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I almost got sent to Guantanamo

I arrived at the West Palm Beach airport yesterday, trying to make my way back to Chicago, only to see my flight time listed on the departure board as simply “DELAYED.” They weren’t even pretending it was leaving in the foreseeable future. With a little detective work, I found another flight that could get me home on a different airlines, bought a one-way ticket, and headed for airport security.

Of course, the last minute purchase of a one-way ticket sets off the lights and buzzers for the TSA. So, I’m pulled out of the line and searched. First the full-body search. Then the luggage.

It didn’t occur to me that my latest research was going to get me into trouble. I’ve been thinking a lot about terrorism lately. Among the things I had in my carry-on was a detailed description of the 9/11 terrorists activities, replete with pictures of each of the terrorists and information about their background. As well as pages of my scribblings on terrorist incentives, potential targets, etc. It also was the first thing the screener pulled out of my bag. The previously cheery mood turned dark. Four TSA employees suddenly surrounded me. They didn’t seem very impressed with my explanation. When the boss arrived, one of the screener says, “He claims to be an economics professor who studies terrorism.”

They proceed to take every last item out of both my bags. It has been longer since I cleaned out my book bag then since I updated my personal web page (see the previous post). This is a book bag with 12 separate pockets, all of which are filled with junk.

“What is this?” the screener asks.

“It is a Monsters, Inc. lip gloss and key chain.” I respond.

And so it went for 30 minutes. Other than the lip gloss, he was particularly interested in my passport (luckily it was really mine), my powerpoint presentation, the random pills floating among the crevices of my bag (covered with lint and pencil lead from years in purgatory), and a beat-up book (“When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”)

Finally satisfied that I was playing for the home team, he allowed me to board a plane to Chicago. Thank God I left my copy of the terrorist handbook that I blogged about on June 9th at home, or I would have instead been flying straight to Cuba.