I skulked through the airport in the dark of the morning. It was far too early for my tastes, as I only had gulped one cup of coffee during the drive. The flight was scheduled for 7:10, and I left the house around 5. I was flying to Orlando to meet up with a special group of friends and was even taking my nephew, Marcus, with me.
I was thoroughly looking forward to this trip.
I was traveling to Orlando to attend Star Wars Celebration V. This was my first “con”, short for convention. I have always been a Geek, but had never ventured out in public quite like this. I wasn't sure what to think about this trip and was a little afraid of becoming "that geek".
I rarely dip my toe in the water for anything, and this con was no exception. Not only was I attending all four days, but I was going to be a "Costumed Volunteer" and committed to wearing my Jedi costume for at least 16 hours while there and helping the staff as needed. I even made a carrying case for my Master Replica FX Lightsaber so that I could bring it onto the plane as a carry-on. I was concerned about damage if I checked it as luggage.
For those of you who know me well, I am not exactly handy when it comes to crafting things. Making this carrying case (which resembles a large quiver, but for a lightsaber instead of arrows) was a challenge. I used PVC, a pool tube, vinyl, a zipper and shoulder strap hardware. It took me weeks to make it look like it was part of my costume.
I was making my way through the security line and dutifully took off my belt and shoes. I watched as my items, including my lightsaber, moved forward through the x-ray machine. Everything made it to the end of the roller belt conveyor except for the lightsaber. The lightsaber was moving back into the machine for rescanning. It moved in and out a handful of times until finally resting at the end of the machine. The TSA Agent lifted the case and politely asked, "May I open this and see what's inside?" I cautiously responded that it was ok. I was still concerned about potential damage.
The agent pulled the lightsaber out and examined it. I reached over the conveyor area and started to point out the power switch so that he could turn it on. He abruptly pulled back and strongly stated, "Sir, you need to step back." I wasn't prepared for an aggressive conversation so early in the morning. The supervisor stepped closer started to observe our interaction. "I just wanted to show you how it worked," I replied.
The agent hefted the lightsaber and was clearly contemplating if he should allow this carry-on. I added, "I am going to a convention. This is part of my costume." Other passengers were now paying attention as the TSA Agent hit the power switch and the familiar snap-hiss of a lightsaber ignition sounded. "I don't think that I can allow this." The supervisor added, "I will back up my agent's decision." I asked what the concern was.
"This could be used as a weapon."
I rolled my eyes and said, "Have you not seen the movies? It is a weapon ... of a Jedi Knight. Not as random or as clumsy as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age." As this point, I felt the eyes of many passengers scan over to me. The agent sternly asked, "Do you really want go there?"
In the end, I had to check the lightsaber. I wasn't happy to lose control of this irreplaceable item. I tweeted as I boarded the plane.
I chatted back and forth with the TSA after arriving in Florida. I wanted to ensure that I wouldn't have trouble on my return flight after the convention.
After a couple of days, the TSA contacted me and shared an update in their system: