Would you rather stupid or arbitrary?

Some time back, I wrote about the TSA’s policies on knitting needles. Not surprisingly, it isn’t just the TSA which seems to have trouble defining what or why the issue is with knitting needles.

On my way back from London yesterday, the guy at the Continental counter — not an airport screener — asked me if I had anything in my carryon which could be used as a weapon. I thought about it and said no with the possible exception of knitting needles, but the ones I was carrying were bamboo, dull-tipped, and had made it through US security on the way here (all true).

He said that nevertheless I should check them because they aren’t permitted. What really got to me about this is that he said that the airline permits them (also obviously true since I was previously allowed on board with them and they weren’t at any point interrogating me or any old ladies about the contents of our bags) but that security doesn’t, and the reason that security doesn’t is that they are trying to follow what the Americans tell them to do.

The first part of what he said turns out to be true, though I had no way of verifying that at the time except by either leaving the line and walking over to ask them or completing checkin and trying my luck. The Gatwick airport website specifically indicates knitting needles of all kinds as not to be packed in “hand luggage” (the British term for carryon luggage). But the second part is clearly untrue, and I really wish that people would not give bogus excuses like that for their stupid policies. I said rather crossly, but still politely, to him that this obviously had nothing to do with US airport security policy since the US has no such policy, and moved the knitting bag into my checked suitcase.

In Newark I moved it back to my carryon before customs and got absolutely no comment when I went through security again. Whatever excuse Gatwick airport (and it is just Gatwick and a few other airports — neither the government nor BAA which runs many British airports forbids knitting needles!) have for forbidding my knitting needles, it isn’t US security. But I must say, they don’t have an arbitrary policy — just a stupid one.

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