Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor

If You See Something, Say Something


tsa airport regulations rant detroit aiport

Bonus travel points if you tell me what airport this is

“If you see something, say something,” say the loudspeakers at Sea-Tac airport.

I saw something, I said something. And here’s what happened:

First off, I am not a hall-monitor type. I hated those smug kids with their little hall passes, threatening to rat you out for a harmless paper airplane.

Snitches get stitches.

If someone cuts in line, I roll my eyes and call it a day. I won’t tell on you for carrying an extra vile of liquid or playing hooky from work or cheating on a test.

But this was different. Way different. I saw a guy sneak a lighter through airport security. This was before I realized regular lighters without fluid are permitted in carry-ons. When did that happen? But who wants to carry a lighter without fluid – isn’t that just dumb? Doesn’t a lighter need fluid to work? Do they even sell fluidless lighters? Excuse me for my ignorance, I am not a smoker.

The Guy hid a blue BIC lighter under the vamp of a canvas slip-on, which was lurching towards the scanner in one of those bins. When I noticed it, he put one of those change tubs on top of his shoe. Clever.

My suspected terrorist tucks a tacky Hawaiian shirt  into his jeans.  And travels alongside a smallish, dark-haired woman who had a retired-teacher thing going on. I would guess mid-sixties, celebrating a 35th anniversary.

I went over the moral dilemma – should I tell? I looked around. I telepathically called to the girl behind me: look up, notice this, and say something, so I don’t have to.

It took a couple seconds, but I finally decided to say something, the way the loudspeakers at the airport kept demanding I do. What if this guy was the Bad-shirt Bomber?

There’s a lighter in his shoe

I walked over to the nearest TSA agent, who was busy chatting with his buddies. I noticed they were all properly mustached.

“Excuse me: I have a question.”

I intended to call him over, but be discreet. Clandestine. Spry. Is there a hand signal?  Should I whisper?

When the Agent approached me, I said out of the side of my mouth: “There’s a lighter hidden in his shoes.” I nodded towards the bins.

He loudly repeated: “A lighter? In whose shoes?” Four or five people turned to stare at me.

I shushed him. Like the two of us were engaged in light cafeteria-table gossip.

“It’s two bins in front of my bin.” I said quietly, thinking at that point, we were partners in this thing. I waited for TSA agents from all corners of the terminal to descend on Hawaiian-shirt man like a pride of lions.

I suddenly felt bad. Instead of going to Hawaii, the Bad-Shirt Bomber was going to have to endure a cavity search when all he probably wanted to do was smoke a couple cigars on the beach.

But then…

What Actually Happened.

aiport tsa luggage lighters travel rants

Another clue to the mystery airport, which is NOT the airport I talk about in this post.

“If there is one, I am sure they’ll get it. Now – are all your liquids in a bag?”  TSA Mustachio peeked at my bins and casted a judging eye towards my innocent flats.

I spent that morning getting rid of my grooming scissors, my tweezers, and pouring the allotted three ounces (a day’s worth) of shampoo and conditioner into eco-friendly reusable bottles. I made sure not to carry a razor, which I desperately need because there’s “relaxing by the pool” on my trip itinerary.

And he has the nerve to question my packing?

Meanwhile, they scan Hawaiian-shirt man’s briefcase. (Who wears a Hawaiian and carries a briefcase?)

Nothing happened – no pulling him aside. No little rooms. No cavity searches – he breezed through security and shot me a smug look. He knew.

I could not believe it. And then they motion me towards the full-body scan. Really, TSA? You’re body scanning me and the Tikki Terrorist waltzes right through the metal detectors?

When nothing happened, I expected John Quinones from the show, “What Would You Do” to pop out of a suitcase. I started preparing answers to his inevitable inquiry, which takes one of two routes: Why are you such an asshole? Or: how did you become so morally awesome?

“It was the right thing to do” I would say. “The voice-over at the airport says, ‘If you see something, say something.’ I said something.”

Readers, even after a whole lot of nothing, I still think if you see something, say something, especially when your silence could result in the harm of another human being. Sneeze-cough: Sandusky trial.

