All About Me

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Chapter 5

Well, just to let you know, in case you were worrying or anything, nothing happened at the airport. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I mean, I didn’t get arrested or questioned or anything. I know this’ll sound a little crazy, but I was a little disappointed, to tell you the truth.

I got to the airport in plenty of time. This woman was supposed to be flying in from Detroit. Which for me, I got to tell you, was a pretty weird place for a Palestinian refugee to be coming from. Though, I suppose there could be weirder places, if you know what I mean, like Disneyland. Did you know that they have a Disneyland in France? They also have a McDonalds there, but you probably already knew that.

Anyway, I found her gate number and everything but, of course, with all the security, they don’t let you get anywhere near the gate. The truth is, I’m surprised they let anyone near the airport. Maybe, that’s it. Maybe that’s the ultimate intention of the whole Cincinnati airport thing, you know? It would explain a lot. Move airports as far away from their cities as possible so no one can get close to them, or even find them. In fact, then people would have to make travel arrangements from the airport to the city. It’s brilliant really. I mean, the best way to prevent terrorism in the airports would be to make them completely off limits to people, right? Then even if the terrorist did manage to find the airport, he couldn’t do much damage, because there wouldn’t be any people there. I bet this happens all the time. There are probably a million terrorist attacks at these super people-proof airports. We just don’t hear about them, because there’s no one there to see it. If a bomb goes off in the woods, does it make a sound? Okay, maybe, I’m getting carried away. Did I mention I have A.D.D.?

The truth is none of this makes much sense to me. I mean, not allowing people to meet passengers at their gates. It seems a little over the top. Like, someone would hijack a plane that already landed or something? Even when terrorist were blowing things up at airports, I can’t remember ever hearing about them attacking a plane that already landed. That’s got to be against the Geneva Convention, anyway. You know, like tagging a kid after he’s already reached home base or something.

Anyway, I guess the security people have their reasons and all, but I’m pretty sure that most terrorists have a big enough budget from all their oil shares and stock options to buy a plane ticket, if they really want to blow up the gate area. Even that stupid budget terrorist, who tried to light his shoes on fire, had enough money for a plane ticket.

And now because of him, everyone has to take off his shoes before he can board a plane. I took a flight to New York once, and everyone was all lined up at the security gate holding a pair of shoes in their hand. It looked really silly, to tell you the truth. I would have taken a picture, but they probably would have confiscated the camera, right? Now that that Nigerian guy tried to blow up his underwear, I got to tell you, I’m a little worried. I can just picture a bunch of security guys sitting around say, “Yeah, now we have to make everyone take off the underwear, too. ‘Shoes in your right hand sir, the BVDs in your left.’”

As I was saying, I’m not exactly sure how taking your shoes off for airport security is going to solve anything, anyway. I once saw a special on television that said you could shape plastic explosives into just about anything you wanted, and it would look just like a normal piece of plastic. So, what’s stopping a terrorist from shaping his plastic explosives into the heel of a shoe? Or, the handle of his briefcase? Or, anything else for that matter? I mean, as far as I know, there isn’t any metal in plastic explosives, so what exactly are they looking for when they make you take your shoes off and send them through the x-ray machine?

If they really wanted to stop guys like that Richard Reid, they’d give everyone an intelligence test at the security gate. I don’t know much about it, but when I saw him on CNN, it didn’t look to me like he would be able to pass one too easily. I mean how many times did he get caught trying to light his shoe on fire before they finally stopped him? You’d have thought that he would have realized he missed his opportunity by the third time the flight attendant told him to stop smoking his shoe. Maybe someone should have given her an intelligence test too, you think?

I figure Reid must have been trying to light the wrong shoe, or something weird. Like maybe they were “Made in China” or something. Cause you always hear about these terrorists accidentally blowing themselves up in their homes and stuff. They call them “work accidents,” in the news, which is pretty weird, if you ask me. When you hear “work accident,” you kind of picture the terrorists getting written up by OSHA or something.

