Hijacking a plane with ‘Smile’

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.  – Phyllis Diller


The flight was about to take off from Paris. I had a knife in my cabin bag (hand luggage). I was just one step away from hijacking it.

How I managed to carry a knife in the cabin? Well, I smiled and they just let me.

I mean it, really. In spring 2009 I was returning from Paris and was in a good mood. I carried just a hand baggage and put  it on security check. Passed through the metal detector and waited for my bag.

Suddenly things turned weird. The guy monitoring the x-ray machine said something and handed my bag to another security guy. A young lad in his 20’s. I moved towards him to check what was the matter.

He kind of shouted: “Stay back sir. Do not try to touch your bag. Let me check.”

I asked “Check what dude?”

He said “Well you have a knife in there”

Now I was thinking what knife? I stood there waiting. The security guy searched for a few minutes. Emptied my bag, but found nothing. He paused and gave me a mean look.

I smiled and asked “Can I help you?”
He firmly told “No. Please stand there and wait.”

It was a Samsonite laptop hand luggage. It has so many pockets, even I also get confused sometimes. And so was he. Searching for another 5 minutes he was exhausted, clueless and found nothing.

He looked at me with a frown. My heart was pounding as it was boarding time but I smiled. You know what, a smile is contagious. So he smiled back, on his own helplessness.

His smile gave me an opening. I asked to help and he handed me the bag. I frisked and out came the culprit. My beloved swiss army knife, which I had mistakenly put there. He took it from my hand and said “I have to throw it. You can’t carry it on board.

I was a bit worried now. But I rather smiled at the situation and replied “Come on man, I can’t throw it. It’s a souvenir for my brother. See I found it for you, I’m no terrorist.”

And I stood there smiling expecting some leniency. A simple smile has something in it. The airport security guy smiled back and said “Ok take it. But keep it in check in baggage from next time.”

So, basically he allowed me a knife on a plane just because I smiled in a pretty tense situation. That’s the magic of a smile. It relieves us of tension. It makes any situation light. A smile helps keep mind cool and gives courage. The sort of courage to ask permission to carry a knife on the plane.

A smile also weaves magic with others. It creates a sense of trust even in complete strangers. These days I smile even more. It helps me forget my problems for a moment.

Over the years I have boarded planes well beyond last boarding time. Not paid any extra money in budget airlines for chargeable services. Received help and favors from complete strangers in foreign countries. All because of innocent smiles.

You can google it and would find hundreds of good reasons to smile ranging from health benefits to professional benefits. However I would skip those obvious benefits. You can read them anywhere on the Internet. Here I would sum up the benefits of a smile which are rather uncanny but highly useful in this cut-throat world. I have experienced them first hand.

1. Smile to get others to trust you

Genuine smiles send a message that you can be trusted. We should definitely flash a smile if we want others to co-operate with us. But make sure it should look genuine, not the ‘creepy’ smile.

2. Smile for some leniency 

If you have done some silly mistake, try smiling. Most probably you can get away with some leniency. Recall how kids get away with breaking your stuff by smiling?

3. Laugh off the hurt

Sometimes laughing and smiling helps to reduce distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this ‘facial feedback hypothesis’. Even if it is a fake smile, it is enough to lift our mood slightly. So, next time someone dumps you rather than being angry or crying, try smiling on your own stupidity. It may cut some pain (though no guarantee).

4. Hide what you really think

This one is important. A smile can be used to shield our original feelings like fear, tension and nervousness.

5. Smile and (half) the world smiles with you

Just like a yawn, a smile is contagious. And it cuts across gender, Age, language barriers. As you’ll have noticed, though, not everyone does smile back. Scientific studies suggest that around 50% of people reciprocate. In comparison almost no one responds to a frown with their own frown.

I’m not saying you should smile all day but smiling most of the time would be good. Start small.

Try this for a day:

  1. Accompany all your hi, hello and handshakes with a visible innocent smile.
  2. Greet people helping you like your waiter, cab driver, grocery lady, lift man, watchman etc. With a smile.
  3. Smile whenever you are tense.
  4. If you feel angry at something just smile and let it go.

Try it just for one day and you’ll feel how a smile can turn most situations positive and cheerful. How it creates friends out of complete strangers. How it can make any day better. A smile is free of cost.

I give no guarantee. Try it yourself. You will discover the magic of smile yourself.

As for hijacking, I never did it. I am no terrorist. And if you ever plan to hijack a plane don’t try anything like that. You’ll surely land up in interrogation by security people or lose your knife or both.

WHY SO SERIOUS? Let’s put a smile on that face. – Joker (The Dark Knight)

3 thoughts on “Hijacking a plane with ‘Smile’

  1. Wow! A superb thought excellently penned down! I loved the style and the practicality described in the post especially the (half) world smiling back since we need to remember not to be put off when someone doesn’t smile back :) Also the facial feedback hypothesis works wonder for me personally and smiling definitely reduces my irritation in hopeless situations :)
    Looking forward to more of your smiles and posts! :)

  2. “Recall how kids get away with breaking your stuff by smiling?”

    Man.. you rock!

    Liked the quotes as much as the content.

    In my experience as an interviewer, those interviewees who smiled when they are fighting a tough question were able to create good impression than who didn’t.

    Keep smiling – genuinely!

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