“My wife is from Belarus and she went to visit her parents in 2015 while I worked in Arkansas. As a souvenir, she brought back a little keychain lighter in the shape of a grenade.
I thought it was awesome and kept it at my desk at work. A year later, I accepted a job offer in Illinois, packed up all my desk stuff including the lighter into a spare backpack, and tossed it with my other stuff when we moved. Fast forward to the Fall of 2017 and we all went to visit Belarus for two weeks.
I took the same backpack, and when I emptied it, I forgot I had stuffed the lighter into a hidden side pocket.
Flew from O’Hare to Frankfurt to Minsk, no problem. At the end of the trip, flew from Minsk to Frankfurt and we were going to our connection for our final flight back to Chicago and went through another checkpoint. Everything was going fine, but I realized it had been three or four minutes and all the bags had stopped coming through the scanner.
I figured it was either broken or someone got flagged for a check. Still waiting. I was standing behind the guy running the scanner so I could see his screen. He kept zooming in and out on what looked like an umbrella in a backpack. I had an umbrella in my backpack. But why would that be suspicious?
Then I saw him scan around and stop on what looked like a grenade, and it was zoomed in so it appeared full-size instead of tiny.
I thought, ‘Oh no.’
Immediately, I realized five or six other guards with enormous weapons had arrived. I chuckled nervously (because I’m a moron) and raised my hand and told them it was mine, it’s a lighter, and I’m really sorry.
They cordoned off seventy-five percent of the area and people started getting restless. I told the head weapon guy it was a lighter and I forgot about it, but I’m one of those idiots that chuckles annoyingly when I’m embarrassed, so the officers got mad at me.
My wife and two kids were watching in silence as the guards were searching me while I continuously chuckle and apologize more and more profusely. Another three guys approach my bag and use prong-like tools or something to open the bag and gingerly bring out the grenade. After staring at it, one of the guards opens and flicks the lighter. The mood immediately switches from ‘tense’ to ‘this moron American’ and the guards chastise me for not realizing how serious the situation is. At this point, my wife and kids left to go to the gate. It had been forty minutes now. Everyone in the airport hated me.
I ended up having to surrender my lighter and they made me sign a form acknowledging that I had brought a lookalike explosive device to the airport and surrendered it. No sense of humor at all from these guys, they really lived up to their reputation.
They finally let me go after more fingerprints and swab tests. I run like an out-of-shape American and barely catch the flight before it takes off. Others missed their flights. Sorry, people.
This story made me remember that I need to order a replacement.”