4 Dumb Ways to Get in Trouble at the Airport

Anything from unfunny bomb jokes to tasteless T-shirts can delay your flight.

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Caution: These activities could give flight delay a whole new meaning—plus ruin your vacation. These are things you should never do, not even aspire to do. But, alas, some of them have already been done. Here are the tried and tested dumbest ways to get in trouble at an airport.

Mentioning "al Qaeda" or "bomb" or "hijack." The easiest way to get arrested anywhere in or around an airport is to utter those lovely keywords every type of law enforcement worker has been trained to jump on, especially since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You could simply stroll up to a clerk and tell him you're "here to blow things up," as one obviously travel-fatigued and ill-humored man did at Boston's Logan Airport. He walked away laughing, only to be pounced on by state troopers and a K-9 unit.

In Canada, you'd have to be really convincing about how you used the words bomb or weapon, because there you can get in trouble only if you're not joking. But say "suicide bombing," and you'll get full security attention, as reporter Christie Blatchford of Toronto's Globe and Mail did while discussing an article on her cellphone with another reporter in Ottawa. "A young woman with a walkie-talkie in her hands (I guess so if I suddenly turned into a human missile she could call for help) asked to speak to me," Blatchford later said. She even called the guard a "ninny" and got off the hook—albeit with a stern warning.

Transporting banned items: Just because something is legal in your state doesn't mean it's legal everywhere you go on vacation. It can be tricky if you are traveling with pepper spray, brass knuckles, or shoes with gel inserts—all of which are allowed in check-in luggage but can't be carried on the plane. What may be more surprising is what is allowed in carry-on luggage: screwdrivers, scissors, lighters, and corkscrews.

It will be harder to sneak in ceramic and plastic weapons, for those wont to do such things, as X-ray scanners are added to airports. The machines scan through clothing, making many people uncomfortable. Horrified traveler and blogger Megan Singleton wonders "how many baddies will be caught with this, vs. the people who will be asked personal questions about surgical enhancements, plates, and screws."

But you don't need any ceramic guns to be given a hefty fine. Simply carry some guavas through international customs, and you could get slapped with a $300 ticket. Even an innocent hamburger would cause alarm. At Logan Airport, your burger (or meat-filled pastry, as one woman found) would be confiscated and then trucked off to a suburb to be burned.

Flying in bad fashion: Sometimes it's as easy as having questionable taste. We've gotten used to taking off our shoes, belts, and jewelry to go through airport metal detectors, but fashion can set off the proverbial alarm. Lorrie Heasley of Woodland, Wash., made the mistake of boarding a Southwest Airlines plane donning a T-shirt that featured pictures of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with a phrase similar to the name of the popular film Meet the Fockers. Heasley defended her shirt with the right to free speech. "Here we are trying to free another country, and I have to get off an airplane in midflight over a T-shirt. That's not freedom," she said.

Even better was the guy who wore a Transformer T-shirt (though he couldn't recall which character it was) that showed a robot holding a gun. But the best was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student who wore a little home-grown science project T-shirt with some LED lights on the front to pick her boyfriend up from Logan Airport. She was arrested at gunpoint for her all too bomblike garb.

Warning: Flight attendants are trained to report groups with identical clothing, backpacks, or luggage because terrorists are often supplied such things by their supporters. So watch out, school groups, church missions, and men in boring business suits: You could be suspects!

Being afraid, very afraid: It may be as easy as filing into line with hundreds of other rushed summer travelers, and giving into that uncontrollable feeling that you've really messed things up. You pushed things a little too far, and now you're going to miss your flight. For anyone who's bought a plane ticket lately, you know that the thought of losing that wad of dough could strike a nerve—and induce complete and utter fear. It is increasingly likely that the airport will be manned by a behavior detection officer to pick up on your "body language and facial cues," as the Transportation Security Administration describes it, searching "for signs of bad intentions." Does the intent to cut in line count? There will be around 500 of these BDOs in airports by the end of the year, ready to catch you in a moment of grief.