Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Still crazy after all these years...

Since I seem to be unable to write unless I'm stealing other people's ideas recently, let's continue the trend. Meg, over at Hobocamp, recently wrote about how she recently had her bag searched on the NYC subway. Fortunately, she had no contraband on her person, so she ended up fine (sigh of relief). But continuing in that vein, I figured I'd talk about one of the two times I was almost arrested by Homeland Security. Note: this story is going to seem pretty crazy, but I swear every word is true.

The time: December, 2001, 3 scant months after 9/11.
The place: LaGuardia International Airport, New York, New York.

Three months after September 11th, my sister and I were flying to Cape Town to visit our parents. It was, as you can somewhat expect, a pretty tense scene. In addition to the fact that the entire country was still pretty shaken up after the terrorist attacks on the WTC, airports were just a complete nightmare.

Now, I've talked before about how, due to the number of random ethnicities running around in my family, it's hard to pin down what ethnic group I belong to if you don't know me. Let's just say that being a somewhat dark-skinned person walking through LaGuardia three months after 9/11 was something of an adventure. I knew it was going to happen, and decided in advance that I was just gonna suck it up and accept that I was going to get searched. I made my peace with it, and began my journey.

When our taxi pulled up the airport, I was searched before I even got into the terminal. Then I was searched in the ticket line. Still, I was pleasant, non-confrontational and simply kept my mouth shut and took my medicine. I was searched when I went through the security line. Finally, bags checked, ticket in hand, we were in the terminal. My sister was a little shocked at both the level of security and the number of times I got searched. Of those three times, one of them was just a bag search, and two of them were a bag search coupled with a pat-down. Between leaving the security lines and getting to our gate, I was searched two more times - one pat-down, one bag search.

OK. So, yes, it was getting a little old. I felt that I had pretty much fulfilled my civic duty about two searches ago. But still, I answered the questions, succumbed to the searches, and was pleasant, patient and cooperative. Finally, we're at the gate. We're getting a little antsy because a) we're about to embark on a 22 hour plane ride, b) we're excited to see our parents, and c) I'd just finished being searched FIVE TIMES in two hours. But we're ok. A little goofy, but OK.

Let's interrupt for a second and briefly discuss my sister and I. I'm a little weird, perhaps a little crazy. My sister, being a theater major and now an actor and director in NYC theater, is verrry dramatic, and probably crazier than I am. When we're together (which is not very often)... we get a little nutty. OK, fine, a LOT nutty. We goof off a lot, we get kind of hysterical. We've been holding it in, reining in our inner whacko for a good few hours now. We're reaching critical mass. Imagine a six-foot-two, 200 pound dork and his six-foot, slightly smaller lunatic sister doing everything they can not to burst at the seams in craziness. If we don't get to act silly soon, someone's gonna get hurt. But for now, we're keeping it together.

Finally, they announce that our plane is boarding. We're getting antsier. We're in the little tunnel leading to the plane door. And... I get stopped again. For the sixth time. I take a deep breath, and hand over my carry-on bag. And we go through the drill with the little security man:
Security Man: Excuse me, may I see your bag?
TK's Sister: Oh, Jesus.
TK: It's fine. Certainly, sir.
He begins rummaging through it, asking questions.
SM: Do you have any knives?
TK: No, sir.
SM: Any nail clippers?
TK: No, sir.
SM: Any corkscrews?
TK: No.
SM: Any nail files?
SM: Any batteries?
TK: N0... wait, what?
SM: Any batteries?
TK: Oh. Um... yes.
SM (getting serious): I see. Will you show them to me?
TK: Really? OK. They're in the front pocket.
Note - this was before Ipods, so I had only my crappy discman, which used two AA batteries in about 3 hours. Bear in mind, this is, counting flight time, layovers, etc., a roughly 30 hour trip. I had a shit-ton of batteries.
SM finds the batteries, looks at them intently.
SM: I'm going to have to confiscate them.
TK: What?
TKS: Why?
SM: For security reasons.

And here is where the dam starts to break...

TKS: That doesn't make any sense.
SM: Ma'am...
TK: Yeah, why can't I have batteries?
SM: Sir...
TKS: They're for his discman - what's he supposed to do without them?
SM: Ma'am...

Now we start crossing the street to Crazytown...

TK: Yeah, what am I supposed to do? How are they a security risk? What am I gonna do, THROW THEM AT THE PILOT?

At this time, all the people streaming past us are starting to notice. We're officially making a scene.

SM: Sir! Ma'am! Um...
TKS: See all these people walking by? See that guy? And that guy? And that woman right there? ALL OF THEM HAVE BATTERIES! WHY ARE YOU TAKING OURS?! WHAT IS THIS BULLSHIT!

We're now the mayors of Crazytown. We're closing in on this little security man, who is easily 7 inches shorter than us, and realizing he has a couple of mentals on his hands.

SM: OK! OK! Fine! You can keep them! Please, just keep them and go!
TKS: *panting, gasping*

So there you go. Somehow, despite throwing a complete crazy-fit in front of a security person, three months after 9/11, we avoided sharing a cell in Gitmo.

