Dear Transportation Security Administration,

This has been a tough year for all of you, and I just wanted to send my best holiday wishes to all of you during what must be one of your most stressful times of the year. I also wanted to let you know that I am doing my part to keep air travel and our country safe from 9-year-old terrorists (and we all know one or two of them).

A few years ago my 9-year-old son and I were flying from the quaint regional airport in Northwest Arkansas (XNA) to New Hampshire for the Thanksgiving holiday. Before we left home, I inspected my son’s bag that he had packed himself. Lo and behold! He had packed the “switch comb” that he had picked up from a carnival or arcade somewhere. Surely you all have seen these treasures. They are just like switch blades, but instead of a blade popping up, a thin comb does. I told him in no uncertain terms that he could not bring the switch comb, for it might be seen as a weapon in security.

We rushed to the airport, excited to start our travels. As I pulled our bags out of the trunk in the parking lot, my son slipped the comb out of his pocket and held the handle of the switch comb up to my nose. He said, “Look, Mom!” He then flicked the switch and the comb came too close for comfort to my nose.

He quickly justified bringing the comb: “Mom, this will be so funny. The security guys will think it is a weapon, and then I’ll flick it in their faces. They’ll see it’s not a knife, and they’ll start laughing.”

I replied, “I feel absolutely certain they will not start laughing. Put the comb in the car or we aren’t going.” He did as I requested but with a frown. My language might have been stronger but I have conveniently forgotten that.

We checked in at the counter, got our boarding passes, and headed for the security line. Your agents at XNA have a stellar reputation as being the most thorough in all of the country’s airports. So despite being a much smaller airport than, say, Chicago-O’Hare, the lines are longer. Fortunately, we are much safer in Arkansas than those other poor saps in the big cities. While waiting in the security line, my very clever son read your sign indicating what cannot be brought onto a plane. I pointed out that his comb would be seen as any one of those things, and I also pointed out the sign that mentioned something like “no joking.”

My still very clever son pointed at the sign and said, “Mom, it doesn’t say anything about torpedoes. I could bring a torpedo if I wanted.” I sighed and told him it would be difficult to carry something that heavy. I decided not to argue with him about torpedoes being weapons of serious destruction. 

Rest assured, TSA, I have made sure that my son hasn’t visited any of our local torpedo stores, and for the last five years we have been safe from the little boy who wants a torpedo.  I am doing my civic duty to keep us all safe. In a letter with fewer good wishes for you all and under separate cover, I will take up the matter of the theft of my beloved Leatherman by your peers at O’Hare.

Until then, happy holidays to all of you and best wishes for 2011!

Angie Albright and My Very Clever Son

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