I don't fly all that often and will readily admit to being rather inconvenienced by many of the rules that came into play following the 9/11 tragedy. I understood the rules - OK, a lot of them, but not all - and why they were implemented, but it was a pain trying to plan for air travel.
Suddenly, so many items we use every day and thought to be innocuous had to be left behind. Being armed with toiletries, especially for women, signaled to the Transportation Security Administration one might be armed to bring down the plane, not to look good while sightseeing in Rome. And so it was, somehow, packaging all those toiletries in 3-ounce bottles meant everyone was safe on the flight.
Matches, Bic lighters, Zippo lighters. It was bad enough for some travelers they could no longer smoke on flights, but at least they could - until 9/11 - get off the plane, out of the airport and grab a cigarette and lighter to calm down. Poor cusses had to wait until their checked luggage shows up on the carousel (if it does) to get a lighter. What they lacked in cigarettes they probably made up for in drinks aboard the flight.
AND THOSE TINY pocketknives many of us carry, even on a key ring? Nope. Passengers who simply forgot they had a small knife sometimes had to throw them out just before boarding. And those who remembered either dutifully packed them in their checked luggage or left them at home.
But the rules are about to change. The TSA announced what some see as radical changes. Beginning April 25, passengers will be able to have that trusty little knife on the plane. By "little" the TSA means the blade can be no longer than 2.36 inches in length and less than a half-inch wide. Oh, and they cannot lock into place or be a fixed blade. What upstanding terrorist would try to attack someone with a 2.36-inch long, 2-inch wide knife that might collapse back into its casing when jabbed into a person's body or clothing? And still no razor blades or box cutters, even though the TSA is not so sure box cutters were the main weapon of choice in carrying out the 9/11 hijackings.
In the past, the traveler who went to Ireland and bought a shillelagh would have to store his prized purchase in the plane's belly. Same with the person who bought a special golf club at St. Andrews in Scotland. But no more, come April 25, as the TSA will also now allow such items to be carried aboard. Ski poles, pool cues, even hockey and lacrosse sticks will be allowed as carry-on items. Along with those knives.
CIGARETTE LIGHTERS HAVE already been given clearance to return to the carry-on list as apparently shoe bombers are no longer a threat; however, it does seem there remains a threat by people who want to blow up a plane with high-capacity shampoo bottles.
At any rate, as inconvenienced as I've been even as an infrequent flyer, I'm not too happy about the rules changes. Some who work for the airlines are not happy, but for different reasons. Most notably, the union representing flight attendants is up in arms because, as you should recall, they were among the first taken out by the terrorists. Their angst is understandable, but my concern is less about would-be terrorists.
The few flights I've been on, including some overseas, have not been what could be dubbed as flying the friendly skies. They take forever to roll a drink cart down the aisle and charge ridiculous fees. They quit giving out those tiny bags of peanuts. There are those who let their kids run up and down the aisles, scream, kick the backs of seats and generally disrupt an eight-hour flight. And it's not as though we can simply get up and go to another room.
Heck, even some pilots have been known to use jet blue language, burst into the passenger compartment and raise all sorts of Cain with the passengers.
SO NO, IT'S NOT the terrorists I fear having baseball bats, golf clubs and even pen knives readily available. It's the passengers who, because they're ticked off with the airline service or the screaming kid, might jump up and pummel someone with a shillelagh. For that matter, one of those flight attendants or pilots who just completely looses it might pop open the overhead compartment and begin flailing passengers before they can unbuckle and defend themselves.
The best thing we can do, for everyone's safety, is put all luggage in the belly of the plane and fly naked. The kids will stay put in their seats because there's no way they want to see the majority of any passengers in a state of undress. Naked passengers would give attendants and pilots an understood upper hand, making them more likely to behave. And if they get riled, what pray tell will they use as a weapon?
Heck, there's even a chance the drink cart would get down the aisle a lot faster because, like the kids, the attendants wouldn't want to see a planeload of naked people.
Of course, the drinks would have to be free. And the nuts. After all, where are the passengers going to store cash?
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email firstname.lastname@example.org ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.