Back In The U.S., Back In The U.S., Back In The U.S.A.

I should have been arrested.

Mr. Free Market dropped me off at Heathrow yesterday, after taking me on a long, meandering drive through Hardy Country which just made me glad I’ll be back at the end of October for Part Two of Sabbatical 2017. For the record, I was three hours early for my flight — which was a good thing, as you will see.

For reasons unknown, I hadn’t been able to check in online so I went to the check-in kiosk to do so. The message was “Fuck off, Yank” (not worded quite like that, but that was the gist of it) so I had to go and see an actual person, who checked my luggage (no overweight baggage charge, even though I was coming back with more than what I’d left with — strange) but unusually, she asked me all sorts of questions about where I’d been staying, why I’d been in the country so long, and so on. She was an airline flunky, not a security person, so I said curtly, “I was in Wiltshire to inter the remains of my late wife,” which brought forth an immediate apology and a quick check-in.

So: on to the security line. Remember, this was not my first rodeo, so I knew the drill: laptop into its own bucket, empty pockets, remove belt, boots, etc. — i.e. not a single suspicious thing on my person remained… and yet I still triggered the alarm which got me a full-body search and pat-down by, it should be said, a very polite, even apologetic Brit-style TSA guy who had, interestingly, an Arabic name. All this took ages, and I started to steam slowly; but just when I was about to open my big mouth and start asking pointed questions, the search came to an end, and I was free to wander around the maze of shops and such in Heathrow’s Terminal 3.

I bought a few things: newspaper, road food for the flight (I don’t touch airline food because ugh), and decided to grab a meal before I went to the gate. “The Curator’s” restaurant (quoi?) seemed decent, so I went in and got a (wait for it) fish ‘n chips along with a couple pints of bitter ale — not 6X, but not bad for all that — and had a long, leisurely read of the Telegraph. Eventually, I finished up and strolled down to gate 31 — of course it was a long walk down, did you even have to ask? — but when I got there, things got ugly.

I got flagged and pulled out for another random search — this time of my carry-on bag, which held all the office paraphernalia to do with my laptop. This agent was an Indian guy — complete with singsong accent — and he checked my bag like a ferret sniffing out a rabbit, as well as swabbing down everything with that little explosive residue-detector swab thingy. Then he turned his attention to me: again with the belt, again with the boots off, again with the pat-down, and this time I got swabbed for as well, just for good measure. Of course, I didn’t have any explosive residue on me — which seemed to surprise Mr. Patel — but I was nevertheless still close to one of Kim’s Deluxe #1 Explosions of Rage, but once again, the examination ended suddenly and I was able to board the plane.

I am convinced that I was profiled for close scrutiny long before I even got to the airport — hence the difficulty checking in online, the interrogation from the ticket agent and the two intensive searches by airport security.

Anyway, the airliner wasn’t full to the brim with people — in fact, I had an empty seat next to me so I could sprawl, manspread and lean away from the aisle so I wouldn’t get nailed in the shoulder by the fucking drinks cart every time it passed by (which had been my experience going over to Britishland).

This restored my good humor somewhat, so I flirted with the flight attendant, offered her my assistance should she have any unpleasantness with an unruly passenger, and also offered translation services in French or German should the need arise — all of which resulted in some primo service from her for the duration of the flight. I even managed a couple hours sleep.

Doc Russia picked me up at DFW and brought me back to his house where we adjourned to the Smoking Terrace and proceeded to drink pints of gin & tonic. (Seriously: G&T in pint glasses.) I stayed up to try and get my internal time-clock readjusted by staying awake until midnight (6.00am GMT), had the usual excellent chat with Doc, and went to bed to sleep.

Didn’t work. Four hours later my body said, “What the hell are you doing, still sleeping at 10 o’clock in the morning?” so I woke up and started to unpack my carry-on bag…

…and discovered a six-inch screwdriver which I had forgotten about and which had somehow escaped the notice of two security checks.

I could have been arrested.


  1. Focus. they were looking for a single thing so they missed the rest. I feel so safe when I fly, oh wait, I would not get on an airplane on a bet. I remember now.

    Main reason I won’t do mission trips for foreign lands. That and the fact Africa cannot get itself right not matter how much we spend there.

  2. Any man who shouldn’t be arrested at this point is untrustworthy. I trust a man who’se never been arrested slightly more than a man who chooses to be a teetotaller (meaning, anyone who doesn’t have a medical excuse).

    As for the screwdriver, they didn’t find it because they weren’t looking for it. Somehow they were convinced you were carrying plane destroying dihydrogen monoxide.

    1. You’ve never met some of my cousins, then.
      They’re drinkers, have been arrested a few times, and I wouldn’t trust either of them further than I could spit a rat.

  3. On one of our now rare flights (I prefer traveling with the 1911 on my belt or in a shoulder holster and the airlines consider that to be unreasonable) the wife made it through security in both directions – Oklahoma City and Philadelphia – with a full size pair of scissors in her carry on. I’d say that 69 year old Baptist grandmothers don’t constitute much of a threat but the people who believe the 4.99 self published Amazon thrillers think that mid American grannies are recruited by ISIS. Anyway I feel safer – or less safe – now.

  4. Explained quite easily. This being 2017 Britishstan, you WERE profiled. Expect fully that the moment you showed up at Bisley the sirens went off. But they ONLY examine law abiding individuals who play with those gun things at Bisley UPON LEAVING Britishstan. That way they can say they are doing their jobs, just its arse backwards. The authorities don’t want to offend a resident or someone seeking ENTRY to the sceptred isle like from Syria or Pakistan.

  5. You’ve been writing a widely-read blog that has dealt with – (gasp) – guns for years. Guns!!

    I can’t imagine how you even get in an airport parking lot without being tackled and maced.

    1. I just and drive over the border, and fly from Canada. Canada border and airport security is not nearly as insane as the TSA. Of course, this doesn’t help with Heathrow security.

  6. What, were they afraid you might smuggle a firearm into the United States?

    Yea, you were profiled as a member of Western Civilization. If you had dressed like a Saudi, and had chanted Arabic prayers, they would have studiously ignored you, unless it was an El AL flight.

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