The full-body patdown, stopping just short of a cavity search, did not make me feel safer. It made me feel like a criminal, a criminal whose Swiss Army knife should be hidden outside in the bushes at the suggestion of overzealous security who said there was no way I was coming in with it and enjoying an evening out with decent folks who did not have Swiss Army knives.

I had been to this music venue a dozen times or more. It’s a nice place, holds a thousand people or so. There’s no sawdust on the floor, no chicken wire at the bandstand and they sell more fancy craft beer than Miller High Life.

I paid my money, got my ticket and strolled in like I’ve done before. But this time, I encountered new security measures that included the aforementioned full-body patdown. It’s the world we live in, I suppose, but I could not help wondering why I would be thoroughly searched and prodded here but not at the Waffle House at 4 a.m., when it would be more likely that I was up to no good.

“Empty your right pocket, please,” said the fellow who had just groped me.

I took out a wad of keys. Attached was the small Swiss Army knife I’ve carried for 20 years or more. I did not have the pleasure of serving in the Swiss Army, but I’ve always admired the style and functionality of their equipment.

“No weapons,” he said.

“That’s not a weapon, that’s a tool,” I explained, “and we might need it. There could be a bottle-opening emergency backstage, the lead guitarist could develop a sudden hangnail, a backup singer might need a can of beanie weenies opened for a pre-show bite to eat and here I am, Johnny on the spot, the right man with the right tool.”

“No weapons, Johnny,” he said. “You can take it back to your car.”

“The car is eight miles away,” I said, exaggerating slightly but I figured that was OK because calling my tool a weapon is a stretch.

“Sometimes people hide stuff in the bushes outside and pick it up when they leave,” he said.

So, he was advising me to take what he believed was a deadly weapon and hide it outside in the bushes where, in theory, it could be found by an actual homicidal maniac who goes on a neighborhood killing spree ripping hobos and street musicians to shreds, just not inside this particular venue.

“OK,” I said.

I could not enjoy the show. Everywhere I looked I saw someone who snuck a potential weapon past security. An umbrella? Stab, stab. A giant purse? Bludgeon, bludgeon. A scarf? Strangle, strangle.

I kept thinking how unprepared I was for a bottle-opening emergency. Without the weight of my Swiss Army knife in my pocket, my whole rhythm was off and I danced with a noticeable lean to the right.

By the time the opening band left the stage, I feared the homicidal maniac had already found my Swiss Army knife in the bushes and was at that very moment leaving a bloody trail that would lead right back to me.

“Mr. Hollifield, I’m Detective Simmons, Homicide. Does this weapon look familiar to you?”

“For the last time, it’s a tool not a weapon.”

“There are three hobos and four street musicians down at the morgue who beg to differ.”

I left before the show was over. My weapon, er … tool, was where I left it hidden outside the venue and it’s now back snug in my pocket.

I’m done with that music hall. I’d rather head down to the Waffle House at 4 a.m. where nobody makes me feel like a criminal.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM

of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C.

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