Confiscate that toy sword! We can sell it on eBay

If you just had something valuable confiscated by airport security — perhaps a Swiss Army knife thatKnives
once belonged to your grandfather — don’t lose hope. You might be able to get it back.

Since 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration has collected
tons of items at security checkpoints; in 2006 alone, screeners took in
more than 13 million items. What happens to all that stuff? The TSA
turns it over to state surplus property agencies, which tend to sell it
online or at retail stores. (Sometimes the contraband is sold in bulk.)

The agencies say they’ll reunite you with your prized pocketknife,
if they can locate it. But they would much prefer that travelers figure
out the rules and abide by them. "Our goal is for passengers not to
bring this stuff on anymore, so we won’t have to deal with it," says
Steve Ekin, Georgia’s surplus property division director. [Link]

You: "I’m trying to locate something that was confiscated from me at Philadelphia airport."

Surplus officer: "Can you describe it?"

You: "It’s a Swiss Army knife."

Officer: "We have 575 of those."

You: "Well, it’s got a red cover."

Officer: "That narrows it to 570."

You: "I’d really like it back. It was my grandfather’s."

Officer: "Sorry, can’t help you."

You: "What are you going to do with them?"

Officer: "Well, we’ll try to sell them on eBay first. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll return them to the Swiss Army."

It’s not just knives that they confiscate. It’s all sorts of items.

Alabama: "There are always lots of plastic fake swords that people buy at Walt Disney World, so there are probably lots of mad kids." [Link]

We’d rather have mad kids on the plane than plastic fake swords that might give that brown-skinned guy some ideas.

Georgia: "We get flatware and kitchen knives stolen from restaurants, and we’ve
received a bowling pin, a chain saw, and a few circular saws." [Link]

The passenger wasn’t happy. He kept shouting, "Where in the rules does it say anything about chain saws?"

Illinois: "On occasion, we’ll see big bowie knives and ninja swords. And nunchucks–a lot of those come through." [Link]

We grabbed lots of nunchucks yesterday and we also confiscated a Bible from a nun, just in case the nun chucks it.

Kentucky: "We’ve collected about 500 mini Louisville Slugger bats bought at the Louisville Slugger Museum."[Link]

We’re proud to say that we’ve become the museum’s chief supplier.

Oregon: "Golf clubs and machetes."[Link]

Aren’t you glad we stopped the machete-wielding passenger?

Pennsylvania: "We’ve received hundreds of pairs of fuzzy handcuffs and other …
paraphernalia–I wanted to create funny Valentine’s Day kits, but folks
here thought taxpayers wouldn’t like it."[Link]

Hey, I work for the government. What else do I have to do?

Texas: "Brass knuckles, crutches, and piñata sticks. And we once got a cane with a knife inside it."[Link]

We arrested the old man, of course. He now lives in Guantanamo Retirement Village.

Washington State: "Lots of ulus–round Eskimo chopping blades. Also, a Sit’n Putt. It’s a short-handled putter designed to be used while you’re on the potty."[Link]

The passenger was rather upset, even after we said to him, "Look, the restrooms on a plane are very busy. We don’t want you playing with your balls there."

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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