I was returning home to the U.S. from Germany, and checked into Frankfurt’s international airport. At the security checkpoint, while I passed successfully through the detector, my carry-on bag was flagged for hand inspection. As I stood at the end of the checkpoint a security agent opened the bag and began searching through it.
As that was happening, I noticed a young and armed German police officer had stepped up and was standing immediately to my left. With my peripheral vision, I could tell another officer was standing to my right and just behind me. Another non-uniformed security agent, this one with a supervisory air, planted himself in front of me facing towards my left.
“OK,” I thought. “This is not good.”
The policeman on my left asked for my passport and boarding pass, which I handed over silently. After a look, he asked, “Do you have anything sharp in your bag? Any knives, anything like that?”
I thought for just a second and shook my head. “No,” I said, as firmly as I could muster.
Shortly after that, the agent searching my bag reached into an open-top side pocket from which he extracted this object, and threw it with a clang to the table.
“Holy sh@#!” The words just popped right out of me as the knife bounced off the table surface before settling.
I recognized it as a cleaver-style cheese knife: part of a set that my daughter had given us for Christmas.
For a moment, I was nonplussed. But then I realized we’d placed the cheese set (it was meant for holidays and took up a lot of counter space) on a storage shelf in the basement. A shelf immediately above the place where I stored my carry-on.
When a further search produced no other illegal possessions, the policeman turned to me and handed back my boarding pass and passport.
“You can go — but you can’t take that with you,” he said, nodding towards the gleaming, stainless steel cheese cleaver.
I said thank you and began repacking my bag (which is not such an easy task when your hands are still shaking).
It wasn’t until I was finally heading towards my gate that I realized, if the cleaver was in my bag as I was departing from Frankfurt it would have been there as I checked through security in Philadelphia International Airport.
And that’s something to think about.