Security overload at the airport

Security overload at the airport
Travellers often have to contend with meaningless confiscation by airport security staff.

The other day, airport security officials confiscated a small pair of nail scissors from my handbag. Now, these scissors were tiny.

Minuscule, in fact. While other passengers were walking through security screens with a kilo of drugs stuffed in their underwear, or the broken down components of an automatic rifle stashed in the carry-on luggage, or millions of dollars in illicit funds strapped to their chest, this particular security man was giving me grief over a tiny instrument with blades that were barely 3cm long.

I mean to say, I can't imagine for one minute that I could storm an airplane cockpit and take control of the aircraft by brandishing these scissors in the vicinity of a pilot's jugular vein.

However, what caused me even further confusion that day was the fact that the nail scissors were in a cosmetics bag that also contained a long, metal nail file. Now this instrument could cause a lot of damage, but the security personnel didn't seem to think so. With one correctly placed thrust, I could stab the file into someone's ear, not to the extent that I would kill them but enough to have them following my every command.

Someone, somewhere, obviously feels that a pair of teeny scissors pose more of a threat than a dagger-like instrument.

This meaningless confiscation reminded me of an incident at a Paris airport, when I was returning to Penang from Scotland last year, after having attended my mother's funeral less than a few short hours before.

When I checked in at Edinburgh airport, I had two cans of haggis (the national dish of Scotland, which is made from the liver, heart and lungs of sheep, chopped and mixed with oatmeal and seasoning) in my carry-on luggage. The ground staff looked at the cans, ascertained that they were safe to be carried onboard and waved me on my way.

However, when I was clearing security while in transit at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, a security official confiscated the tins. "Potentially dangerous," he said in his heavily accented English.

Well, this was simply too much for me to bear on a day when I'd been trying so hard to hold it together, and I burst into tears. I was soon sobbing hysterically and the airport staff didn't know what to do with me.

"It's only food," said one official.

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