The full-body pat down stopping just short of a cavity search did not make me feel safer. It made me feel like a criminal, a criminal whose Swiss Army knife should be hidden outside in the bushes at the suggestion of overzealous security who said there was no way I was coming in with it and enjoying an evening out with decent folks who did not have Swiss Army knives.
I had been to this particular music venue a dozen times or more. It’s a nice place, holds a thousand people or so fairly comfortably. There’s no sawdust on the floor, no chicken wire at the bandstand and they sell more fancy craft beer than Miller High Life.
I paid my money, got my ticket and strolled in like I’ve done before. But this time, I encountered new security measures that included the aforementioned full-body pat down. It’s the world we live in, I suppose, but I could not help wondering why I would be thoroughly searched and prodded here but not at the Waffle House at 4 a.m. when it would be more likely that I was up to no good.
“Empty your right pocket, please,” said the fellow who had just groped me.
I took out a wad of keys. Attached was the small Swiss Army knife I’ve carried for 20 years or more. I did not have the pleasure of serving in the Swiss Army but I’ve always admired the style and functionality of their equipment.
“No weapons,” he said.
“That’s not a weapon, that’s a tool,” I explained, “and we might need it. There could be a bottle-opening emergency back stage, the lead guitarist could develop a sudden hangnail, a backup singer might need a can of beanie weenies opened for a pre-show bite to eat and here I am, Johnny on the spot, the right man with the right tool.”
“No weapons, Johnny,” he said. “You can take it back to your car.”
“The car is eight miles away,” I said, exaggerating slightly but I figured that was OK because he was exaggerating by calling my tool a weapon.
“Sometimes people hide stuff in the bushes outside and pick it up when they leave,” he said.
So, he was advising me to take what he believed was a deadly weapon and hide it outside in bushes where, in theory, it could be found by an actual homicidal maniac who goes on a neighborhood killing spree ripping hobos and street musicians to shreds, just not inside this particular venue.
“OK,” I said.
Of course I could not enjoy the show. Everywhere I looked I saw someone who snuck a potential weapon past security. An umbrella? Stab, stab. A giant purse? Bludgeon, bludgeon. A scarf? Strangle, strangle.
I kept thinking how unprepared I was for a bottle-opening emergency. Without the weight of my Swiss Army knife in my pocket my whole rhythm was off and I danced with a noticeable lean to the right.
By the time the opening band left the stage I feared the homicidal maniac had already found my Swiss Army knife in the bushes and was at that very moment leaving a bloody trail that would lead right back to me.
“Mr. Hollifield, I’m Detective Simmons, Homicide. Does this weapon look familiar to you?”
“For the last time, it’s a tool not a weapon.”
“There are three hobos and four street musicians down at the morgue who beg to differ.”
I left before the show was over, though it was technically over for me the moment the TSA wannabe cupped my nether regions. My weapon, er … I mean tool, was where I left it hidden outside the venue and it’s now back snug in my pocket.
I’m done with that music hall. I’d rather head down to the Waffle House at 4 a.m. where nobody makes me feel like a criminal.
Scott Hollifield is editor/general manager of The McDowell News in Marion, North Carolina, and a humor columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.