For a couple of years I've been frequently taking a lighter through airport security. I know this is allowed, because I checked on the website before the first time. I've never once been hassled about it.
For some reason, the TSA doesn't allow torch-style lighters. If you want to bring a lighter on board, it has to be a natural flame lighter. That's fine, as I use a natural flame lighter for my pipes.
Apparently this time they were confused that my lighter might be a torch lighter, so they wanted to check my bag to check it out.
That part doesn't really bother me. What bothers me is the way the TSA “officer” acted when she found the lighter. Without checking any of the details of the lighter, she assumed that it was a torch and also assumed that the pipe tools that fold out of the side of it included a knife. Of course she didn't actually TELL me this, because that would have made everything very easy. She got a very snide tone to her voice, and in a loud voice said “Sir, this is not allowed!”
Had she just nicely asked me about the lighter instead of immediately jumping into “gotcha, you evil person” mode I would have responded differently. As it was, her response ended up putting me in defensive mode, so I probably wasn't completely cool when I informed her that it WAS allowed according to the TSA website.
Her response to that made me fear that I was going to be detained. Something along the lines of “SIR! I'm gonna tell you this ONCE. This is not allowed. If you want to speak to a supervisor, you can.”
So of course I quickly responded “I do,” and it wasn't until this point that she finally decided to start checking out the lighter. She mumbled, “oh, this isn't a knife.” The supervisor did what she should have done in the first place: “Is this a torch?” and when I said no, he tested it and said it was fine.
If the first lady had handled this in a more appropriate manner, I wouldn't have been frustrated, I would have responded better, and we wouldn't have needed a supervisor. But the power evidently went to her head, and she reacted in a way that was as if it was perfectly designed to make me angry.
February 17, 2012