I was thinking about my previous post about my corrupt passport breezing through customs etc and subsequent scrutiny by dozens of pairs of eyes without so much as a raised eyebrow when I remembered a very different scene 6 years ago...after 9/11.
Picture this...in Feb 2002 I went to visit my mother for the first time in many years...everyone was telling me to delay it for awhile because airport security etc was such a pain to endure...but I was really missing her and decided it was worth the pain. Not to mention there was still lots of fear over flying and people wondering if other planes would be targeted...I figured thats a useless 'what if" to worry about because if it turns out to be your plane...not a whole lot you can do about it (but then I have to mention the passengers that hijacked the hijackers on that 9/11 plane and died fighting...but they still died)...also I had to take advantage of the fact that my asshole husband was actually allowing me to visit my family finally....even the potential threat of terrorists wasnt about to keep me on the ground...and away I go...but not just me...my 3 year old son as well.
So off the two of us went...had a really hectic flight over...with about a million and one security checks...with a very close look at everything...shoes off...the whole thing...but it was worth it....mom was the destination...mom was worth it.
So we finally arrived in Texas and had a wonderful month long visit...my son got to meet his grandma and aunt for the first time and really had a good time. Coincidently my son's 4th bday was the same day as our departure...so unbeknownst to me my mother...his loving grandmother...slipped a little bday gift into our luggage...something she knew he loved and would have a good time with...however..she forgot to let me know what it was...so the surprise was about to be on both of us....in a heart stopping "Im about to go to jail here" kind of way...anyone getting a clue here?
So I got to the airport...checked in...got on the plane...no problems. Sat down and arranged my son and I for the long trip ahead...just started to relax when I heard my name called out over the airplane soundsystem...anyone that has ever heard their name called out when you least expect it and in one of the few places you really dont want to hear it...then you know how I felt just then.
So person on the PA system told me to find the nearest steward/ess so I did...and the rest is...shall we say...a very gray hair inducing moment...as soon as they realized who I was they were all business. Now this was back in the day that I still wore the hijab...so I have a feeling that that combined with my sons Arab name and passport (he did not have an american one at that time) had quite alot to do with the unfolding events...but Im only assuming here.
Anyhow...right away a very tall and large police/military type man with an even larger gun was stationed right behind me...if I had bad breath...he was close enough to smell it...it was like that. Anyhow...I was escorted off the plane down the loading ramp followed closely by G I Joe and his entourage. He was damn near stepping on the backs of my shoes....thats how close he was. To say I was shaking in my shoes hardly describes my situation...all though my newly turned 4 year old son thought the "big gun" was cool and was busy asking G I Joe if he ever "shooted someone with it"....G I Joe just smiled...ouch! I was having the sinking feeling that if G I Joe hadnt actually "shooted" anyone yet...he might just be hoping today was the day he got to try out his nifty big gun...mommy!
So half way down the ramp there is a small enlarged area with a table...on the table was a box...the box was mine in which I had packed extras that didnt fit in my suitcase. It was sitting there unopened but might as well of had a spot light on it with a big flashing neon sign indicating this was the scene of the crime. Everyone hushed up and one man looked at me and asked "is this your box ma'am?" After swallowing repeatedly several times and wondering if there was any way I could deny ownership of the box because I all ready had a sinking suspicion whatever my mother put in the box was the cause of all this...I uttered in a squeaky voice..."yes".
"Did you pack the box yourself and has it been in your sight the whole time...?"...."Yes"...I squeaked again...but then realized my sister is the one that actually packed it as she is a demon when it comes to packing...she can get more into a box or suitcase then most people could on a good day. Anyhow...the man then said that they were going to open the box in front of me because something "suspicious" had showed up on the x-ray machine...what could I say...I demand the right to remain silent...and my box too?
So he cut the box open and I swear everyone was holding their breath...I know I was. My son was still seeing this all as fun time and was bouncing up and down and asking a million questions of G I Joe...who incidently had come to serious attention as the box was being opened. I cant swear to it but Im pretty darn sure his finger was on the trigger of his very big gun...ouch!
As the guy opened the box and started removing clothes etc...he broke the tense silence with a question..."did you really pack the box?"...I decided a confession was in order and admitted that my sister had actually been the "offender". He apparently was impressed with her skills and was sorry that he was undoing her good work...I thought that was rather kind of him...considering the circumstances.
Eventually he got down to the offending object...which turned out to be a pair of cap guns...those silver cowboy guns that go in a little gun belt and have been around for eons....that was my mothers bday gift to her grandson that loves guns so much. Thank you Mom! Everyone let out a collective sigh of relief...myself a little more deeply then anyone else...and G I Joe relaxed and stepped back and became Mr Charming. My son was still bouncing around and Mr Charming decided he could be nice to the 4 year old "terrorist wannabe" after all and bent down to impress him with the big gun...(my knees were just starting to stop knocking against each other so painfully...still thanking you mom).
Long story short...the guy tried very hard to pack the box back to its original condition...an impossible feat of course...so lots and lots of tape had to suffice. Everyone started chatting and included me in the chat where as before I was pretty much ignored...being the "suspect" and all. I was given plenty of helpful advice on what not to pack in any future luggage...like you have to tell me twice? And after everything was in ship shape I was escorted back to the plane with plenty of smiles and wishes for a comfortable flight...as if! Of course every single passenger I passed gave me the "what did you do to get taken off the plane...and even though you are let back
on...should we be prudent and get off ourselves...just to be safe?" It was a true walk of shame if ever I endured one...and I had nothing to be ashamed about...go figure.
So thats my other Homeland Security story...a little more of what I would have expected when travelling with an incomplete passport...you would think...right?
PS any guesses as to who the first person I called when I got home was and what words of greeting I had for her...you betcha!