Tuesday, July 14, 2009

American Airlines thinks I'm psychotic ? Or Needle felting needles, the new terrorist weapon of choice ?

The above is an example of needles for needle felting, basically they are about the same dimension as a sewing needle, but the ones I was using on the flight are only one inch long (cut off from the base) and loaded into a metal holder so you can hold it easier . The "weapon", I was using was only a one needle holder and I do think the 8 needle holder does look scary, so I packed that on my checked bag . Either way, the needle and holder I had on the plain went through the the security scans without concerns .


Had an interesting occurrence on the flight from MPLS . Right before we took off, the middle aged man sitting next to me..."disappeared" and a stewardess approached me and asked what I was doing . I was needle felting a mostly finished bag to tighten up the fibers, with my small single needle . I showed the whole thing to her and explained the principle of felting . A few minutes later, another stewardess appeared and I went through the whole thing again, letting her hold the needle and see what it was . A few minutes later, first one showed up again and said the pilot wanted to see this "item", as it could be considered a weapon..."if, someone was mentally unbalanced, they could use it to poke someone " . OK, I think it was her term "mentally unbalanced" that set me off, but I was beginning to lose my patience at this point and told her...."Lady, I could do more damage to someone with my teeth then this tiny needle ." Provoking, yes, but the absurdity of this was going from amusing to frustrating . Some guy behind me chipped in that he would be glad to "take me down" if I started attacking people with it . I think several other people listening to all this also thought it absurd, which emboldened me and I held the needle high as I walked to the front and told everyone...."Be careful, deadly needle coming through ."

So, I get up to the pilot and once again, explained what I had and what it was for and he said he needed to confiscate it until after we landed so "could I hand it over to him if that wasn't to much trouble ."

I said it was trouble for me, as I was insulted to be profiled as so psychotic looking that I would start poking people and that there was bound to be many other people here with pins, needles and other objects that "could" be used as a weapon and why was I being singled out . I also told him I had gone to the companies own web-site to check their policies on unacceptable items and this was not only not on the list but it said that someone could bring on scissors, a screw driver and even a knife as long as it was under 4 inches long .

I was angry but I tried to keep my voice under control and be logical about all this and felt like they were not being reasonable . In the end, I did turn over my needles because I didn't want to get kicked off and miss my connecting flight to Kansas . I spent the first hour of the flight facing the window and crying . Absurd of me, I know, but I was already stressed about making the trip, seeing family I hadn't seen in 10 years and just a general change to my normal routine . Not being able to smoke for hours didn't help the situation much either . My thought was just a repeating phrase in my head..."I must look psychotic or they would not have taken away my needle ".

When the plane landed, a stewardess, came up to me and apologized for the "situation" and what she thought was an "over reaction by one customer and one other stewardess" . She also offered me a small bottle of champagne, which I declined . (I didn't want to risk 20 years of sobriety for just some silly over reaction by them or by me .) I did give her one of my needle felted bags for being the only one to speak up in my defense.

As I was leaving the plane, the pilot pulled me aside and also apologized and said he had been trying to contact the company "management" for permission to up-grade my next flight to 1st class . He did seem very kind and I appreciated that he was in a awkward position if I had been crazy and had gone on a "poking frenzy", he would have been held accountable for my felting passengers or at least any lose wool they might be carrying.

On a more cynical note, he could have still believed I was psychotic and didn't want me to try and sue the company for "something" . I've never been a litigious sort of person, that would actually require me to speak to even more strangers and that is not worth the trouble for me but they couldn't have known that .

All's well that ends well, needles were returned and I restrained myself from any further felting on any planes . I gave my father my up-grade, which he said consisted of a few extra inches of room and a real glass for his water..(luckily, they were not concerned he might break it and turn it into a weapon, as evidently, an 80 year old, 6'3" male is of less concern then a 46 year old female..with tattoos and Aspergers ?)

Now, I know there will be a few people who will say..."hey, it's a post 9-11 world, we all have to make sacrifices . " and that is exactly what I would like to address with the following "poorly para-phrased" quotes asking people to look a bit deeper into what they are willing to sacrifice for security .

The first is from "someone smart and famous", ie not me, so having far more influence then anything I could say....

"Those who sacrifice freedom for security, deserve neither ."

I'm personally willing to give up bringing bottled water and hatchets into the airport, but I think we all should decide how far we are willing to go in sacrificing one thing for another . In other words, I'm not personally promoting anarchy...(I don't have enough faith in humans to believe that effective), but I do think that our society has gone past common sense into the realm of self delusion if we believe that such small restrictions are actually going to protect us from the true psychotics who wish to hurt people .

The second quote is actually a poem

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not protest;
I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak for me

OK, I'm not claiming that my situation was comparable to being locked into a concentration camp and would hope that people will indulge my using this poem for such a small transgression of my "rights" . My intention is only to make the point that if each of us are silent when we see something we believe to be an absurd infringement of human rights...wither it be water boarding, ease dropping on Americans phone calls or removing an item from them that they could "potentially" use as a weapon even when it does not meet their own criteria of a "potential weapon"
simply because it bothers someone else....that is a problem that we might want to give some thought .

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