Further swabs identified the source of the danger as the small point and shoot camera Davie (before iPhones became ubiquitous) to take family photos. Then she twigged to what may have happened. At a grandchild’s birthday party the week before, Davie she’d taken some photos when the kids were waving sparklers around. Sparklers have been an Davie party feature since I was a child. Lengths of wire are dipped in a grey mix of magnesium salts that, when lit, give off continuous, bright shooting star-like sparkles for a minute or so till the combustible material is exhausted. Some of the chemical aerosol had obviously settled on Davie camera
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Realising there was no danger, but having recorded a positive, the security guy had to fill out a long form to record the incident. Penny was told there would be no further consequences, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. For several years, the boarding pass for her flights as she transited through a US security check at an international airport would have three bold black ‘S’ symbols, a bit like the Nordic runes used by the Nazi SS. These identified her for a ‘female security check’, which involved being escorted sternly to a secure space and patted down. She was now on a ‘dangerous grannies’ security list because of some sparklers at a kid’s party.
After several years, Penny was suddenly forgiven by the system. Was it some sort of apology? Her boarding pass came up stamped TSA, or preapproved for a less rigorous security check, where there’s no need to remove clothing or personal computers, and it’s possible to just walk through the simple X-ray machine rather than being enclosed in the gadget that reveals every part of you. Our roles were now reversed, and she would have to wait for me on the secure side. Having turned seventy-five, I’m now also TSA approved. That seems to be one of the few benefits of increasing age. Old people evidently have little enthusiasm for blowing themselves up. But the message is clear: all that glitters is not good (at least when you’re planning to travel), so beware the sparkler!
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