I flew to the US in June which is now but a distant memory except for the security search at Frankfurt airport before clambering on board a United Airlines flight to New York. The names of the accused were blasted over the tannoy for all to hear.
So let me describe the process. After clambering off an SAA plane in Frankfurt at 06h00 local time we were due to fly out to the USA at 08h00 local. We hurried to the airport train (automated) and arrived at terminal B from whence United flies. After the obligatory cup of coffee, you are checked in and a coloured sticker attached to your ticket. Which remains untorn – no stubs here.
Then various names are called as mentioned above. and mine came up. I heard that only Muslims or suspicious people were asked to step forward (at least that’s what my well traveled friends have alleged), so what’s this then?
Perhaps its because I’m from Africa I thought. Clearly suspicious. This is where the story gets a tad interesting at least in terms of process. So after joining the short queue of the highly suspicious/possible terrorist/dangerous/uncouth etc etc, a man with a Russian accent asks me if I’m indeed “Dazemoond Lat-ham”
‘Please wait there” he motions to a seat in full view of the 300 passengers about to board United Airlines. Most are trying not to look in my direction unless the security guards haul them in too. My nearest and dearest is sitting near the wifi/power charging desks charging her phone and laptop and also not appearing to stare. She carries a passport with her maiden name so we’re not easily coupled, if you excuse the phrase.
The Russian appeared just bored enough to be both careless and malignant. You know those languid security people who have one ear-hole larger than the other from a lifetime of wearing a hands free VIP bodyguard kit. In a small cubicle I could see a man removing his shoes and being subjected to some kind of body search with a strip of plaster.
Then it was my turn after a few minutes. The Russian waved at me and said “your turn” which felt a little like being asked to join the bungee jump line without a safety harness.
Inside the cubicle there were three men. They all scrutinised me as I entered their little chamber, watching I thought, for any sign of weakness then they’d pounce. One of the three was dressed in browns and fawn clothing with a black belt and he turned to me.
I tensed, waiting for the usual aggro bodyguard VIP security man fusillade.
“Hey, you look like one of the Blues Brothers” he said, and smiled.
I dress in a black suit when traveling and wear a black hat bought in Boston in 2000. It’s real wool and with the black tie, I usually am left alone on flights because people think I’m either a businessman or a rabbi. It’s the first time in years of traveling in this mode that someone has said anything about the Blues Brothers who are indelibly etched in all our minds – us 80’s people.
“Well I do play the blues” I said.
“You look like you do” he answered in a German accent. He took my shoes and waved his sticky plaster over it. Then he pulled the plaster down my clothes. I guessed he was looking for signs of explosives.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
Then he suddenly turned back into the cold VIP bodyguard and ignored me, his friend said:
“You can go”
In a British accent.
My ticket now had an extra sticker on the back which the air crew peered at with great interest when I clambered on board the A380. My nearest had taken up a seat as far away as possible (well she was on the other side of the aisle) so I asked the lovely person next to me if she’d swap seats with Nearest/Dearest.
Nearest wasn’t so happy, she’d swapped an aisle seat for a middle seat.
“Never mind dear” I said
“At least you’re sitting next to a world famous blues musician.”
She ignored that and went to sleep.