Dolphin Hijacking

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I
knew that laughter was my worst enemy. I contained it with effort.

Airport
security guards are not known for their sense of humor. Still, the
image would not go away.

With
our two-year-old son in her left arm, my wife draws a gift-wrapped
plastic dolphin-shaped water squirter from an oversized diaper bag
hanging from her right arm.

“NOBODY
MOVE,” she yells, “this plane is being hijacked.” Pointing the dolphin
as she spoke, she adds, “Anyone who resists will face a watery grave."

There
are no resisters. No one dares risk the violence of the water squirter.
The passengers subdued, I bark instructions to a docile cockpit
while my four other children (ages 5–11) bully passengers for
loose change with their children’s scissors.

Back
at the security checkpoint, a worker leaned over to the Chief and
pointed out that the water squirter didn’t even have a trigger.

“No
shape or form of gun,” replied the Chief as he placed the dolphin
with the confiscated children’s scissors. I silently concurred:
a plastic dolphin-shaped triggerless water squirter is “no shape
or form of gun.” At least, I don’t recall seeing any dolphin-shaped
or triggerless guns.

Perhaps
I should visit more stores or read more gun magazines.

The
Chief turned away, missing (or avoiding) the expression of embarassed
disgust on his underling’s face. As he returned my carry-on to the
x-ray machine for the fourth time, I realized that the flight crew
had asked security about the struggling Black family several times
now over the intercom. (This was an early morning low budget flight
at a low butdget airport, and the security check came between the
gate and the tarmac.) The Chief had all seven of us wanded, and
dutifully checked my seven year old’s ankles for dolphins and other
hidden weapons.

With
six minutes remaining to departure and an impatient flight crew,
I was relieved when the Chief finally cleared me to leave. As I
gathered my children and things, I congratulated myself for resisting
the urge to laugh at the Chief’s thoroughness.

“I
need that gift back,” said my wife, pointing at at the gift-wrapped
dolphin. Her voice reminded me that her temper was as dangerous
in Securityland as my sense of humor (such as it is).

She
had apparently missed the Chief’s prior incantations, so he somberly
repeated: “no shape or form of gun.” I moved quickly to her side,
but not before she asked when she would get it back.

“You
don’t,” replied the Chief, “it’s confiscated. It’s going in the
garbage.”

“It’s
a gift for my nephew. All of his brothers and sisters will have
a present and we need the dolphin so he won’t feel left out.” I
was relieved at my wife’s tone of voice: she was incredulous, not
(yet) angry.

The
Chief was not moved with compassion for our nephew. Two of his assistants
maneuvered to avoid a blowup, but not before the Chief put in his
parting shot: “You put it in your carry-on luggage, didn’t you?”
Of course. It was our fault. We should have put the dolphin in our
checked luggage with our other weapons.

But
stupid Chief or no, I was not about to lose our flight over a one
dollar toy.

“We’ll
buy a new one when we arrive,” I whispered.

“I’ll
put it in the lost and found; you can look for it when you get back.”
The Chief’s assistant was trying to help, but it only made matters
worse. The Chief looked unhappy to see dangerous weapons rescued
from the garbage, while my wife pointed out that we had no plans
to return to this airport. Incredulity was giving way to stronger
feelings.

While
his assistants tried to soften their Chief’s blow, I tried the direct
approach. “It’s a one dollar toy and we’re about to miss our flight.
Please.
We can’t afford to mess with security.” This seemed to do the trick.

Only
after we were safely through security and in our seats did I allow
myself to smile, then to laugh. After all, a plastic dolphin water
squirter can be quite dangrous – trigger or no. I can see the
headlines:

THIRD
PLANE DELAYED BY COPYCAT DOLPHIN TERRORISTS
Teens
Call It a Prank; Grand Jury Indicts on 437 Counts

AIR
PASSENGER CHARGED WITH DISTURBING PEACE
Tied Up Dolphin Terror Teens; Endangered Other Passengers

HOW
TO SURVIVE DOLPHIN HIJACKING
Experts: Submit to Demands, Avoid Eye Contact

CONGRESS
DEMANDS PLASTIC DETECTORS AFTER DOLPHIN HIJACKING
Experts: Metal Detectors Not Enough

So
travelers beware: keep your dolphins at home.

August
7, 2002

Kelly
Black [send him mail]
practices
law in Mesa, Arizona.

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