I mean, Plastic explosives are supposed to be pretty volatile, aren’t they? That’s the whole point. I’m pretty sure that Reid would have had trouble with an I.Q. test. He should probably join S.T.O.O.P.I.D. We’d make him the president. Then again, all those security people that think you could find plastic explosives with a metal detector might not do so well on the test either, now that I think about it. I probably shouldn’t talk too much about it though, or they’ll put me on one of those no-fly lists, and I’ll be forced to hitchhike or take buses to get anywhere for the rest of my life. Not that my life is going anywhere at the moment, anyway.

So, I’m holding up this sign that says:

Student & Teacher Organization for Palestinians

Welcomes Atyaf Samar to Worshter College.

As you can tell, I changed the name a little. I was not going to be standing there with a sign that said S.T.O.O.P.I.D. on it, especially since Alisa Cooper wasn’t going to be standing next to me. If she would’ve been, I probably wouldn’t have cared too much. Well, I might have cared, but I’d have gotten over it, I think. Well, maybe. I don’t know. But, I’d have stood there. You know I would.

Anyway, I’m standing there with this sign near the baggage claim area. I’m sure that everyone passing by me looked at me like I was a part of the whole 9/11 thing, but no one said anything. I got real nervous as this guy in a dark suit started approaching me. He was coming fast, like a man with a mission, and I was sure he was a cop and he was going to arrest me, just for the principle of the thing. I could barely breathe, to tell you the truth. However, it turned out that I was standing right next to the automatic doors, and, because I was so nervous and all, I kept shifting my feet, causing the doors to open and close. It was pretty embarrassing, actually.

The guy was actually pretty nice about it, though. “Excuse me, sir,” he began. Of course, I was sure he was going to drag me off to some little closet and interrogate me under the hot lights, while another cop smacked me across the back of my neck with a rubber hose. I was just about ready to confess, when he grabbed my shoulder and nudged me towards the luggage conveyers. “Why don’t you wait for your party a little closer to the baggage claim, sir?”

“What?” I asked.

It seemed I had momentarily forgotten English, so he repeated his suggestion, pointing out that I was standing on the automatic door openers.

“Oh sure,” I said, embarrassed. Though, I think that he might have really been a cop or something, and just used the opportunity to frisk me, while he nudged me along toward Baggage Claim. I don’t know. Probably not.

The truth is it seemed to take a really long time for this woman to show up. I thought maybe she missed her flight, or maybe the security guys in Detroit didn’t let her board the plane. I think I made a few women a little nervous, as I watched them, expectantly. The truth is, I had no idea who I was looking for. I had this image of an old woman in a hijab and a burka, so I was completely surprised when a girl my age wearing faded jeans and a sweatshirt stood in front of my sign. She was wearing a pair of Oakley wrap-around sunglasses, and had a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, with her black ponytail pulled through the adjustment strap. The truth is, she was very good looking, and I suddenly felt guilty looking at her, like I was being disloyal to Alisa Cooper, or something. So, I turned my sign and tried to look around her, still searching for the Palestinian refugee.

“I’m Atyaf Samar,” she finally said with a smile. Her English was perfect, and she didn’t look anything like a person who had grown up in a bombed out building or anything.

“You?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she smiled again. “What were you expecting? Some old woman in a burqa?” When she said the word, “burka,” it rolled off her tongue like music.

“Uh, no. I just, well, I. I’m kind of a last minute replacement, so I didn’t know what to expect.”

She laughed. I couldn’t tell if she was laughing at me or with me, but it was a pretty laugh, so I didn’t really care. We stood there for a few moments looking at each other. For some reason my feet seemed glued to the floor, and my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Finally she asked, “Am I supposed to give the talk here in the airport?”

“No. Of course not.” I decided she didn’t have enough to amuse her, so I gave her more material. “Wow, your English is really good,” I said.

“Why shouldn’t it be?” she asked. She laughed. I had clearly succeeded.

“Well, you’re like from Palestine or something aren’t you?” I asked.

She chuckled. “You’re cute,” she said. “You really did expect me to be wearing a burqa, didn’t you?”

“Well, everybody on CNN has one,” I said.

“Take me to your car, Zamil, and I’ll explain it all to you on the way to your college.” She looked at the sign again. “I’m glad you guys changed the name of the organization. Who picked that last one?” she asked.

I shrugged before answering. I was starting to like this woman, already. “Mustafa,” I said. I took her bag and led her towards the parking lot. “He can’t wait to meet you.”

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