Monday, August 09, 2010

Not your mother's kitchen knife

Of all the folks in my family I’m sure Michael is the last one you would suspect would have a rap sheet. (How’s that for some police terminology? Of course, I only know it thanks to my near-obsession with Law and Order when the show first aired a zillion years ago.) But after a mishap at London’s Heathrow Airport he can now say he fought the law but the law won.

Michael’s in the habit of carrying a knife wherever he goes. It’s become such a part of his everyday attire that I often forget he has it. When we flew to Nairobi he remembered to put it in his checked bag. When we flew from Nairobi to London, he remembered to put it in his checked bag. But after our overnight stay in London last weekend he forgot to put it in his checked bag and instead, put it in his pocket. And as we went through security he dutifully emptied his pockets, placing the knife alongside his phone and car keys on the tray and sent them all through the scanner.

When the screener asked him if the knife was his, he said, “Oops, yes.” He assumed she’d simply discard it and send him on his merry way. Unfortunately, though, this wasn’t a little pocket Swiss Army knife; it was a locking switchblade, which is banned in Great Britain. Its presence in the airport brought extra scrutiny Michael’s way.

A member of Britain’s equivalent of the TSA took the knife and Michael’s passport from the screener and informed us that he would escort Michael to a holding area where he and one of his parents would need to wait for the police. Sean decided I would go with Michael and he’d take the girls to get some breakfast. Good plan, since I wasn’t leaving my baby.

As Michael and I waited, our security escort spoke to us several times: “Now, don’t you worry. You’ve been agreeable and cooperative. I’m sure the police will understand.” Of course, he said this as I was writing down Michael’s contact information on official police forms, a task I did not envision myself doing when I woke up that morning. And all I could think was, “Michael’s name already shows up on the Do Not Fly list – what’s going to happen now that he has a security issue in a foreign country?!”

True to our security escort’s word, the police officers were kind and understanding despite their menacing appearance in full flak jacket complete with gun and handcuffs. They seemed pained for Michael when they told him they had to keep his knife. They shook our hands and sent us on our way, reminding Michael to leave his knives at home from now on.

No kidding. As nice as the policemen were, and they were nothing if not incredibly cordial, I do not want another episode like that. Even though it does make for a good story.