Only when you actually SEE something. Be SURE. Or you could really damage someone’s reputation. Also be sure the person you’re telling on isn’t all Mobbed up or G’d out or otherwise affiliated with people who occasionally take people out.

Maybe I over-reacted. Maybe I am more paranoid than the average person. What would you have done?


Author: HalmCreative

Provides out-of-the-box copy and travel writing that meets strict deadlines and resource restraints. Worked with T-Mobile, Fodor's Travel, Delta Sky Magazine, Today Is Art Day, Zoka Coffee, and others.

125 thoughts on “If You See Something, Say Something

  1. I am always EXTREMELY paranoid at the airport. I do a lot of profiling. I drive my husband nuts. I don’t know if I would have the balls to say something if I saw that. It’s just sad that the workers then turn it around on you, like you were trying to create a diversion. You would think that they would at least check his shoes. But then again, why do they give a crap. They’re not getting on the plane. SCARY!

    • I am a little paranoid and a nervous flyer after I took an especially turbulent flight (glasses spilled everywhere, people screaming) – it still freaks me out. Most of the time, I think we’re fine and the TSA regulations are over the top. Especially the body scanners. Those things don’t make me feel more safe at all.

      But that’s my problem – a man could bring a lighter on a plane, but I have to be scanned and take my shoes off, etc. And I personally know several Muslims who get pulled the side every time they fly. For no reason. That’s so wrong.

      Here, I see something a little suspect and try to do the right thing and it drew too much attention to me. Maybe I looked a little nuts. I didn’t have my coffee yet.

  2. Hey I would have done the same thing!! The LEAST they could have done was check the dang thing out!!! What in the world?! You never know!!! You did the right thing! So much for security making you feel secure. Geez!

  3. I think I already submitted my comment but in case it didn’t go through, I am trying again.
    You totally did the right thing! I would have probably said something, maybe. The least they could have done was check his darn shoe and not make you look/feel like you were doing something wrong! Way for security to make you feel secure. Craziness!

  4. Hmm. I’m not a smoker either but I know they sell fluid-less lighters because some people collect those from all over the world like other people collect shot glasses, post cards, or snow globes.

    But since this was a plain Bic and it probably did have fluid in it, hell yes I would have said something. There are tons of fire hazards on planes and not a whole lot of good options for the passengers once it’s on fire.

  5. Ugh, the body scanners. I HATE those things–not only because people get to see me naked. They slow down security so much (you need to stand there for about ten seconds and wait for the machine to “recharge” or whatever) and if you are in a hurry to catch a flight, I don’t know if you are allowed to jump the line?

    I personally have never noticed anything out of the ordinary but then I am super oblivious to things. It’s probably better you said something in this case! The guy shouldn’t have been trying to sneak a lighter through in the first place–I’m sure he could have bought a new lighter at his destination, they don’t cost that much. Unless he had sentimental attachment to it, I can’t imagine why he bothered.

    I also feel like they do the “If you see something, say something” in the NYC train stations, specifically Grand Central and Penn Station.

    • I don’t know. I just don’t like the body scanners because I feel like everyone could see my fat rolls. I think the guy did it for the thrill. Kind of like shoplifting. I think it’s something I’d rather leave at home because why would you risk it?

  6. ‘See something, say something”, that’s just good solid advice.

    Sometimes I get so nervous about flying and the security mess I throw-up.

    Kudos to you for standing up, even if the TSA brushed you off.

    PS. Is it Denver?

  7. Life has a sense of humour.

  8. Hi: First, both O’Hare (Chicago) and Detroit Airports have a tunnel like the one in your pic – I’m guessing it is O’Hare, but there may be other airports with such a tunnel.

    You did the right thing. The TSA then had the option of doing the right thing too which they didn’t. It isn’t like our TSA agents are famous for their intelligence.

    Sometimes doing the right thing means being prepared to look a little stupid. And that’s OK!

    To me this is similar to letting someone know their child or pet has done something dangerous they might not have noticed – you may get blowback if your mention irritates them or they already noticed, but that’s OK, you did the right thing. How would you feel if the guy with the lighter did something and you hadn’t said anything? or the pet or child got hurt and you could have prevented it, but didn’t because you were afraid to say anything.

