Amazing Racers should have heeded warning

When I saw Erwin and Godwin Cho break out the squirt guns at the Seattle airport at the beginning of Sunday’s “Amazing Race,” it was deja vu all over again.

Obviously, the boys hadn’t read my August column when I’d been put on the terrorist list for trying to bring water guns on a Southwest flight.

We reprint it here for the health and safety of all:

Burbank airport is kind of a throwback, a place where you still walk up ladders to board the planes both front and rear. I don’t think it has changed decor since the 1960s. The baggage claim area is on the outside of the building, where anyone could grab your luggage.

Who knew this would be the place where I was destined to become America’s Most Wanted?

But let’s start at the beginning.

Years ago, networks used to shower TV critics with promotional items, like “Murder She Wrote” jackets and “Everybody Loves Raymond” silver-engraved toasters. A few years ago, though, the “no tchotckes rule” was instituted.

Networks were restricted from giving out everything except support items, things like books, DVDs and, for some reason, anything edible.

Of course, a few goodies sneak through, like a stuffed penguin (Hallmark Channel is promoting the network airing of “March of the Penguins”) or a “World News Tonight with Charles Gibson” mug placed with the other coffee mugs in the back of the room.

Hey, if you take it, you take it.

For NBC’s party, the theme was a Texas barbecue, tying into the new series “Friday Night Lights” and football games on Sunday night. At the party, you could grab a hat and a bandana filled with items like a small football, a squirt gun and so on.

It was the “so on” I forgot to check out.

I was so busy working the party, it was only after it was over and I was leaving that someone handed me the hat with a blue bandana filled with goodies and tied with twine. With so many leftovers, a red one was thrown in as well.

I carried them up to the hotel room, tossed them in a corner and promptly forgot about them.

After 18 sleep-deprived days, I packed to go home. All the clothes in the suitcase and my few tchotckes in a PBS “Frontline” duffle bag with the PBS kid’s luggage tag. Inside was thechocolate bar from “Gold Rush,” some Loretta’s authentic pralines from two Hurricane Katrina sessions, a CW bright green T-shirt saying “Free to be Critical,” a small bottle of the blue liqueur Hpnotiq from the “Rock Star: Supernova” party and some assorted DVDs.

And, OK, my picture with Curious George. I mean, please, you need something to amp up your image with the kids.

Oh, and the hat and two bandanas. One red. One blue.

Later, as I walked toward the screening station in the airport, I dutifully took off my shoes, removed my laptop from the case and placed my “Frontline” bag on the conveyor belt.

The blond woman next to me with the toddler and I chatted as the belt came to an abrupt halt. Soon, every Transportation Security Administration cop was at the scanner, surveying the bag.

I turned to the woman and said, “Could it be the liqueur?”

“I hope not,” she said with a bit of a worried look. “I’ve got a bottle of wine in mine.”

Within seconds, the cops were swarming, the lane was shut down and the woman and her child were escorted away — from me.

“Ma’am, you have breeched security,” said the TSA guy.

Still unsure of the offense, I stammered, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Are these your bandanas?” he said, looking like Jack Bauer right before he takes out a guy on “24.”

“Sort of,” I said, ready to give up NBC in a heartbeat. “I got them as a party favor at an NBC party.”

At this point, I put on my sweet, middle-aged woman smile hoping it would serve me as well with the Feds as it does with unsuspecting network executives.

Well, he says, you are transporting contraband, which is punishable under Federal Law. You are subject to up to five years in jail and more than $250,000 in fines.

“I’m going to arrest you,” he said flatly, impervious to my middle-aged chunky woman charm.

Thank god, at that point a petite LAPD officer showed up and told me that inside the bandanas were a plastic water gun and a cap gun (“I swear officer, I thought it was candy.”)

She said she understands it was an honest mistake and that next time I really need to exercise common sense.

Actually, I added the common sense remark. She said to be careful about what I bring on board a plane. But I knew what she meant. My crime was being stupid and careless.

But that wasn’t enough for TSA guy, who took his Homeland Security quite seriously. He made me move over to another area, took my driver’s license and my contraband.

“Just because that cop doesn’t want to take the time to arrest you doesn’t mean you are out of trouble,” he said with all the intensity of Mackey taking down a perp on “The Shield.”

Then I did what any strong woman would do. I started tearing up. Please, officer, don’t throw me into jail. I’ve seen “Oz.” It isn’t pretty.

He held up the blue and red bandanas and said, “Where are you traveling to?”

“Oakland,” I reply.

You could almost see the wheels turning as he pondered if I was providing the guns to gangs.

“I’m putting you on the list,” he said.

It isn’t the one you got on when your parents caught you sneaking out at night as a teen. No. He decided to put me on the terrorist watch list. Or at least that’s what he told me he was doing as he put down my vitals for his report.

“You will now be marked,” he said, almost growling the words.

Oh, and by the way, would you like me to put these items in baggage for you so you can pick them up in Oakland?

It turns out if I had just put them in the old suitcase I checked, things would have been fine.

“I never want to see those things again,” I said, bolting as soon as I got my driver’s license back.

My husband is happy beyond words. Now he’s off the hook for that trip to Hawaii. I, on the other hand, feel like this is just the pilot episode of “The Fugitive.”

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