Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Holiday Traveler  

Your attention please. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a specific threat warning for air travel within the continental United States. The threat level has been upgraded from Orange to Red.  All travelers are advised to plan extra travel time, to allow for increased security screening in all domestic air terminals.  Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. Thank You.”

I was wheeling my carry-on from the men’s room to the Au-Bon Pan shop in Terminal F to get myself a three-day-old turkey on roll for lunch when they made the announcement. Wonderful.  I hope I can still make my flight. I looked for the nearest Departures monitor but the first thing I noticed was a guy in a brown suit with a military haircut and a hearing aid, then another, and another. Finally the light in my brain went on. Undercover security, and lots of them. My eyes finally found the Departures monitor. Delta 4123 …Gate F21 …Delayed.


While I was busy watching the Departure monitor, I didn’t notice the security camera looking back at me.

When I got to Au-Bon Pan I got a whiff of Five Guys cooking up a triple bypass on a bun and I changed my mind about lunch. A cheeseburger with a bagful of fries would last longer in my stomach. No telling how long we were going to be held up. I made an abrupt change of direction and bumped into someone, but before I could say “I’m sorry, excuse me.” I was tossed to the ground and handcuffed.

“Control, I got him, I got him! All units, suspect in custody at Gate Foxtrot 12. Repeat Foxtrot 12.”

One of the brown suited security people dragged me to my feet by the handcuffs behind my back, and two other undercover security people had me by each arm as they led me out of the corridor and quickly into a Security office. In the blinking of an eye I was out of public view, and for all intents and purposes, I no longer existed.

I was taken down some back hallways to an “Interview Room.” “Interrogation Room” is more like it. There they dropped me like a sack of potatoes into a chair behind a table. An older guy who wore a better fitting suit than the rest of them took a seat across from me. He examined my passport as he started to ask me questions.

“Khalid Al-Akeen?”

“No… Donald E. Allen. Do I look like a Kal-Hide El-Whoever to you?”

‘You do to the computer. The beard shape and color, the glasses.”

“You guys arrest Santa Claus lately? Let’s try this one in your computer fellas, how tall is this Kaleek- KaLeek guy? I’m six-foot-three.”

Every suit in the room started to have a little sidebar discussion. The expensive suit called up some pictures on his flat screen, and quickly shot a disapproving look at the suit that had taken me into custody.

“Mr. Allen, we are very sorry for the mix-up. The Homeland Security facial recognition software gave us a positive ID on you. It is a new system, we haven’t worked out all the bugs yet. These gentlemen will escort you to your gate. On behalf of the United States Government I apologize. Please understand, these are trying times, and we are counting on the understanding and cooperation of all good American citizens. Good day Sir.”

With that I was much more gently escorted to my gate, but still kept under close surveillance until I boarded my flight home.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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