Yes, That Covers Bazookas

True, it's been just three decades -- barely sufficient for Americans to experience seven different presidents and for the Earth to whirl 30 times around the sun at 18 miles per second -- since the arrival of wacko airplane hijackers caused airports to scrutinize purses, pockets and packages of everyone boarding a commercial plane. And it's been less than three years since simple box cutters enabled zealots to do their awful 9/11 deeds.

So what part of "Sharp Objects Prohibited" is so difficult to fathom?

Three decades is almost a third of a century, around 11,000 days for travelers to pack and recall that Bowie knives and Mace are discouraged on airliners today. Is this hard to grasp? In the last 22 months alone, the Transportation Security Administration reports seizing 4.8 million dangerous items from would-be travelers and arresting nearly 1,000 people. Set aside for a careful moment real threats to airplane security. Who can estimate the colossal time wasted by hundreds of thousands in lines watching the discovery of 4.8 million dangerous objects, 4.4 million embarrassed explanations, 3.9 million attempted cajolings and 2.7 million hopeless arguments?

Assuming air travelers are susceptible to learning, federal officials after Thanksgiving urged more public education about barred items. With the next holiday travel period looming and the national confiscation count running around 11,000 a day, here are travel tips to ponder while packing.

First, machetes are banned on airplanes now. If you really need an immense jungle knife for that ski trip or intimate family dinner, buy another upon arrival. Also, as strange as it may seem, assault weapons and pistols are airborne no-nos, even in aisle seats with clear lines of fire.

Tweezers and nail clippers are no longer deemed aeronautical threats. However, since whittling and turkey-carving are infrequent in-flight activities, knives, scissors, shears, box cutters and razor blades remain prohibited. Since all in-flight smoking was banned several solar orbits ago and one nut case attempted igniting an explosive fuse in his shoe, any kind of lighter is banned onboard, even the nifty colored ones that cost 69 cents anywhere smoking materials are sold. Circular saws, swords and welding torches are not permitted, even for union members. And the 15,666 people who tried carrying clubs onto airplanes no longer need worry about owning them.

Also, one other holiday travel tip: If your carry-on bag is so full of legal items that it requires axles and must be forced through the door of the airplane, chances are pretty good that it won't fit in the overhead bin.

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