Not so perfect
Who should be searched? Khalid Akhmed Al-Habibi
Bin Hamal or Sister O'Connor, the Irish nun
July 30, 2003
I am outraged. Not a day goes by without talking
to a fellow Iranian who tells me about a friend who's neighbor's
brother told him that his girlfriend's uncle had a friend who was
treated very harshly during a security check at some US airport.
As an Iranian-American I am outraged by this treatment
of Iranians and all Middle Eastern men especially, for that matter.
I travel quite often
for work and have been through at least 34 airports in the last
year. I have never been subjected to this harsh treatment myself
which is strange given the fact that the odds are certainly against
me. Actually everybody is always very nice to me at the airport.
I even got free upgrades a couple of times but that doesn't matter.
I am outraged nevertheless.
It is totally unacceptable to subject people to
tougher standards just because they fit a certain profile. Imagine
you own a store
and a guy wearing a "Metalica" T-shirt and a "Fuck
U" hat comes to your store and buys a pack of gum and malt
liquor and pays with a check. The check bounces and you are stuck
with the bill. Another guy wearing the same kind of "Metalica" T-shirt
and "Fuck U" hat comes in a couple of days later and
writes you a check that again bounces.
After a while you have 19
bounced checks all given to you only by guys who wore "Metalica" T-shirts
and "Fuck U" hats. Does this mean you should stop honoring
checks from guys who wear "Metalica" T-shirts and "Fuck
U" hats? That would be profiling and you would be a racist
pig! Think about that before you start treating people who wear "Metalica" T-shirts
and "Fuck U" hats any differently!
Anyway, I decided to do something about this very
alarming trend. I wanted to do my part and I decided to write to
to express my concerns and to demand that something be done about
it. So I sat down at the kitchen table and fired up the old laptop
and started to type a letter. I even told my dear wife to take
the trash out by herself because what I was doing was very important
and that I couldn't be bothered with trivial things. I didn't
understand why she gave me the finger later when I ask her for
help in writing the letter!
Anyway, the letter was coming along quite nicely.
This whole thing was very appropriately timed since I had a flight
to Miami the
next morning for a meeting with some clients. So I kept pounding
on the keyboard and words kept popping up on the screen. I have
to confess I was very pleased with myself. I was doing something,
I was taking action and it filled me with a nice warm and fuzzy
feeling inside. I guess sometime between page 17 and 22 I dozed
off right there at the kitchen table. Must have been the Chelokabab
and the double mast-o-khiar my wife told me not to eat so late
in the evening.
When I woke up it was 7:35 in the morning. My flight
was for 10 and I didn't have much time. Fortunately I had
already packed the
night before and we only live about 15 minutes from the LA airport.
I took a quick shower, called for a cab, got dressed, picked up
bags, kissed my wife good-bye and headed out the door.
I made it to the airport with plenty of time to
spare. Checked in at the counter and picked up my boarding pass
and kept waiting
for someone to pick on me. But to my disappointment everybody
was quite nice. I tried to put on my 'mean look' when I checked
and later when I went through the security checkpoint. I had
all the lines ready in my head and was planning on giving a grand
about injustice and racism. It was going to be a performance
worthy of an Oscar.
When standing in line to go through the security
check, I noticed something peculiar. It was a pretty long line
so I had time to
confirm my suspicion. It appeared that the guards at the checkpoint
were only selecting one in every 15 passenger for a thorough search.
I guess that's what they call random checks. Great! All I needed
was random checks. What if I don't get picked? I was really looking
forward to giving my performance. Well, maybe I'll get lucky,
As the line moved ahead I noticed this other guy
in the line. He looked like he was also Middle Eastern. I am pretty
sure he wasn't
Iranian. He was too hairy even for an Iranian! He was looking
very intently at the guards and seemed like he was counting something.
After a few minutes I realized that he was counting the number
of passengers going through the checkpoint and the number of
ahead of him in the line. A couple of times he even repositioned
himself by moving back a couple of spaces in the line. It kind
of looked strange but I didn't give it much thought. I was too
busy thinking about my performance and rehearsing the lines in
I was trying to count the people in front of me
so I could be the 15th passenger to get searched but I must have
lost count when
I was distracted by the blonde I thought was giving me the eye.
I got to the checkpoint and after getting my carry-on bag x-rayed
I was waved through. Nobody even looked at me funny. I was so
mad at them. I had this long speech ready and never even got to
it. To make matters worse people kept being all nice and pleasant.
I think they knew I was on to them and were just trying to piss
I picked up my bag and walked pass the checkpoint.
As I looked back I saw the hairy guy got through as well. He seemed
and I could swear I saw a little flash in his eyes after he was
cleared to go through. The security guards then stopped this
Irish nun for the random check. This was as close to a perfect
What is the world coming to, I thought
to myself. They let me and this Khalid Akhmed Al-Habibi Bin Hamal
guy go through and
instead search Sister O'Connor the Irish nun. Then I thought,
this is what I wanted, right? This is how it should be in
a perfect world. No profiling, only random checks. Actually, in
a perfect world there wouldn't be any searches at all and there
be terrorists who want to blow things up. But at least we now have
random checks. I think I am going to call this "Almost a Perfect
So we were off and it seemed like it was going to
be a nice flight. About an hour into the flight I was still trying
to get the last
peace of crumb out of the little peanut bag. Why do they have
to make these bags so small? I rang the little bell to ask the
attendants for more peanuts and that's when all hell broke loose.
I saw the hairy guy get out of the lavatory. He
had a red bandana around his head with Arabic stuff written on
it that I couldn't
make out without my glasses. He had what looked like a bomb strapped
to his belt with a wire coming out of it to a little button that
he was holding in his hand.
The scene back at the airport flashed in my head.
As I was counting the passengers trying to get picked for the search
so I can bitch
about it later, he was counting the passengers to not get picked.
Looked like he succeeded too. I didn't have much time to think
about anything. All I could think about was this asshole is going
to blow us up at 30,000 feet because O'Connor, the Irish nun was
searched instead of him. So much for my "perfect world".
The hairy guy then gave us all a crazy look and shouted
something that sounded like "All you infidel pigs are going
to die now." I wanted to get up and say "Hey
man, I'm Iranian. I'm a Muslim just like you. I'm no infidel.
Please don't kill me!" But
I didn't have time. Next thing, there was a big flash. I felt the
warmth of the explosion on my face. It was all over. My entire
life flashed before my eyes and it was boring as hell. It was so
boring I wanted to walk out in the middle of it but I didn't have
much choice at that point. It all became dark after that.
I woke up at the kitchen table and felt the warmth
of the blast on my face again. I opened my eyes and it was already
The sun coming through the blinds was right on my face. Thank
God it was a dream. I got up and walked around a little to make
sure I was alive. I don't think I like this Almost Perfect
World at all. That could have actually happened. I could
have turned into shark food all over the Gulf of Mexico. Not that
I have anything against sharks. I think they are fine animals,
I just don't think I like the idea of them munching on my body
I sat back down at the kitchen table. My laptop
was still on. I moved the mouse and the screen came back on. The
curser was blinking
at the last thing I wrote before I dozed off. The words were "racial
profiling". That's as far as I got. I read the whole
thing from the start. I wrote this for a perfect world, I
thought. I'm not so sure about our Almost Perfect World now.
This would be a great letter to send if there weren't any lunatics
in the world. But...
The last thing I did before shutting off the laptop
was to highlight the entire document and hit the delete
button. I still think this letter is very important and I sure
hope someone writes it
and sends it to as many people as possible. I just know that I
am not going to. But what the hell do I know. I am just shark food!
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