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Life lessons hard learned

Where Cuz Was

A recap: Last year, I returned to the U.S. after spending two years in Spain. I made a stop in Germany to visit close family friends. In the German airport, I had my guitar and was told I had a 50/50 chance of getting it on the airplane as a carry-on. But, I decided to take the risk.

“All I have to do is make it through security,” I told myself as I walked up to the checkpoint, lugging my guitar and carry-on bag.

I waddled over to a kiosk to scan my passport and ticket, which opened a mechanical gate. I then zig-zagged the empty line maze and ended up at the security station of a young woman with a warm smile.

As I held out my guitar for her to take and scan, she stopped me and pointed. “No, over there.”

I pivoted and met eyes with a giant: This man was built like a redwood. He beckoned me to his station, snatched my guitar and slid it into the metal detector.

I stood next to him as he studied the case’s contents on the machine’s screen. He glanced at me, then the screen, then at me. Finally, he pointed to a small, clearly visible object highlighted and said “What is this?”

He took the guitar out of the detector and began to open the pouch. At that moment, I remembered what he saw – a Swiss Army knife. I had forgotten to move it to my checked luggage.

He flipped the longest blade open, inspected it, tapped his finger on the end and said, “Too big. You have to go out.”

Either he saw my fear or confusion or both, and repeated himself, “You have to go out.”

“What does that even mean?” I thought. I imagined taking a step away and being body slammed by security, followed by hours of questioning in a dark cellar.

When I snapped back to reality, he was still saying “go out” and now pointing to the exit. I fumbled around with my items (with a line now behind me, of course) and “went out” — the whole way out of the airport, just to be safe.

After a quick phone call to a friend, I found out I wasn’t in any actual trouble, but that I probably had to throw away my pocket knife because I had no way to get it through security.

This was sad: I loved that pocket knife and I’m a cheapskate. But wait! I had a second option: check my guitar after all. It was a sign.

So, I slipped the pocket knife into one of the cases’ pouches and wrapped the whole thing in plastic. I then circled back to the front-desk and asked if I could still check the guitar. The employee said yes, and let me put it through the special check for fragile items.

I passed through security– this time successfully — but had lost valuable time getting to my plane.

That experience taught me some tips I’ll share:

n Before you go on a trip, check your luggage like an FBI agent digging through El Chapo’s duffle bag. Who knows, you may find some cash or even a long-lost souvenir from the last trip!

n Airport stores have machines that wrap your luggage in a thick layer of plastic sheeting. Wrapping a suitcase can help protect fragile items. It can also help protect soft-shell suitcases. It’s fairly inexpensive ($20 or so) and an employee will be able to do the work.

n Everyone should invest in some kind of pocket knife, just make sure you know where it is.

The next column (part 3 of this story) will run in the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 edition of the Mirror.

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