    I turned 51 recently and one of the things I love about being this age is I’m less worried about what other people think or being embarrassed and more confident in my own moral compass.

    Happy travels, Ruby

    • Totally agree. At 31, I have also become more confident. I just don’t care what people think, not in the sweatpants in public way, but in the Hey, I know what I saw and I am not an idiot way. Learning French, although I speak it terribly has a lot to do with that.

      That was my thought – what if, on the off chance something happens, and people got hurt. Then I would feel way worse.

  9. You did the right thing, I don’t think you over-reacted. I’m not sure I would have had the nerve to do the same thing though. I’ve been asked multiple times to watch people’s luggage at the airport and every time I agree without even thinking about it. Then I stand there with the luggage thinking about all the things that could possibly be in that luggage…

  10. Great post! And it looks like Detroit Metro to me. 🙂

  11. You did the right thing. I would even go so far as to complain to the airport. What’s the point of their whole program if some idiot not only ignores your point, but loudly identifies you as the person lodging a complaint. Not cool at all. I agree that some of the regulations are over the top, but it’s also wrong that you were treated that way.

  12. Airport screenings are definitely biased – if a male youth has long hair and looks lanky, he might get pulled over. If you see an Arab couple, they might get pulled over. Very rarely – to which I do appreciate more often than not – have I, a brunette in my 20s, have gotten pulled over for the extra screening by myself (when it has happened, everyone has gotten searched). While I think it is very important to be careful at airports (and I hope I would mention the lighter of someone else), I also think that airports are the location where we make the most stereotypes without really thinking about the very people we are labeling.

    • I have been pulled over myself. But I think it’s because I bought two one-way tickets. I was going to a funeral, which made it even more annoying.

      • A male cousin of mine had a one-way ticket around the holiday season as his parents drove up before him and he was going to ride back down with them. He ended up getting a lot of stares at security and some issues as he had long(ish) hair, had a one-way ticket, and only a bookbag with him.

  13. That airport looks like Munich to me. Is it? Is it? I spent happy minutes on those… whatever they are called… moving walkways.

  14. Detroit!

  15. Oh. And I loved your post, very funny read.

  16. Very funny post. I liked the Bad-Shirt Bomber and Tikki Terrorist references. The image of John Quinones coming out of a suitcase was laugh-out-loud worthy.

    I’m glad that you were brave enough to say something. If you weigh the risks, it’s better off to get a smug look from a badly dressed stranger than to be in a potentially dangerous situation, don’t you agree?

  17. Good thing the TSA is working hard to keep us safe! See something, say something is more effective than power-mongering employees. I think you did the right thing! Looking forward to the next post!

  18. Who makes up the TSA regulations, anyway? I can’t carry my pocket knife with it’s one-and-a-quarter-inch blade onto the plane, but I can carry a whole fistfull of ballpoint pens, which would probably be just as effective as (or maybe more than!) the pocket knife as a weapon to incapacitate a person.

    And the airport pictured is Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW) in the tunnel between the domestic and international terminals.

  19. Your suggestion is good. We now live in a very risky and scary world, in terms of personal safety. This requires that we must all be alert and vigilant at all times but with restraint. Vincent Onvey

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  21. I once had a candle considered a “sharpe object” and my bag taken to be rescanned.

    The airport above is the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County. I’ve gone through that tunnel once on a trip to the Philippines.

  22. Enjoyed reading a lighter is something important, even for non smokers fire is the element ?:)

  23. I think you did exactly the right thing and the TSA guy was out of order – completely. It’s really hard to say something in those circumstances and people need to know that if they do speak out they’re taken seriously. “See something – say something” is a great slogan but useless if they don’t train their people how to handle a situation like that discreetly.

  24. I would have done the same thing, with equal misgivings.

  25. Years ago, I learned to let shady characters go, because the authorities don’t care. Here’s what happened: the police were doing a spot check for drunk drivers at holiday time. They were stopping every car. I see two guys drinking beer openly in the car next to me. These two guys hide the beer. I tell the police officer. He replies “really? It’s amazing what people will do.” And then he lets me through. He doesn’t even say anything to his colleague that is checking out the culprit car. That car with the two drinkers sails through.

