waving android

I am currently a software engineer at Google, where as a member of the Android platform team I build frameworks and user interfaces.

The blog here at is mostly historical; you can find more recent posts on .

Airport security.

February 19th, 2009

I’m no expert on sneaking things through airport security, but apparently I’ve been endangering passengers for a couple of trips now with my dangerous prohibited items.

TSA agent: Sir, is this your bag?

Me: Yes…?

TSA agent: What do you plan to do with your Swiss Army knife?

Me: [immediately flushed] Uh…leave it here, I guess.

Indeed, my tiny pocket knife (a gift from Jeremy—well, he was throwing it away and I salvaged it it—visible at left in this photo), was in my bag, and the TSA agent had spotted its tiny profile on his screen. It had been living in the bottom of my pencil/pen case for quite some time; it tucks away there perfectly—being smaller than most multitools—and I can’t count the number of times it’s come in handy for:

  • Gently prying apart seams on electronics (using the large blade)
  • Extracting stubborn jumpers (w/ tweezers)
  • Clipping/cutting clothing tags, zip-ties, twist-ties, etc (scissors)
  • Assorted screw-driving
  • Other tasks that require both urgency and a small blade: breaking down boxes, opening envelopes, dispatching errant threads

(Apparently, Victorinox could just leave off the nail file.)

I really had forgotten that I’ve been carrying it there—in fact, I hadn’t been able to find it in the last few weeks, so I wasn’t entirely sure where it was. (This prompts me to consider a new use for the TSA screening process: locating lost items. “Uh, mister X-ray technician, can you tell me if my flash drive is in there somewhere?”)

Conclusions:

  1. BWI TSA agents are careful and thorough.
  2. IAH, not so much.
  3. This corroborates the findings of the Atlantic article: preventing contraband from entering an airplane is, at best, probabilistic, like any kind of random audit.
  4. I am not a terrorist—and what’s more, I didn’t even realize I had the knife with me—so I can guarantee that the plane was no safer without my particular contraband than with it.
  5. If, on the other hand, your goal is to confiscate knives, then that’s pretty much the best way to go about it.
  6. I guess I’m in the market for a new pocket knife.

6 responses

  1. Mathias Ricken  

    And KCI (Kansas City) TSA agents are extremely bored.

    comment posted at 3:46 pm on 19 Feb 2009

  2. Rod  

    I heartily endorse the Leatherman Juice range. Small and invaluable.

    You’re welcome.

    comment posted at 6:32 pm on 19 Feb 2009

  3. Jonathan Wight  

    Every time you sneak your penknife through security the terrorists win a little bit more.

    comment posted at 7:43 pm on 19 Feb 2009

  4. Amanda  

    Same thing happened to me once – I wound up getting out of line and mailing my knife to myself.

    Airport hassles aside, how was the rest of Baltimore?

    comment posted at 12:35 pm on 23 Feb 2009

  5. dsandler  

    They offered to let me mail the knife to myself for the low, low price of $10. I declined (it wasn’t worth that).

    Baltimore was excellent. Nice and cold—I got to wear my wool topcoat.

    comment posted at 1:04 pm on 23 Feb 2009

  6. jeremy  

    You don’t think it was worth $10!? You bastard!

    comment posted at 7:29 pm on 07 Mar 2009

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