The check-in counter opened and the hundreds of people waiting in line for flight 761 to Taipei began filing through.
The girl at the counter was pleasant enough as she smiled and asked if I had any luggage to check.
I smiled back and removed the small blue backpack from my shoulder. Then flopping it down on the conveyer belt, I caught the look of wonder on the clerk’s face. Inside the pack were three shirts, three pair of underwear, three pair of clean socks and two sets of darts, one for soft tip and one for steel. The bag was obviously light enough to carry onto the plane and the clerks face said so. I thought I would help her out. “I’m transporting dangerous weapons.” I offered. “My bag would never make it past airline security.”
The deadpan flatness of her response was quite possibly due to the outstanding training program that Korean Airlines provides to its check-in personnel. Or it could have been that the girl was in complete shock. She affixed a claim tag to my bag and handed me my boarding pass without a comment. This begs the question, why would she give me a boarding pass after I just told her there were weapons in my bag? Whatever the reason, she did not even offer me the obligatory, “Have a nice flight,” as I walked from the counter. Was it something I said?
I found the feeling of walking through a crowded airport, certain that all security staff and cameras were trained on me quite exciting. I thought of having a bit of fun by being obvious and doing things to hide my face from the cameras and intentionally avoiding the patrolling security guards. Lucky for me I’m not completely stupid. That distinction goes to the idiot who imagined a scenario in which a dart could be used as a weapon to hijack a plane.
I can see it now. The terrorist leaps from his seat and grabs the young beautiful flight attendant around the neck. Sweat and determination drip from his dark brow as he wrestles with the youthful attendant, dragging her kicking and screaming up the isle to the front of the cabin. At the front of the cabin the terrorist turns violently, swinging the attendant off her feet. Then, producing a deadly 23-gram, 97% tungsten dart with a heavily knurled grip, from a hidden pocket in his shirt collar, he holds it against the side of her head. “Everyone stay in your seats!” He screams in an unrecognizable accent. “If anyone moves, I will introduce this young lady to the death of a thousand stabs.” Which, by the way, is exactly how many times the average human would have to be stabbed by a dart for it to do any serious damage at all.
So now, because of some overly imaginative and paranoid security agent, dogs were probably sniffing through my backpack for explosive devices and weapons of mass destruction. My darts were being exposed to high levels of dangerous x-rays, and some brave soul, dressed in full bomb protective gear was about to reach into the bag and remove the lethal darts. I should have left him a note. “BOO!”
I managed to make it aboard the plane without hearing the anticipated announcement over the airport intercom, “Would Mr. Hartman, Mr. Karl Hartman, please report to the nearest security agent with your face down on the floor and your arms spread out to your sides.” I imagined myself scooting across the floor in that position as I looked for an agent to turn myself in to.
Now the plane was taxiing for take off. I looked around at the white knuckles of passengers around me as they gripped the arms of their seats and a thought came to me. "Who had actually caused the deaths of more people, the airline industry with its “human error” and “mechanical failures” or terrorists?" Definitely something I will ponder at a future time?
Once in flight, I began looking around the plane and wondered just how effective airport security actually was. Perhaps, even despite the obvious cues I gave to the girl at the check-in counter, airport security had completely missed my darts. From where I was sitting it seemed that the security staff had missed a whole bunch of stuff. Just looking around the passenger cabin, I could see weapons that could strangle, stab, bash, poison and burn.
How many people are strangled each year with things like shoe laces, belts, camera straps, electric cords like the ones used for personal computers, pantyhose, t-shirts, scarves, non-clip-on ties, or any other article of clothing. Substitutes for clothing would include airline lap blankets, pillowcases, plastic bags, the curtains dividing first class from the rest of us and even a woman’s longhaired wig. Perhaps airline security just thinks that watching someone strangled by a terrorist is not as dramatic or psychologically damaging as watching them suffer the death of a thousand stabs.
At the top of the stab list and easily accessible by any well-trained terrorist were pens and pencils. Should I mention that toothpicks were readily available and able to do every bit as much damage as the tip of a dart? Aluminum beer and coke cans were on the service carts. These cans can be ripped in half and the jagged edges used exactly like a knife. Self-defense classes all over the world recommend using a car key as a slashing tool if assaulted by a mugger and there were plenty of those on board. There were large hair clips in women’s hair and the underside of these could be as lethal as any knife. One lady had a wooden chopstick stuffed into her hair that held bun in place. How did airport security miss that one? How does airport security miss any of these stabbing weapons? The answer became obvious when the meal arrived because there next to the chicken in brown mystery sauce and my little shrimp salad, neatly wrapped in plastic, was a stainless steel knife, fork and spoon. I can’t even imagine what went on in the discussion that resulted in the choice of stainless steel over plastic but I wish I were there to witness it. Do you think I could have carried my darts onto the plane if they were neatly wrapped in plastic?
If airline security possessed any intelligence at all, they would have come to the conclusion that bashing weapons, anything that can be held in the palm of the hand, swung like a club, or thrown violently across a passenger cabin and cause serous injury to a member of the staff or a passenger, should probably be banned.
The bashing weapons on my flight included cell phones, Game Boys, PSP Players, full cans of coke and beer, hard plastic cups, cameras that fit into the palm of a hand as well as those heavier ones that can be swung through the air by their straps with lethal intent. Laptop computers appeared to be perfect for bashing, as did small children. One small child gripped properly by the legs and flung about in a circular motion could probably do a lot of damage. An excellent reason to ban all small children from air travel!
Also banned from flights should be the many poisons that were in plain view and easily accessible. First of all there was red pepper paste. Placing a glob of this in ones palm and smearing it into someone’s eyes would surely disable them. The paste could also be mixed with water and flung into the eyes but why go through all that trouble? Tabasco sauce was right there on the service tray. No mixing, no mess, just open the bottle and fling. Tabasco in the eyesis most likely every bit as effective as mace. Still, these two poisons were nothing in the shadow of the next big killer.
There, on my food tray, was the most dangerous poison of them all. Sea Food! (Consumer Reports, Health and Fitness, June 2005), Seafood Allergies: Common, Sudden, Deadly, had this to say.
“Sea food lovers beware! Allergies to fish or shellfish, unlike most other allergies, will typically develop without warning, often as full-blown and potentially life threatening reactions in adults who have never had symptoms before. Seafood allergies are more prevalent than scientists previously thought, affecting an estimated 6.6 million Americans.”
Well, after finishing my shrimp salad and waiting the obligatory ten minutes for an anaphylactic shock reaction, I decided I would make it to another day. It was not until lunch was over and the trays were being picked up that I gave up hope of hearing one of the other passengers gasping in agony. Still, I thought it best to dilute any potential poisons with something to drink and gladly accepted a cup of steaming hot boiling coffee when it was offered.
Yes, that’s right! In this day of advanced airline safety awareness, the well-trained terrorist can enjoy a taste of extremely hot coffee or tea before flinging it at someone and incapacitating him or her.
Sipping on my coffee, the idea of surveying the passengers came to mind. I could pass out questionnaires. "In the event of a hijack, would you rather be strangled, bashed, stabbed or slashed, poisoned, burned to death with scalding water or poked with a dart?" I know what my answer would be.
From the mind of Taechon.
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