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My Grandfather's "Garments" vs. TSA

I went to the Azores on vacation when I was in high school. It was the first time I'd ever been. I believe it was my grandparents’ (an my dad's) second trip back since they immigrated. My mom had never been since she was born in the US shortly after her family immigrated. Importantly, this trip was about 9 months post 9/11. We were going to stay in the house that my dad grew up in, which they still owned. But it was in the condition they left it, so we're talking 1970's remote island village house. There was no indoor plumbing. No stove or refrigerator. The extent of the electricity was a single light bulb and outlet.

My dad and grandfather had plans to start to fix up the house a little bit and make some improvements while they were there for three weeks. Teenage me certainly wasn't going to be taking sponge baths with bottled water for three weeks without complaining incessantly and nobody wanted to listen to that.

We went to my grandfather's house to pick him up for the airport and he had a garment bag that he planned to carry-on. My dad could barely lift it. "Why is this so heavy? What the hell is in here?" he asked my grandfather, who sort of shoo'd him off. Curiously, we unzipped the garment bag and discovered it was filled with just about every tool imaginable — full-size levels, hammers, and even hand saws.

Sure, WE know my grandfather is harmless and has legitimate intentions, but to TSA we knew it would look like Dexter himself packed this carry-on. No amount of cultural explanation was going to keep him off the no-fly list if we showed up with this.

So we did our best to purge his luggage and head to the airport. Little did we know, he had some things, including pocket knives hidden away so well that we weren't able to intercept them before TSA screeners happened upon them.

Cue the 20 minute standoff because he refused to give up his favorite knife. "It is just for my work," he bargained with us in Portuguese as we translated him for TSA.

We could argue his elderly innocence, but in reality this was the same "elderly" man who once fended off a would-be robber by reaching in his pocket for his wallet only to come out with a knuckle-sandwich that sent the attacker into a full sprint in the opposite direction.

Eventually we reached a resolution to leave his unsuitable-for-travel belongings at the airport for him to claim with a ticket when he returned. I honestly don't know if he ever saw the knife again but I find it so endearing that in his mind this was totally acceptable. He simply could not fathom why everyone was so bent out of shape.


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