Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Profile of a Chinese Throwing Star Smuggler

Would you like to know what a Chinese Throwing Star is? Evidently it is one of those star-shaped sharp Kung-Fu contraptions that superior martial artists can zing through the air at lightning speeds, piercing an enemy's heart from a hundred yards. You have probably seen those used in movies. The scene is usually about the same: A dark alley in a very unsavory section of some large city, graffiti on the walls in the background, a single streetlight shining a yellow glow in the rainy darkness. There are always gang members forming an unbreakable line of defense against a rival gang, and just when it looks as if World War III is going to commence in that alley, someone dressed in black leaps from the roof of a building and throws those Chinese Throwing Stars into one and then another of the bad guys' chests. When the scene ends, we see a
business office in China where men dressed in high-priced business suits are given the news that the deed is done.

Would you like to know what a Chinese Throwing Star smuggler looks like? According to the TSA, she might look quite a bit like the woman pictured above.

My cousin and I were leaving Phoenix to make the short 45-minute flight to Burbank, California, a couple of weeks ago. We had two goals in mind after a wait in a two-hundred person line to check our luggage: Drink a beer.

Being the avid reader and rather compulsive person I am, I had packed my little one-quart zip-lock bag of carry-on toothpaste, make-up and perfume in less than four-ounce bottles for inspection by the security folks, had remembered to remove the bag from my backpack and place it in a bin by itself for x-raying and was very proud that they complimented me on getting that right, so imagine my surprise when, after heaping the praise on, they asked to see me in the secure secure area.

"Something in your backpack is upsetting the screeners," the rather large man with the weapons attached to him said.

"Well, you can go through it," I said in my most confident big girl voice.

"Stand against that wall and don't touch your bag," he said, smiling a terse smile. I could almost hear him thinking, "We've got you now."

Tracy had zipped right through security and was partway to the gate before she realized I was no longer with her. She wandered back into the security area to find me standing with my hands in my pockets, trying not to grab the backpack and empty it out and go through it myself.

"What happened, Cousin?" She smirked at me.

The TSA official said, "Do you wear jewelry? Maybe a broach?"

I said, "The ring on my finger is the only jewelry I ever wear. No, there's no broach in there.

"Well," he repeated, "Something in your backpack caught the attention of the screeners. Are you sure there's not a broach in there?"

Finally, after it was already too late to get that beer that I REALLY needed now, I remembered what was in that bag that was making the "screeners nervous." The proverbial light bulb probably popped on over my head. I giggled, the officer still did not find anything funny about the fact that he had a five-foot tall, one-hundred-twenty-nine pound grandmother of three under suspicion for trying to smuggle a weapon onto the plane.

"I know what it is. It's in that birthday card, sealed up. It's a pewter flower-shaped rear view mirror ornament. It's a gift for my friend's fiftieth birthday. Go ahead, you can open the card if you need to." I was not sure if I preferred he open the card or if I prefer he not, since the card not only contained the pewter ornament but also a picture of a nude man.

He said, "Okay, no, I don't need to open your card. I'll just take it and x-ray it."

As I was preparing the bag to go again, being released from the grips of the TSA at last, I quipped, "I'm sure glad I didn't ask if I could bring my cross-stitch onboard with my little sewing scissors." I laughed a condescending little laugh and the security officer said, "Well, that would have been okay. You can bring scissors onboard."

My cousin smirked and said, "Well, isn't that special? You couldn't take your Chinese Throwing Star on there but you could take a pair of scissors. What a joke."

Out of the side of my mouth I was whispering things like, "Shut UP, please."

Mr. Security now seemed to see the humor in this, though, as he explained to me that yes, a pair of scissors no more than four inches long from the pivot point, would have been allowed.

Does anyone else see the stupidity in this?

The mystery was solved, but the rest of the time spent at Sky Harbor Airport was a fantasy for me. I had always wanted to be the bad guy. I had always wanted to smuggle Chinese Throwing Stars into Burbank, California. I was bad. Everyone knew I was bad. Screw the airline, they could wait for us to board the plane because we were really bad characters and in the movies, they always wait for the criminals.

I corralled Tracy into the nearest bar, slapped down my money and ordered us drinks. Then I took a long swallow of my Corona to wash down my Xanax. It was proving to be a long memorable ride to The City of Angels.

No comments: