There is an old Biblical saying abut straining a gnat and swallowing a camel. It means that people will ignore the grossest miscarriage of justice while bringing down the hammer of justice to punish the smallest of infractions.
It happened not long ago when a little boy of early elementary age was charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate on the cheek. Never-mind that on any given day thousands of teachers in America turns a deaf ear to the most horrific use of vulgar language spouted from the mouths of teenage boys, often directed at their female classmates. Another recent example of straining a gnat made national headlines, albeit with a chuckle or two.
Airline security has become a real big deal since 9/11. Of course, we should take care about who gets on planes and what they are carrying. No guns, please. The arm-length hunting knife should probably stay at the house. No sticks of dynamite. But now we're down to measuring capfuls of cologne. And security experts think you cannot bring down a plane with four books of paper matches, but bring five books on board, and you're busted, buddy.
Especially if you strike one.
Want to know how I know? Well it all had to do with a little case of flatulence.
This is the saga of an unfortunate woman -- who probably wishes she could take a a temporary vacation from Planet Earth -- who has an unspecified medical condition that causes her to pass gas. The poor thing was on an American Airlines plane recently when you-know-what happened. Being a considerate person, she whips out her book of matches and strikes a couple with the intent of masking the odor with the sulfur smell of the smoke. Unfortunately, her fellow passengers were not comforted but were instead alarmed by it, and the plane made an emergency landing.
After locating their pseudo-terrorist, the light crew and the 99 or so passengers boarded the plane and flew merrily on their way.
All except her. A spokesman for the Nashville International Airport Authority said it was apparent the woman meant no harm, and the whole situation was a little humorous. She even expressed sympathy for the woman and noted that it was unusual for someone to go to such measures to cover up an unpleasant body odor. Still, the woman has been banned indefinitely from flying on American Airlines.
My questions are these:
If airline security can bring criminal charges against a person for striking a match on an airplane, why do they let them on in the first place? Who was the genius who said that four books of fire-starters aren't dangerous but five are?
Worst of all if they could tell the poor woman was not intent on endangering anyone and they declined to press charges against her, why must they ban her from flying on their airlines in the future?
I've come to the conclusion that this must have been an older woman because most young people I know give themselves bonus points if they produce a real stinker. No way are they going to try to cover up such an accomplishment. But this woman could teach any classmate-kissing youngster or wanna-be-terrorist a thing or two.
Not only did she make the airlines look silly for swallowing a camel while straining a gnat, but she also brought down an airplane with just a couple of paper matches -- and a little gas.
Write to Francis Shrum in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.