But wait! The story ain't over. So we get to the plane, and we are still living in Crazytown. I, in particular, am freaking out. I'm shaking after the encounter in the tunnel. We sit down, and I'm trying to get my shit together. And failing. My sister is starting to come down, so she tries to get me to calm down.
TK: Christ, I'm wigging out here.
TKS: Honey, just relax. Here, I brought these pills, they're supposed to help you calm down.
She shakes one out, gives it to me, shakes one out for herself.
TK: What?! JUST ONE?! Fuck, look at me!
I take the pill, glug down some water, pass her the water.
TK: I'm fucked up here, sis. I'm seriously losing my shit. Look, I'm shaking, I'm fucking sweating. I'M - I'M HAVING NIGHT TERRORS!!!!!!

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is where the wheels really come off. My sister is halfway into swallowing her water, and after hearing me screech about "night terrors" (night terrors?), she cracks up, and promptly sprays water out of her mouth, and right. onto. the. bald. head. of. the. man. in. front. of. her. Which blasts off his head, and showers the people next to, and in front of, him. I swear I am not making this up.

Bedlam. Absolute fucking bedlam on the plane. People start yelling, the guy in front of us is in a rage, and my sister and I are now on our knees in front of our seats, clutching our stomachs, crying, because we are laughing so hard, it's physically painful. We have lost all capacity for rational thought. All the craziness that's been bubbling up inside of us for the last four hours just exploded out of her mouth, and we are off the goddamn chains. We're dying. And we somehow think that ducking behind the seats will save us. We cannot. stop. laughing. And crying.

The plane starts to move. People settle down. We slowly get our shit back together. And for the entire 22 hour flight, no one speaks to us. No one looks at us. We're like two lepers on the flight. It's brutal.

Believe it or not, there is more to this story. 10 days later, we're at a shopping mall with my parents (in Cape Town). My sister and I are goofing off, wandering through the halls, when my sister freezes. Paralyzed. I stop, ask her what's wrong... and look in the direction she is staring.

It's the bald guy. From the plane. The guy she spat water on. He turns, sees us, does a double take, and then points at us and roars: "YOU WERE ON THE PLANE!!!!"

My sister? She just turns and fucking bolts. She runs faster than I've ever seen her run. As for me? What choice do I have? I turn and just hightail it after her, and don't slow down until we're outside.

Yeah. Like I said, my sister and I don't see each other very often. Perhaps now you can understand why.


Manny said...

Oh two sound like my brother and I when we get together. But I'm glad you're able to maintain a good relationship with her even after you drove your parents to move to Africa.

litelysalted said...

Haaaaaa! Night Terrors! I'd spit too!

onthevirg said...

That's hilarious that you'd run into the same guy your sister did a spit take on. You know you'd probably have a bigger chance of being rolled up today acting like that in the terminal or plane.

QueBarbara said...

Love it. I know I laugh harder with my sis than anyone else, only unlike your situation, we are usually the only ones who find ourselves funny.

But listen, I flew from Houston to Indianapolis shortly after 9/11 and had my luggage and personage searched thoroughly(!). Turns out, I supposedly bought my tickets within minutes, and with the same kind of credit card, as one of the terrorists. I get a kick trying to imagine the reasons why they would think that a very, very white-bread girl would want to cause havoc on that flight.

girl with curious hair said...

Well, at least you had a partner in madness. I'm ten shades of wacky on my own.

Back in 1993, I went to Iran to visit for the summer and on the way back, they stopped me in Heathrow--my 5'1" frame is very intimidating--and asked if I had had full control of my belongings the whole time. Me, being ridiculously naive, smiled and said, "Of course! You're free to look."

So they took me up on my offer, empty the contents of my two suitcases in the middle of the terminal (did I mention they had stopped me as I was boarding the plane and had to pull my luggage from cargo?). One of the police officers noticed a lumpy package and asked me what it was. I had to confess I had no idea. Apparently my mom had stashed away a few KILOS of my favorite feta cheese while I wasn't looking. Well, my denial apparently made me more suspect and just as he was about to escort me to a more "private" area, I sat down, in the middle of the terminal with all my belongings scattered, wailing that I'm just a poor college student with a crazy mother who feeds my cheese habit.

I freaked them out to the point that they apologized and insisted on upgrading me to First Class on the flight to LA.

I try not to fly through London if I can help it.

Chez said...

This is why I love being an only child -- and sitting in business class (a perk of my crappy-ass job).

Nothin' but love though man -- just glad I'm not sitting in front of you.

Redhead said...

Nothing better than getting nutty with a sibling (it's almost like we all revert back to our childhood selves whenever our brothers or sisters are around - or at least I do).
Oh, and let me just say I'm impressed you held off losing it on security as long as you did - I would have said/done something regrettable after the 2nd or 3rd search and ended up getting arrested.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

Wow, I have no response to that (But that's only because I'm a fliberdygibet).

A Lover and a Fighter said...

This was one of the best stories I've ever read. You and your sister remind me of my brother and me- I'm you and Ben is your sis.

That wasn't grammatically correct but I was incapacitated by the humor of your post. Forgive me.

Anonymous said...

Ha! You know, right around that time I flew to Chicago with no less than THREE knives in my handbag. (Yeah, I carry knives. What of it??) I went through every metal detector, was searched twice, and no one found a single thing.

In my defense, I didn't know I had three; I only thought I was packing one.

Oh, and I wasn't planning on, nor did I use them, once. I have come to believe I have amazing travel luck. (KOW)

Carrie said...

Hahahahahaha! Holy hell, that was funny. I have nothing clever to say in response, but thanks for the laugh.