Remember the plight of Maria Crocco of Fairfax, who had to board an airplane home from London's Heathrow Airport without the snazzy serving fork she had recently purchased at Harrods? A security official deemed it dangerous and unceremoniously removed it from her carry-on luggage.
(I assume he removed it unceremoniously. I don't imagine he blew a horn, dropped to his knees and said, "By the power vested in me by Her Majesty the Queen, I hereby claim this serving fork for England.")
Maria wished there was a company that let you mail such contraband items to yourself. Several readers pointed out that there is such a company. It's called ReturnKey Systems Inc., and it's based in lovely League City, Tex., outside Houston.
Two years ago, company founder Steve Kranyec and his wife were going to Las Vegas. "We got caught over a simple pair of manicure scissors," he said. Then Steve saw where the contraband item was going to end up: a bin packed to the gills with thousands of suspect items.
"Being the businessman and the entrepreneur, it sort of dawned on me that there's an opportunity there," Steve said.
Steve launched his business with a staffed booth at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Unfortunately, he said, "it's practically impossible to make a living doing that, when you have to pay somebody to sit in an airport 14 hours a day, seven days a week."
So he invented a fully automated kiosk, versions of which can be found in four U.S. airports.
"The most common items are scissors," Steve said, "usually expensive sewing or manicure scissors." Also commonly mailed home in desperation: pocketknives, Leatherman tools and empty cigarette lighters. (One gentleman has used Steve's service three times. "He keeps forgetting to take his pocketknife out of his pocket.")
Steve said the kiosk at Dulles International Airport is used to mail something unusual: spent shell casings.
They're from the 21-volley salutes at Arlington National Cemetery. Friends and family members take them as mementos of funerals at Arlington, but they're not allowed in carry-on luggage.
All We Are Is Dust in the Wind
Not long ago, while writing about streams, branches and runs, I had a humdinger of a digression on allergy shots and allergy tests and how they're made with a teensy bit of the thing to which you're allergic.
This elicited fond memories from Alvin Guttag of Gaithersburg, who 64 years ago had his first job "of any significance." The MIT graduate was the chief chemist at a Locust Valley, N.Y., company that made allergens and antigens. He earned $18 a week mixing and testing the solutions.
"One of the most interesting allergens we made was to test against allergy to dust," Alvin wrote. "The president of the company was a friend of the manager of the Hotel New Yorker in New York City and our samples of dust from which we made the allergen were taken from the sweepings of the Hotel New Yorker."
I love knowing that they used actual dust from an actual hotel, but I suppose it's not the sort of thing the hostelry would want to advertise: "Four out of five doctors recommend our dust when making allergy shots!"
Stick It to Me
I only went to sleep-away camp once, a Boy Scout camp in Texas where we slept in tents, and I found a scorpion in my shoe one morning. My very best memory of camp was the day I rappelled.
I was frequently repelling, but rappelling was something else. We stood at the top of a cliff, put on helmets, clipped our carabiners onto a rope and then leaned backward over the precipice.
It was the coolest thing I'd ever done. Kicking out from the rock, releasing the tension on the rope, plummeting earthward with a satisfying screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
I was so thrilled by my accomplishment that I decided to memorialize it. I'd found a tree branch that was perfect for making into a walking stick. I used my pocket knife to carve various designs into it, along with a message stating that on such and such date, "John Kelly rappelled off a cliff."
I kept that stick well into my adulthood. It was a part of my archive, along with my old report cards, Honor Society certificates and field day ribbons.
And then when we moved last year, I couldn't find it. Even though it's disappeared, I can see it clearly in my mind's eye: yellowish wood, incised crosshatching, the blocky letters of my name.
What are your memories of camp? Did something funny, horrible or horribly funny happen to you when you were a young camper?
Send your snappy anecdote to me, with "Camp Memory" in the subject field, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. I'll print some of my favorites in a future column.
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