I am a 70-year-old, chubby half-Italian woman who still feels awful about a handful of mice whose deaths she caused years ago. If I accidentally bump into someone, I apologize over and over, as if I had just severed a limb. I have never touched a gun, and the closest I have come to anything explosive was playing with cap guns as a kid. Violence makes me squirm.
If I accidentally step on my cat, not only will I apologize to her in baby talk and pet her to let her know I still love her, I might even offer her treats.
I am about as dangerous as a wet washcloth.
For some reason, however, in the last decade or two, every single time I take an airplane trip I am the one person in line who is “randomly” chosen to be taken aside and questioned and/or searched.
“Random?” If the choice is so random, why has it happened to me every time?
Is there something about me that makes people think, “terrorist?” If so, I would like to know what it is so that I can stop doing it.
Is it my scruffy looking luggage-on-a-stick? I am allergic to buying new luggage when the old stuff with the cat scratches is still usable.
Is it the fact that I have always been traveling alone? Well, the only long trips I have made since the early 90s have been trips to see my family on the other side of the United States. I don’t know anyone in New York City who wants to accompany me on an at-least 6-hour plane ride to visit complete strangers. That means I travel alone. That’s okay with me. I am an expert at amusing myself on long trips. It’s something I learned while enduring railroad trips in Germany, traveling to and from opera auditions back in the 1970s. We didn’t even have laptop computers or iPods back then. It’s a lot easier to stay entertained now.
Okay. I did travel to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman in the early 90s, with an opera and concert group. Most of our audience consisted of American and European expatriates who were desperate for some entertainment. Sometimes we would get a few locals in our audiences, but not many. We also entertained American troops, just before and just after Desert Storm. We weren’t anywhere near Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan, and we didn’t go to any place where there was fighting or trouble. We stayed in 5-star hotels, enjoyed real luxury and great weather for a few weeks, went shopping in local outdoor markets, went gaga over places like Dubai, and mostly kept to ourselves and made sure we didn’t cause any international incidents.
Fortunately for me, I have not taken very many trips since the early 90s, because being stopped and searched every time can get old pretty fast.
The first time this happened to me was at Newark Airport in New Jersey one Christmas. I was surprised when I was pulled out of the line and escorted down the hallway by a woman who then demanded a tip for her service, but the process didn’t last long and it was obvious that I was okay, so I was sent on my way without further ado.
That time I was not examined on the return trip. The airport in Yakima, Washington is a tiny one that can only handle small planes, so you’d figure it would be the last place that anyone would be searched, right?
Think again. The last time I was there, for my mother’s funeral a couple of years ago, I was taken aside and given the most thorough examination yet. I had not been frisked like that, even in the large Greater New York airports. They didn’t strip search me, but let’s just say that if I had been hiding anything on myself, which I wasn’t, the woman searching me would have found it.
The next time I travel anywhere by plane, I will plan on being taken aside. If Murphy’s Law is in operation, expecting and planning on this might be the one thing that will cause them to just let me through along with everyone else.
That would be wonderful.
Kathy Minicozzi is the author of “Opera for People Who Don’t Like It,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle editions.
More of her humor is found here