night. It would be foolish to do so unarmed. As a teacher, however, I work in a “gun-free zone” where there are penalties for carrying a weapon. We’ve seen how well they work lately at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. Although I consider gun-free zones a violation of my Second Amendment rights, I comply, but I refuse to give up my pocket knife. Five years ago, I got a visit from an administrator because a student had seen me peel my orange with my little black knife and she was scared. Imagine that. What are we doing to kids these days to make them scared of a two-inch pocket knife? “You’re not supposed to have those you know,” said the administrator.

I was flabbergasted. “When custodians give up utility knives and cooks give up kitchen knives, I’ll think about it,” I said. “The school is not dangerous because I have this in my pocket. If it bothers you, don’t call it a pocket knife. Call it an orange-peeler. Call it a letter opener. I’m not giving it up.”

Correction: Last week I wrote that Congressman Ron Paul withdrew from the race in his speech at CPAC. I wasn’t actually in the room for it, but watched a small portion on a monitor outside with others who reported that he was dropping out. I didn’t double-check and I should have. His campaign is anemic and hard to notice, but continuing - rather like when "Silent Cal" Coolidge died. One reporter asked: "How can you tell?"


Stopp Planned Parenthood of Connecticut said...

What happened to annonymous, super blogger person? He sounds like a liberal to me.
Anyway as far as GO'Bama goes, where is this faulty 'hope' he's talking about coming from? Hope in what? He certainly doesn't mean hope for the mother and the the unborn as an alternative to walking into Planned Parenthood for a quick fix. After all isn't GO'Bama the poster boy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America with his 100% rating from them, the nations largest provider of abortion? GO'Bama even says "how high" when PPFA asks him to jump and vote 'present' instead on most pro-abort bills in the Senate rather than face ridicule and loss of votes for possibly being to radical when it comes to killing 25% of his own race off at the slaughter house. That fact doesn't seem to bother him when Planned Parenthood kills more Black babies nationally in three days than the Klu Klux Klan ever did. Martin Luther King is probably rolling over in his grave.
I even heard that GO'Bama's young female fans in the audience faint and pass out when he's speaking he has so much corisma going on and is now being compared to Jack Kennedy although Kennedy went down as a little bit more conservative politics wice.
I voted for Keyes in the Connecticut primary for having the guts to run against GO'Bama for Senate. McCain doesn't know enough to vote against embryonic stem cell reseach.
Faith is believing in something you cant see and a persons a person no matter how small.
May the best prolifer win.

Anonymous said...

Well, when you consider that a few men murdered over 3000 people with a box cutter,I guess a pen knife could be doubly lethal.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Mary Anne: What does this have to do with my pocket knife?

Lance: Because some Islamofascists used box cutters to hijack a few airliners and perpetrate that mass murder, I fail to see how that should translate into banning pocket knives from airplanes, speeches and schools. Because someone uses matches to commit arson, should matches be banned?

We cannnot prevent tragedies by banning things. It's people who do bad things using whatever is at hand. By disarming law-abiding people, we only make our environment more dangerous, not less so.

Anonymous said...

I understand how you like to keep your knife on you at all times, but do you really need it on a plane? I don't think so. I don't mind airport security checking those items. In your hands, it's probably perfectly safe, but maybe not in someone else's hands.

As Lance pointed out, a few box cutters changed history. Unfortunately, we live in a very fearful country and this are our sacrifices. I don't have to tell you that Pres. Bush is the one that has propagated that fear. Banning small knives and such is one of the few things I agree with our president on. Still, if someone wants to commit mass murder, they'll find a way, with or without a small knife. But by banning these items, it might stop a few terrorists from attempting another 9/11-style attack. And that's fine with me.

A year after 9/11, I flew to Colorado - out of Logan in Boston - for a backpacking trip. When I got to Estes Park, I realized my swiss army knife had made it through security in my carry-on bag. I didn't even know it was there; I thought I had packed it away in my other luggage. My friends and I had a little laugh about the lack of airport security at Logan (which I think has always been a joke), but I was still disturbed that my backpack made it through the scanner without some bells and whistles going off. I hope if I made that mistake today, things would be different. What if I wasn't a clueless tourist and had been someone more sinister? The more I thought about it, the more it disturbed me - to the point where my traveling companions told me shut up about it! On the flight back through Denver, I made sure I packed the knife away, not wanting to tempt Denver security.

I know it's kind of a long story, but I hope security has improved since 2002. And with your story from Portland, maybe things are getting a little better. At least you were able to get it back.

Tim - Waterbury, VT

Anonymous said...

Good thinking, Tom --- if someone wants to bring a knife on a plane, we can just ask him if he's a law-abiding citizen or a nefarious hijacker. Seriously, can't you put up with a minor inconvenience and try not to be a crybaby about it?