    • Ugh – so frustrating. I’ve had my own issues with authorities being extremely forceful and mean to me.
      This incident just seemed really unusual -I mean, the lighter smuggler. If it was in his backpocket, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed.
      But yeah, there are really good cops, who I respect and admire and really, really terrible ones who are just as bad as criminals.

  26. Sticking anything in your shoe like that is suspicious to me. Not sure what I would have done. What is the full body scan like? I haven’t flown since they’ve gotten really strict (in the last five years), but it just seems so violating…

  27. I would have felt torn too – Not trying to throw someone under a bus but at the same time, what IF?!?!?! I am not surprised that YOU got the shaft tho and the lighter guy got away without a scratch. I know they are there to help us and I know I wouldn’t want their job but I don’t always think the TSA people are the brightest? Absolutely no offense, I have nothing to base this on, it’s only what I’ve encountered myself but it’s rare I have a pleasant airport experience.

  28. My recommendation to some of the paranoid commenters here: If you are afraid of planes, drive. If you are afraid of other passengers on the plane, buy your own plane.

    • I have never been afraid of flying until I took a really turbulent flight. By turbulent I mean, drink glasses all over the place, people screaming, etc. And I am NOT normally suspicious – I don’t profile. It’s a waste of time. I have to fly because I love travel. I think my recommendation is to just take a tranq!

  29. Tough call, but I think you did the right thing. Being wrong is much easier to handle than being right and not changing a sitaution when you had the chance.

  30. This paranoia is the result and goal of the terrorist’s actions. When you succumb to the degree that you call TSA over a geriatric hiding a lighter, we’ve lost, the terrorists have won.

    Some may see this as humor, I see it as terribly sad.

    • I agree to a certain extent. I hate the searches, the “alerts” all that other crap and I do believe it makes people paranoid, especially against Muslims, which is completely unfair. Although pre-9-11, were lighters allowed? I don’t think so.

      Why not just throw the damn thing out? It’s a $1. He’s in the wrong, not me, and I don’t care if that makes me not nice or cool.

      Also, part of my point is, with all this so-called security, there are people still bringing lighters on planes. So we’ve given up a lot of our liberties but for what?

      • Yes, lighters were allowed pre-9/11. I’ve circumnavigated the globe more than two dozen times, and probably spent more time in airports than most, so I have more recollections of the way things were, compared to how they are.

        Very few security experts believe our current TSA is anything beyond theater to make us feel secure, while doing almost nothing to actually provide security.

        This isn’t about being “nice” nor “cool.” It’s about giving up our freedoms for security, which results in us having neither.

        Benjamin Franklin said it best: “He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither.”

  31. Lesson: If you do see something and say something, they will make you look like a fool. They frisk babies you know. Connie

  32. If I’m really honest I’m not sure I’d have said something, especially if I was alone. I’d be much more inclined to say something if I had someone to come with me while I did so, or if people around had noticed it too. But that’s just me. And I guess that means I fall into the typical human nature category, but at least I’m honest.

    I mean that as in THIS situation I wouldn’t have said anything, simply for fear of being ridiculed or confronted by the “tikki terrorist” for doing so. However, if it was something a little more generally “serious” for example, if I saw something inherently suspicious such as a person leaving a bag unattended or a weapon of some kind then I would definitely say something. And now I’ve said this I immediately feel ashamed of myself that I am the kind of person that would rely on those around me to say something. I’m sure that if I was on this flight and I failed to ‘raise the alarm’ and something went horribly wrong, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. So this story might make me think about these things in the future, and if I ever do find myself in such a situation perhaps I will act differently to how I have presumed I would now. Hopefully …

    It does say something about airport security though doesn’t it. But like you said, they aren’t getting on the flight, so why would they care?


