Saturday, January 8, 2011

The fun of flying post 9/11

Muela Commemorative Dagger

OK, there are many elements to this one.  When we were in Spain in 2004, we went to Toledo.  Well, being a historian that concentrated a lot on the Spanish Conquest of America, the phrase "Toledo Steel" was bandied about quite a bit.  A lot of the older historians used that as a big part of the explanation at to why Cortes, with 500 some "conquistadors" (in reality, most of them were out of work lawyers) managed to topple the Aztec empire.   The fact that, like half the indigenous population joined the Spaniards kind of makes it less dramatic, so that used to get left out a lot.  Anyway, I just always wanted a sword made out of Toldeo Steel.  Well, this gaudy, silver encrusted dagger was the closest thing I could find.  All the swords had "made in Pakistan" on them.  So, since that was an actual Spanish made knife, I had to have it.  The reason I bothered to mention when we were there is because the day before we were going to fly home, the United States invaded Iraq.  This made the airport a thrill a minute.  They pulled everyone going to the United States out of line and took us into a back room to make sure we weren't terrorists.  OK...reasonable, I suppose.  But, to be honest, if any racial profiling was going on, it was 180 degrees off.  Realistically, I looked like the most likely of everybody to cause trouble.  But, they went through Gail and Whitny's suitcases with the proverbial "fine-toothed comb" and confiscated all their shampoos and lotions, etc.  Gail had a bunch of matchbooks from different Paradores we had stayed at.  Of course, they were all confiscated.  I could accept all this had I not had my own experience to compare it with.  The woman who was assessing my potential connection to Bin Laden, Baader Meinhoff,  Abu Sayyaf, the Zapatistas or whatever, asked me, in Spanish, what was in this box.  Politely, in Spanish, I replied, "A knife"...she didn't bother to open it.  My carry on bag was actually an old Colt range bag that was just the perfect size for this purpose.  It was filled with matchbooks as well.  They were left untouched.  The one that really took me by surprise was that, being a range bag, that on occasion I had actually used as a range bag, I had a 9 mm cartridge stuck down in the bottom of one of the slit pockets that I had no idea was there.  Of course, being the thorough security professional she was, she found it.  I actually felt a bit of a lump in my throat as I saw her dig it out and hold it up to the light to inspect it.  She actually kind of closed one eye as if to focus in on it, like Al qaeda engraved on the side of the casing.  Then, without saying a word, she dropped it bag in the bag and I was done with my inspection.  Very little surprises me any more.

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