David Johnston stands over a table full of peculiar items confiscated at Dulles International Airport: a glittery clutch with brass knuckles as a clasp. A perfume bottle shaped like a grenade. A rusted circular saw blade. A pocket-sized pitchfork.
None of those is quite right. Then Johnston sees it: a guitar shaped like a semi-automatic rifle. Bingo. It will do nicely for the Transportation Security Administration’s social media accounts.
Johnston, TSA’s social media director, is following in the footsteps of Curtis “Bob” Burns, who created unlikely internet buzz for the not-always-beloved agency by showcasing the weirdest stuff travelers pack in their carry-ons. He died suddenly in October at age 48.
Burns’ work created a model for other federal agencies. The quirky photos combined with a hefty dose of dad humor helped lure in more than a million followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, who would then see important messages about the do’s and don’ts of airline travel.