The Security Line

October 14, 2010

I’m standing the security line at the Newark airport.  There’s a petite tan woman in front of my co-worker and me.  After delivering a sandwich, her husband has kissed her goodbye and left.  She is alone with her thoughts.  And us.

“Joo know, da lines for airport are not like dis in Chile,” she turns back to us and remarks.  “We have had tragedy too and we don’t make sa lines so long.”

“What tragedies?” I unfortunately ask.

“Well da CIA was in da pocket of all of da coal manufacturers in Chile,” she starts.  “Dey’ve got a lot of blood on der hands.”  Her eyes sparkle with that little glint that signifies she’s from a different country.  She thinks differently.  Obviously in Chile, the acceptable topics of conversation don’t shift when you enter an airport.  “I just sayink dat 9/11,” she shrugs.  “What goes around comes back.”

My co-worker and I laugh and glance at each other, wide-eyed.  It’s amazing how much information can be given by a non-verbal cue.  The look on her face says, “The woman in front of me is either unfamiliar with the list of acceptable topics to discuss in an airport or she is insane.  Do we have to keep talking with her?”

As if on cue, the small olive-skinned woman looks down at her sandwich.  “Dey’ll probably take dis too.  What dey think dis is, a warm bread bomb?”

You can’t say bomb in an airport.  Advice from Greg Focker.  They’ve had shoe bombers, underpants bombers.  A warm bread bomb seems like a reasonable possibility at this point.

“No one talks in America.  No one smiles.”  I smile and nod.  “Dat’s why you can’t trust anyone,” she winks to indicate the end of her sentence.

My own institutionalized fear is starting to take over.  There is a small but very real sliver of my mind that now believes that she might be some sort of Chilean political dissident.  They disguised her well.  Track suit, scrunchy, Panera Bread takeout bag.  I want someone to take a closer look at that sandwich to see if there are any wires sticking out.  There’s a sign to my left that says, “Please Report Suspicious Activity.”  But I’m too polite for that.

“I one time talk to a guy who was roommates with Che Guevara…”

Jesus lady.  The CIA.  Warm Bread Bombs.  Argentinian Marxists.    I’m envisioning a SWAT team of elite TSA agents pouring out of a secret hallway, yanking her out of line while they snap latex gloves over their hands.  They’ll question me about her.  A humiliating strip search will ensue.  Worst of all, I’ll miss my connecting flight at Dulles International.

She walks through the medal detector.  The agent pulls her aside.  Thank god.

“Ma’am, that zipper on your blouse is setting off the machine,” the agent says.

“What you want?  Me to be flashing?”  She starts to lift her shirt up.  Everyone in line averts their eyes and laughs.  To my relief, no warm bread bomb was detected.

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