Monday, July 23, 2007

They Don't Care What You Read

So I arrived at DFW airport last night a bit earlier than expected. This was good; although at the time, I thought I had wasted half an hour. I usually feel that I have wasted time if the door does not hit me as I get on the plane.

I figured that I would stop by the airline club and get something to drink or one of the free stale cookies that they always leave for weary travellers.

Boy was I wrong.

As usual, I was checking a firearm. There is a nice indoor range not too far from one of the offices in Washington. I always try to bring as many people as possible to get them into shooting. I also try to bring old shooters that have not been in a while. I also bring my range bag with spare goggles and ear phones, Shoot-N-C (tm) targets, and spare magazines.

I declared to the Check In Agent the firearm. She took inventory. She said that she had to see it to make sure that it was unloaded. I do not know why they say this. Only once has the Check In Agent actually cleared the weapon, verifying that the inserted magazine and chamber are empty. To the TSA's credit, they check it. They always do. Sometimes they do several times.

Fortunately, I am not bringing ammunition this time. I split a few cases with some friends last trip and decided that I would keep it with them. This would save both the time and the hassle of checking ammunition. Firearms are easy to check. Ammunition is not.

So I was a little surprised when the Check In Agent said, "You're overweight."

And I say, "Well you're ugly." (Not really but I thought it would be fun to add that.) I know that I am not as trim as I used to be but I exercise and am still somewhat slender. My bag, which does not have ammunition in it is still eight pounds overweight.

I was overweight on my last trip and had to pay an extra $25 to the airline for the inconvenience of having a heavy bag. I am sure that they use that to offset the medical costs of the injuries that their baggage handlers receive when they lift a fifty-eight pound bag. However, I could not help but feel that they were soaking me just because they could.

So this time around I was determined that I would not pay that non-reimbursable travel expense. She said I could check another bag. In my big bag was my range bag but it is just a shoulder backpack. I did not think that could be checked. So I took out my shoes and rangebag with the plan of carrying them onto the plane.

I told her that it was my range bag and that it had thumbtacks and magazines in it. She said they would be fine.

I went down to the TSA bag check and gave them my now barely underweight bag. While they verified that my firearm was unloaded, I tore through my range bag for anything that might not be carried onto the plane. I took out my buck knife which I knew was in there. I searched and searched again for any loose ammunition.

After giving my knife to the TSA agent to put into my check bag, locking my check bag, and satisfied that everything was fine, I went to the security check.

I use three bins: computer, non-computer metalic items, and non-metalic x-rayable items (such as sandals). It takes a while for everything to go through. I stand there at the opening of the x-ray waiting to put on all of my items.

My range bag is the first thing. The pretty TSA guard at the x-ray monitor looks panicked. She then calls another agent over to her. He looks at it. He then calls another agent to look at it. The first agent looks at me and says, "Ummm... Sir."

That is not a statement or a question. I am not sure what she is saying but since she is the prettiest TSA agent I have ever seen - maybe the only one now that I think of it - I decide not to correct her poor conversational skills and instead say, "I had not intended on carrying that bag onto the plane."

My fear is that I somehow managed to miss some loose rounds. I am normally very particular about how I pack ammunition on a plane. So are the airlines and the TSA. I figure a loose round is good enough to get me arrested and interrogated and possibly spend some time in jail. I thought, "I'm at least going to miss my flight."

After closing my line and directing everyone else to the others, they take a few more minutes and let me pass through. They give me a "PC pat down" and let me gather my things - everything except the range bag that is.

They ask if they can go through it. I was as courteous and polite as I could be. So were they. I thought for a moment, this is going to be the most pleasant experice I have ever had on my way to jail.

Then a moment of dread: if carrying a loose round through airport security is a felony offense and I cannot prove that I was not an accident, I will be a felon and will not be able to own firearms anymore. Then I thought I might be over-reacting. Then I thought, "To hell with it. There are probably a few laws that I need to be ignoring anyway. That would be as good as any."

As they went through, the senior agent showed great interest in the Shoot-N-C (tm) targets. I explained what they were and he said, "Neat." He then pulled the magazines aside and finished with the bag.

He looked at me and said that they could not be carried onto the plane and that he would have to do a full report. At that time, I had an option of either putting them into a checked bag, mailing them home, or surrendering them. I did not know if my checked bag had already made it to the gate but thought that I would see what I could do.

He took a lot of information from me. I relayed the part about the Check In Agent telling me that the magazines were fine to be carried. He showed the thumbtacks to the pretty agent who, being relatively new I discovered, thought they might be rounds facing up on the monitor. He was also able to see which agent it was that had Checked Me In on my ticket.

He said that I would likely get a letter in the mail at least in a follow up investigation and that the Check In Agent would be beaten a bit too. He gave me my magazines and escorted me out of the terminal.

Back at the counter, the same agent was working. I told her how magazines were not OK to be carried and that they needed to be checked. She gave me the funniest of looks. I took out a set of earphones to make room, put my shoes in my range bag, and asked the agent to use a zip-tie to secure it. I wish I had thought of that originally.

As I put the magazines back into the bag she said, "Oh, those have to be checked."

I told her that I had mentioned them when I took my range from my large suit case.

She said, "Oh. I thought you meant reading material."

The stale cookies will have to wait until next time.


Weetabix said...

You have the most interesting travel experiences. Kind of like that Chinese curse....

I'll be flying soon, but I don't think I have the energy to deal with taking a pistol.

I'll rationalize it by the fact that it's 9x18 so ammo may be difficult to find where I'm going.

Shawn McManus said...

"Interesting" is a good way to define it. Part of that may be how the experience is described. I'm not sure.

Shawn McManus said...

Oh yeah... 9x18 I think is going to be pretty much impossible to find unless you are going to a shooting mecca.

The only places that really come to mind are the hunting lands outside of large cities like San Antonio. I.e. a large city with many gun / ammo shops.

Perhaps a new pistol? While I like the larger calibers, .22LR and 9mm Luger are cheap and easy to find. After that, .40, .38, .45ACP may be your best bet for economy and availability.

Spring said...

Actually, it's the Dwiggie Travel Curse. Almost never fails and as you're an honorary Dwiggie that's enough to count.