The clock indicates I have plenty of time before my flight, but for all I care this trip might as well be delayed, postponed, and even cancelled. Fear of terrorism, not to mention the possibility that I may be the suspect, has sucked the fun out of traveling. A lifetime record proves me to be a benign citizen, but the way they now treat me at the borders, I’m no longer so sure. After all, when it comes to homeland security, the authorities know a lot more than I do.
Funny how simple words can present a complicated, even scary, meaning when used as a combination. For example, ‘police’ makes me feel safe whereas “Secret police” gives me the creeps. “Homeland Security” is doing the same, because before this expression became a household word, I didn’t worry so much about “homeland” or “security”.
Long gone are the days when my fear of flying was confined to take-off, landing, and all the turbulences in between. I’ll admit, those were indeed some of the most spiritual moments of my life and I have no doubt that each and every time, it was my heartfelt prayers — sometimes amid tears while kneeling in the isle – that brought the plane to its safe landing.
A procrastinator, I often got to the airport just seconds before takeoff time, and I won’t even mention the number of flights I’ve missed. Now I’m expected to get there early enough to finish reading an entire book before my flight and, when flying overseas, it is as if I live at the airport. As for prayers, once I’ve been safely through security, especially if my suitcase can be closed after its contents are scrambled multiple times, I’m certain God is watching me!
Unsure that my luggage and I end up in the same destination, I now take a small carry-on of bare necessities, which means I’ll have to be extra careful with what I pack. New regulations require for dangerous items such as perfume, hair gel, or nail polish to be protected in a zip-log bag. The inventor of zip-log had no idea what a substantial role this invention would play in our national security.
I may have to forget about taking my tiny sewing kit along. That scissors are lethal weapons is well documented in movies, but by now there has to be an anti-needle law, too. And of course, let’s not underestimate the thread. Considering the starvation diet imposed on airline passengers, and how few the peanuts are when and if they are offered, who knows when one may be tempted to strangle the hostess with the sewing thread?
I won’t worry about taking my nail file as I can just hear the woman saying, “Ma’am, according to this list, your long nails are a serious safety hazard.” Just give them time and I bet some people’s tongues will soon be considered “weapons of mass destruction.”
As I check my passport one last time before putting it in my purse, my whole body freezes in horror. There on the first page, in bold capital letters, it is written, “Place of birth: IRAN.” All of a sudden it is as if the safety net is pulled from under me and my American passport becomes a parachute with a huge hole in it.
At last I’m at the airport and, as I proceed to the radiation tunnel, it is clear that my winning smile will win me no points. Not only do these inspectors lack humor, they seem to manifest a strong disdain for happiness. I remove my ring, watch, glasses, and hairpins and place them in a bin. Next, I’m asked to take my shoes off and as the pungent odor of fake leather fills the air, I put them in another bin.
Metal-free and disarmed as I may be, the damn detector starts to buzz the minute I approach it. I am pulled to the side and am told to spread my arms out. Gloved hands run up and down my body while someone passes a beeping wand all over me.
When I finally reach gate G-63 – located in another continent – I realize there’s two hours to spare. Maybe Homeland security has interest in Starbucks because getting here this early leaves me no choice but to join the long line for my last chance at a late´.
Four hours later, we are finally airborne and I don’t even care what the captain means when he announces, “we’ll catch on.” While the hostess makes robotic movements to demonstrate the many uses of the floating device in a shark-infested frozen ocean, I close my eyes and thank my lucky stars for being safety suspended in mid-air.