I should be home asleep in my bed. Instead I am sitting in the Dallas Airport waiting for a flight to Nashville. I had been in Florida to do a little teaching and to visit my parents. My dad turned 84 on February 1st, and my mom passed out two days earlier, fell, and broke three ribs.
I left my parent’s home, maneuvered my way down the parking lot that passes for a highway in South Florida, and flew west to Dallas to catch a plane that would fly me back east to Nashville. Gotta love the hub idea. My plane was delayed almost forty minutes. The cause of the delay was due to American Airlines’ policy of charging people $30 each way for checked baggage, thus incentivizing me and my fellow travelers to cram as much luggage into the overhead compartments as possible. This meant that storage space disappeared after the first 20 people got on board, leaving the next 100 passengers to wander up and down the aisle in a vain search for a place to park their bags for free. By the time we left Miami, arriving in Dallas in time to catch my connecting flight was a slim possibility.
Slim isn’t the same as none, however, and having received Gate Number and instructions on how to minimize the time racing to the gate, I ran off to catch my next flight. I got to Gate 22 in search of Gate 23, only to find there is no Gate 23. At Gate 27 a friendly American Airlines agent saw me coming (I was literally the only person in the terminal) and thought about holding the plane to Nashville for the two minutes it would take me to get from Gate 22 to Gate 27. Unfortunately for me I was looking for Gate 23. I turned back to Gate 22 to ask for help, and my friendly agent decided I have decided not to fly to Nashville after all. She closed the door and my flight departed without me.
Feeling sorry (guilty?) my friendly agent booked me into a hotel. I arrived at the hotel around 11PM and left again six hours later. Few Texans travel that early in the morning and I should have passed through security without having to wait in line. I was the line. And the line stalled.
As it turns out the people who booked my flight had used my Hebrew name, “Rami,” rather than my Christian Name, “Richard.” This didn’t upset the TSA as long as I was flying from Nashville to Miami, and from Miami to Dallas, but as soon as I had to fly from Dallas to Nashville some security threshold must have been crossed. “Richard” is a potential lionhearted king, “Rami” is a potential security risk, so the good people of TSA wouldn’t let me pass.
After speaking with a supervisor, however, and assessing the risk, I was allowed to go through bag check. Well, not through bag check exactly. It seems that while all my toiletries fell well within the “impossible to be used to bring down an aircraft” size, the clear plastic bag I used to haul them in was not. I had used a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, and that is enough to make me a card-carrying (“Rami” not “Richard”) member of Al Qaeda. I had to be quizzed and my bag unpacked and rescreened simply because of the size of my plastic bag.
I have yet to board the plane, and cannot predict what other adventures await me as I try to return to Music City. But I can be fairly certain that as long as airline agents are friendly, and TSA agents are focused on the size of our plastic baggies, we Americans have nothing to fear from terrorists. In fact the only things that scare me when I fly are friendly airline agents and baggie-obsessed TSA agents.