  33. Ah that sucks bro. Can’t say I would have said anything though. I known I’m a paranoid type(as well as an ADD type) so even if I did see the lighter I probably wouldn’t have said anything and just prayed everything was alright. I totally understand why you’d be like what the hell when they checked you, but from another perspective I guess it would be a good distraction for a terrorist to pass the blame on the guy in front of him..I doubt that was the officer’s logic, because TSA has been a little weird lately, but I’m just saying.
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  34. Mystery airport is DTW?

  35. I’m glad that he didn’t turn out to be part of the mob.
    It’s interesting that airport security trusts each other, and yet did not inspire trust. “Somebody will figure it out.”
    Yes. Somebody did, and is telling you. Isn’t that how things are figured out?
    Thanks for speaking up, and for your fun post about it.

  36. There are many studies which show that the TSA is not making us more secure. But to make it easy, here’s an article about the issue, by security experts.

    We all have opinions, but it is important to be informed, not just opinionated:

    “Smoke Screening

    As you stand in endless lines this holiday season, here’s a comforting thought: all those security measures accomplish nothing, at enormous cost. That’s the conclusion of Charles C. Mann, who put the T.S.A. to the test with the help of one of America’s top security experts.”

    • I completely agree that the TSA is very theatrical and actually, even more so after this incident. Why I am I bothering to take all these precautions? Why are they telling me to say something and when I do, completely ignoring me? WTF?

      I have lived in and visited other countries and am way more freaked-out in US airports – not because I think someone is going to attack us, because the “high-alerts” and scanners and all that other BS.

      So – although I am convinced I did the right thing by reporting the guy, I do agree that this heightened security stuff makes us all a little crazy. Going after people with candles or tweezers or razors – seems completely arbitrary.

      • While I understand your reasoning, I respectfully disagree and won’t post another comment here on the topic.

        Throughout history, there is no shortage of examples of people turning-in their neighbors because they were told to do so.

        Over time, a population becomes enured to the practice until such time that they are no longer thinking about the humanity of their neighbors, and think only of “having followed orders” for the betterment of society, because they were told to.

        This is the aim of terrorism. Kill our liberty. They win when we “do the right thing” by turning in our neighbors for insignificant reasons. Later, as the reasons for turning them in are ratcheted up, few resist.

        The following statement was published in a 1955 book by Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free.

        “First they came” – is a famous statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group. There is some disagreement over the exact wording of the quotation and when it was created; the content of the quotation may have been presented differently by Niemöller on different occasions

        First they came for the communists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

        Then they came for the trade unionists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

        Then they came for the Jews,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

        Then they came for me
        and there was no one left to speak out for me.

        It starts by taking away small liberties…

  37. Congratulations! You’re an outstanding graduate of the prevailing paranoia of the day. Mind your own business, don’t be a fascist!

  38. Hahaha, brilliant!! I take my lighter with me, I usually stick it in my pocket. What would I have done? Nothing. It’s a lighter. What I would snitch on (or at least seriously consider it) is if I saw someone using their iPhone/equivalent MP3 player or electronic device during take off or landing.That’s probably going to cause more of a hazard than my lil old lighter. I hate, hate, hate take off. I’d love to be able to stick my headphones in to get me through it but I can’t. And I can’t then nobody else should be able to either.

    • I get very nervous during take off too. Like knees-weak nervous. But I probably would just assume their “electronic device” was in airport mode. Also, the flight attendants seem extra vigilant about that so I wouldn’t worry.

      You’ve never had trouble getting your lighter in in your pocket? That’s it – next time, I’m bringing my grooming shears, razor, and a big old thing of conditioner:). It seems like they care sometimes, and sometimes they don’t. That’s my whole point.

  39. I hear that at Sea Tac everytime I go some place and think about Cowboy Tom Hanks exorting the other Toy Story toys to get a “move buddy”.

    “If you dont have one, get one!”

  40. Until I read this post, it never once occurred to me that lighters shouldn’t be on airplanes. I’m a smoker, so my lighter goes with me everywhere. I always have it in my bag when I board and I’ve never thought twice or been questioned about it. That said, anytime anyone is being sneaky and hiding things in order to get through security, I hear alarm bells (in my head, obviously, not in the airport), so I think you did the right thing here.

