Her round beach ball sized face suddenly became pale. Looking up from her computer
screen she had found something disagreeable as her widening eyes were now two giant
pools of fear.
She mumbled something about a printing problem and made a hasty exit with Alicia’s
4am, La Guardia airport, New York.
This was not the first time issues had arose when Alicia or her family had tried to enter
or exit their home nation of the U.S.A. Having Haddad as a surname comes with certain
unwanted baggage. Haddad, a Middle Eastern name, meaning and as common as
[Black] Smith, had been flagged by the United States government as a threat to their
nation’s security. So, to save a nation from all Haddads, the surname had been added to
the terrorist watch list.
The time it took the airline representative to ‘fix the printer’ was probably long enough
to notify the President and have the jets scrambled. When she had returned, some 30
minutes later, the colour had again filled the beach ball’s cheeks.
Luckily the ‘printer’ was now working and a clean family record with no terrorist friends
or affiliates was enough to keep this Haddad out of Guantanamo Bay. A quick and vague
apology was given for time-wasting, before boarding passes were issued.
With passports and boarding passes securely in our hands, the easiest part was now
behind us. We just had to survive the security checks.
Going through security in the U.S. is more nerve-wracking than other countries. With
seemingly more eyes, guns, thermal-scanners, x-ray machines and metal detectors.
All of them are primed and ready to find the most minute detail. It makes an innocent
man feel guilty.
As you put your belongings onto the tray for the x-ray, words like; bomb,
terrorist, 9/11 and Bin Laden all go through your mind as things not to say. You remind
yourself repeatedly ‘don’t say bomb’, ‘don’t say bomb’ ‘don’t say bomb’.
Either side of you is a man who is trained to kill, with a gun barrel the size of your head. Beads of sweat begin to form under your armpits and on your forehead. Your palms become clammy. You feel nauseous and your mouth dries up. You step up to the detector, close your eyes and take a breath. And. Nothing. No red flashing light, no noise, no beep. You collect your belongings and remind yourself you ‘don’t have a bomb’.
After passing the several rigorous tests we waited and then boarded a plane. Three
hours later we exited, waited some more and boarded another plane. Two and a bit
hours later we landed in Cancun, Mexico.
The Mexican immigration were friendly enough, not requiring a visa or money to enter
their country meant it was a smooth welcome. However, the curious customs officials were ungracious in their greetings as they opened, closed, poked, prodded, shook and smelt the contents of our bags. The search was futile as we had left our contraband with our explosives at home. Dissatisfied they left us to re-pack our bags and enjoy their tacos.
© John Brownlie 2012