  41. I would have done the same thing…!

  42. Yeah it’s true the TSA agents miss things all the time. I once left a disposable razor in my carry on and I got through security twice with no problem. Granted, this was in Madrid and Lisbon airports so maybe security is more lax there? I’ve also forgotten about sunscreen in my bag multiple times and have gotten through as well (pretty sure that would be considered a liquid).

    One thing I’ve noticed: the difference when the metal detector goes off at American and European airports (or well at least in Madrid, I’ve flown out of there multiple times). Once in awhile the detector goes off when I’ve gone through–probably the metal in the underwiring of my bra. The security agents are professional and they pat me down, but it’s seamless and they do not stick their fingers where they shouldn’t. In American airports, they always seem to stick their fingers a little higher than necessary and a little deeper than they have to do in the waistband of my pants–I always feel like I’m being violated and I hate it even more than the body scans.

    My dad has gotten pulled aside for “random” bag checks as we load the plane. It’s most likely due to his beard and it all comes down to racial profiling. We aren’t even Arab–we’re white Irish-Americans (well Dad is French but he might as well be Irish American because he is super pale too).

    • That’s awful. I haven’t had the experience of being searched in multiple countries, so I am not sure if they “go deeper.” I do think they smile more and intimidate less, at least in Canada.
      I do like leaving my shoes on and that the security in other places seem much nicer. Profiling is disgusting. And yes, I’ve gotten through with a lot of things – scissors, razors, etc, by accident.
      When he hid it, I thought there could be a reason to hide it. That was what struck me as off.

  43. If you see something say something? Are you kidding me? This is probably how Hitler youth started. You remember history class, right? With children turning their parents in for saying things that were anti-Nazi?

    Hell no! I am not going to rat some geezer out because he’s stupidly hiding a bic in his shoe. Hello? Anybody home? When was the last time a suicide bomber was an American geezer in a bad shirt, with this frumpy wife in tow?

    And who are the TSA, anyway? Government employees. They don’t care. If they’re feeling lazy, they do nothing. If they’ve had a fight with their girlfriend, they’ll strip search everybody.

    No. I. Will. Not. Be. An. Accomplice. To. This. Madness.

    You might consider some independent thought, too. Just because you hear a catchphrase on the loudspeaker every time you turn around, doesn’t make it right.

  44. I can’t imagine why you would want to bring an empty lighter anywhere. Sounds like a good opportunity to buy some cheap Bic lighters from a gas station whenever you get to where you’re going.

  45. You had a valid concern, and you did the right thing. I’m stubborn as well as impulsive (I’m not saying that’s a *good* combination), so I’d have told the TSA agent when they didn’t catch it and mentioned the coins, so he’d know Lighter Guy had gone to some trouble to hide it. If he didn’t respond, I’d probably have followed the guy to his gate and told the nearest TSA agent or airline employee, thus landing myself on the no-fly list forvthe foreseeable future.

    I don’t think you need to worry that you went overboard or made a fool of yourself or anything along those lines. And believe me, I’m an expert on both.

    • Thank you. I am not normally this kind of person and it was a tough call for me.

      • You made the right call. I’m not into turning people in for stupid little infractions, but you had no way of knowing whether lives were at stake.

        The guideline I use when I’m not being an impulsive idiot is: If I don’t do something (whether that’s saying something or not) and that turns out to be the wrong decision, how sorry will I be?

  46. Reblogged this on michellecantago and commented:
    say something!!

  47. Sense of humour is a good thing. Loved it.

  48. You did the right thing, which is probably what I would have done. Airport security always gives me the shivers; those men in black suits intimidate me. One of my close friends was in a similar situation, and the security man gave her such a belittling look as if to say: “You think you can do my job better than I can, huh?” The thing is, the lighter might not have been empty? You get security scares from harmless things like liquid cigarettes, when really the cops should be sniffing out things like this. But, good call, you did the sensible thing.

  49. PLEEZZZZZZ——-I would have TOTALLY told on couture principle alone! Where, in the name of Donna Karan, were the fashion police?

  50. After clicking the like button and the “accept” button which Firefox prompted me to as it flagged your blog. I realize that now, perhaps, we too are on the watch list because we read your post, and made a comment which (as fellow travelers) we can relate to. I guess we are now part of the other 80+ wordpressers who have been added to that list. Cheers for speaking up, I’m sure most let it go for fear of repercussion.

  51. I would’ve done the same thing. I can’t believe they say that on the loudspeakers!

  52. Wow. Your story is just maddening! What an unprofessional way to treat you for just being a concerned citizen! I would have done the same thing. I have no reservations about being loud and proud, (to the ongoing embarrassment of my children – blame my theater training). After reading this, I think (if / when this ever happened to me) I would tell the TSA agents actually working the X-ray/search line of Tiki-Terrorist, and not the guys standing chatting it up in the corner (who are probably counting the minutes until their own “smoke break”). Considering TSA history over the past few years (tennis shoe bomber anyone?, naked body scans leaked anyone?), I get the feeling these poor slaves are operating in either a near-comatose state, (wouldn’t we all be?), and/or under illusions of grandeur. Just my two cents.

    Just for the record, I’ve never liked going through Detroit. I had a bad experience there once. However, O’Hare still tops my “avoid at all costs” list. Congrats for being Fresh Pressed. It’s given us some good points to ponder.

  53. You know times are different,it is not like it use to be,i could understand both sides tbough,,even though the guy however put everyone at jeopardy but not abiding by the rules hell if you can’t bring a full bottle of shampoo, lotion and soap why should he be able to bring something as simple as a lighter. Last I checked you can’t blow shit up with hair products, but a lighter could sure get it started.

  54. The TSA is about as useful in securing the flights as a lighter is in hijacking an airplane. I’d say something only if I actually saw a guy strapping a bomb to himself.

  55. Kudos to you. I think it takes guts to take action. You did the right thing. I am usually pretty obtuse, so would have never noticed it in the first place, and even if I did, I would have thought for sure that the detectors would pick it up. They always seem to stop and search me — and I never even bring liquids at all.

  56. Was this happening in Canada? Last time I went to Pearson International Airport they meticulously checked MY things and I was only twelve years old. Aside from that, I feel like you did the right thing. Lighter fluid is flammable and even if it’s not common sense for all smokers, the back of my BIC lighter has a whole disclaimer on its flammable properties. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if that lighter freakishly exploded while in the air.

  57. hey, I flew back from Amsterdam after all these crazy TSA rules went into effect, and what was strange is that flying INTO america I was allowed to bring my lighter with me. In fact, they patted me down kinda like entering a club, took my lighter and smokes from my pocket,checked my hat,and then handed back the lighter and smokes and sent me on my way. Made me wonder two things: Why can’t I fly domestic with a lighter if I can fly into America with one, and What were they searching for if not explosive materials (small explosive a teeny bit of butane,but come-on)

    its strange times
    Great blog

    if you enjoy fiction, stop by some time

  58. Reblogged this on Live and commented:
    It’s that annoying “kattie Klean” voice at the airport, the automaton that calls to you over the loud speaker and tells you to report suspicious looking activity, don’t leave your bags unattended and so on. Here’s a story from a traveler who decided to follow through on the automated demand.

  59. They should add another line to that announcement:
    “If you see something, say something… until someone does something!”
    In other words, why did you stop at reporting on the smuggler to a TSA agent? You could’ve carried on by reporting on the said TSA agent to his manager! With a vengeance!
    Anyway, they’ve let me fly with a crochet hook and a pair of scissors. Go figure!

  60. you did the right thing. Its a tough decision that weighs on so many people now. Sadly i have experience of a journey where we didnt notice anything was wrong, and many passengers did not survive. i dont know what i could have done if I had known a particular passenger was of danger to us, i have asked myself that question so many times. Ive started to write a blog about it, if you ever have any doubt you did the right thing, please read my blog.

  61. I only read a few comments so forgive me if I am repeating something. First it’s all good that you don’t know but yes there are lighters that may not have fluid in them such as Zippo brand and many others. Anyways, to answer your question, no I don’t think I would have said anything in that particular situation. Sometimes it is easy to talk yourself into things during situations of high stress, especially since you have had some pretty scary experiences flying. Plus listening to the government’s hypnotic propaganda must put one on edge as well. Also I just generally enjoyed reading about this traumatic experience because of your creative storytelling. Good stuff.

  62. Great post! And you did the right thing 🙂

  63. Reblogged this on Andy: Photographer, Traveler & Chef and commented:
    The colour and mood here is great!
    Can just see myself ambling through here with my back pack, Canon 550 and the smell of a new country tickling my nostrils.

  64. Great storytelling! I didn’t know about that rule, either. From your profile of the people, I’m not sure I would have done the same thing, but the thought would have crossed my mind because I’m jittery about that stuff too. You’re pretty funny.

  65. I envy you. I grew up programmed to never to say anything to anyone. Even today, as a 43 year old woman, I am fearful of confrontation or speaking out. I rarely but sometimes do speak out. You are one brave guy and I don’t think you were wrong for doing what you did. This often times, timid Latina thanks you. Please read my blog as well.

  66. We all need to be on alert. Follow your gut feelings. Rarely will you feel stupid if you know you are being responsible.

  67. Airports are the focus point of human paranoia. Woulda done the same thing.

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  69. You did the exact wrong thing. Collaborating with a hostile security element that is occupying your country and violating the civil and human rights of your fellow citizens is reprehensible. What if that man HAD been detained and interrogated? You wouldn’t have made anybody any safer, you would have only inconvienienced an innocent person. Shame on you.

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  71. For all the scary things going on in the world, I do think it’s important to say something when you see something. But beyond that, I really love your writing. No wonder you were freshly pressed — congrats!

  72. you did the right thing, and the airport photo is way cool

  73. Very awesome story! I probably would have done the same thing. Ever since 9/11 I tend to be very alert as to what is going on at an airport. You just never know what can happen and it seems like we hear about people trying to sneak things into airports from time to time. Even though it may be nothing, I believe its better to be safe than sorry. 🙂

  74. You did right. You did as commanded.
    G. Orwell

    • I looked this up and thought there was something about fluidless lighters, but I guess not. I would have thought nothing of it if he just proceeded as normal. But you figure – my giant bottle of shampoo, which I carry because hotel soaps make my hair itch isn’t legal. But something that could ignite fire is – it’s so weird.

  75. I would’ve just asked someone if a lighter was permitted maybe, then if it is, you don’t look like a doofus. A few years ago, I forgot about the whole lighter thing, and they just took it out of my bag (I didn’t even know until after the flight). Although, I wonder about level of safety at airports. On my last flight, I completely forgot that my keys, which have a pepperspray vial on the keyring, were in my carry-on. I remembered while waiting for the bag to be scanned. Other than the bag taking a bit longer, nothing was said, my bag was not opened, and I went on my way. At first I was glad, then I though…WTF???

    • I have no trouble looking like a doofus in public. Part of my charm. I really don’t care what people think. 🙂

      Pepper spray! Now that’s something you probably would have been detained for. On a completely different topic, I used to have a really loud rape alarm thing (a keychain), that accidentally went off when I was getting out of my car. I tried to shut it off and it just kept going and going. I had to sprint to my apartment and my husband heard it and thought something was happening so he ran outside.

      I ceased carrying stuff like that on my keys.

  76. Obviously you were in a difficult situation. He was paranoid when you saw the lighter and quite rightly so, you said something. I don’t think they airport workers dealt with it in the right way like you were the guilty person in question but I think you were right to say something as he could have put the passengers lives at risk – intentionally or unintentionally.

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  79. That photo looks like a tunnel in the DTW Detroit Metro airport in MI. Everytime I go through that tunnel with the lights, I think: “I’m glad I don’t have epilepsy”. 🙂

    also, I’ve never lost my lighter going through TSA checkpoints, though that may be because I put it in my toiletries bag before I get into the line 🙂


    • That’s the airport! I really like the fountain and the colorful tunnel.
      Perhaps if I was a smoker or someone who lights campfires, I would know more about the lighter rules. Most of this security stuff feels like a facade.

  80. Pingback: You Can (And Should) Go Home Again | Anglo Adventure

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