My Airport Fugitive Moment
by Karen De Coster
by Karen De Coster
I have an amusing story about airport authoritarianism and the halfwits that endorse such twaddle. Not too long ago, I had an episode where I was a fugitive at Chicago's O'Hare airport — a very proud and comical moment for me. All details therein are entirely true. Let me explain.
As we know, the Good Little Citizen Sheeple have been sold on the Homeland Security/Look at Me, I'm Combating Terrorism mentality. Like Atlas Shrugged's good little citizenry, these model residents snitch on their fellow humans as they proudly uphold each and every warm-and-fuzzy government edict. This, they think, is "doing their noble duty."
I have come to detest air travel post-9/11. Considering I am a person who has 100,000 frequent flyer miles currently logged, mainly in the half-dozen or so years preceding 9/11, the Gestapo-like airline industry has mostly lost a darn good customer.
First off, a typical security check-in for me at the airport includes the usual bit: juggle my carry on while I take the laptop out of its bag and put it on the belt, take my jacket off and put that through x-ray, put my purse through, and then, as my two hands are juggling a job for six, there's the shoe strip as well. Unbuckle my shoes and, in bare feet, walk over a floor that is trampled with revolting, dirty feet all day long. By the way, where are the government health inspectors on that one?
Then at the end of the x-ray belt, I struggle to put everything back on and regain my composure as TSA agents bark out orders and tell me, "Hey, you can't do that here." Well, where exactly should I do this Ms. Hardnose TSA, who looks and acts more like a man than most men? Shoes, laptop, laptop bag, carry-on bag, purse, jacket — some of it has to go on me before I can carry the rest of it. God only gave me two small arms, and no built-in trailer to hitch up to my backside.
Past the security spectacle, where the average passenger bent over gleefully for the next round of pointless orders, I arrived at my gate, and sat down for a bit. I saw, across the concourse, a news stand and a food café, and so I thought I'd check out the food menu and maybe a few magazines while I'm there. The trashy celebrity rags like the Enquirer, Globe, and Star are my absolute favorite flight material. Pictures of a bloated Kirstie Alley or an arguing Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger are indispensable to my usual, sleepless flight.
While sitting there, I decided to walk the few feet across the concourse to browse and kill time, so I put my small but heavy duffel bag on my seat to save it, and also, to relieve my twice-operated-on shoulder of the burden of dragging around 20-plus pounds. From where I'd be, I could easily keep an eye on my bag, which contained expensive photo equipment. Sitting two seats down was an unkempt woman of sorts, complete with the whole frumpy look. I didn't pay any attention to her at that time, but boy would she ever render me speechless me just moments from then.
Across the concourse from these seats was the cafe, where I headed to look at the food menu. I was minding my own business, looking through the cafe menu, preparing to order an egg sandwich, when, a few minutes later, out of nowhere, came That Woman who was sitting two seats down from me. "They're looking for you, they're looking for you," she blurted in chirping tones, as she pointed down the concourse. Startled, I looked in the direction of her fat, little finger, and I saw what appeared to be an airline gate agent and an airport security person. They were walking around looking for someone.
Her hassling of me continued with, "You left your bag unattended!" I stopped, keeping my eye on the two Gestapo that were quite a ways away, barely seeing me and my keeper through all the foot traffic and the busy middle kiosk, and I said, "So??" I turned away, and she was desperately trying to get the attention of the Gestapo, pointing to the fugitive that had dared to leave her duffel bag unattended. She was my identification microchip, and she was under my skin.
I slithered around the kiosk, ditching in and out of people, knowing that the straining looks of the Gestapo meant that they never really got close enough to get a good look at me. But my bag! Where was it now? It was still there when That Woman flagged me down, but had Hitler's henchmen confiscated it by now?
I'm looking for the Gestapo, and can see them approaching That Woman, with her finger pointing madly down the concourse, like someone had just changed her channel, and ripped the remote control from her hands during her favorite sitcom rerun. She was a teacher, I bet, and a chatty troublemaker in the break room, where she talked about A to B, and B to A, and well, you know the type.
Since the Gestapo was on the far side of the kiosk, I zipped over to the gate, ducking down along the way, and lo and behold!, the bag was still there. Probably a Homeland Security gaffe, considering they were undertaking much effort to come after me. I quickly opened the zipper, the contents looked untouched, and so I threw it on my shoulder, and as I did, my shadow zoomed in from behind and exclaimed, "They're looking for you. You left your bag unattended." By this time, her boots were way too far up my nose, and it was time to let it rip. I replied loudly, "Who gives a sh** lady."
"You can't do that," she sternly warns me, "or they'll confiscate it." Well, that's it. This biddy was completely energized by the excitement that would lead to a fellow passenger, who broke the Gestapo rule, having her bag confiscated, or worse yet, having her flight cancelled. This was That Woman's personal entertainment, her glorious moment of truth, her heroic and obedient duty to the almighty State.
By now, everyone sitting at the gate was staring at us, their blank looks telling me that, indeed, I had committed a federal crime in their little minds, and the great citizen before them was performing her Homeland Security duty with gallant responsibility. The only reply I could muster was a stern and innocuous "shut up lady," as I swept away from the citizens' brig and back into the busy concourse, with my slow-moving Gestapo followers still wandering aimlessly around the kiosk, looking for that blond chick that was such a tremendous threat to her fellow travelers at Chicago's O'Hare airport.
Looking back, I noted my beacon was still standing by my seat, pointing to the vaporized duffel bag, as if Scotty had beamed it up somewhere. The Gestapo approached her, she again pointed my way as only she could do, but by that time I was scurrying through the crowd like a 205-lb. Oklahoma tailback on an option play around right end, disappearing all too easily.
But it wasn't over yet.
I realized how easily they could just wait at the gate for me, and when I went to get on board, they could hogtie me right there and then. But then again, they hadn't seen me but from far away, and That Woman was the only tie-in between me and the Gestapo. I started down the concourse on the far side, and made my way down to the next kiosk, a huge Starbucks. I circled around it, peering out at the oncoming Gestapo, still aimlessly wandering but not even coming close to where I was standing. Trying not to appear too suspicious, I gazed at the coffee menu, pretending I was a genuine customer.
Then boom, there she is! That Woman had followed me all the way down to Starbucks, zapping me from my left, still exclaiming that, yes, her entourage was still after me, and that, yes, I had "left my bag unattended." Thank you madam, I thought, for that bit of redundant info, as I ripped off a short series of semi-profane, verbal utterances that would offend any churchgoing, cookie-baking grandma.
So I glided off down the far end of the concourse, toward the other side of my gate, stealing behind the hustling crowd, watching the Gestapo follow her in the opposite direction to Starbucks, yet following way behind her in their customary bureaucratic sloth. I plunked down in a seating area at the next gate down from my departure gate, and planned a strategy to board my plane without incident. By that time, I felt infected by That Woman's mere presence, her nightmarish nagging, and her apathetic looks.
I couldn't resist calling my brother back in Detroit — who has the exact philosophy as me on these matters — to mention my "fugitive" status and report the actions of the latest Good Little Citizen of the State. It was a good laugh for both of us. Amazingly, I boarded without further occurrence, so why the pursuit in the first place?
However, That Woman did see me in the boarding line, and she glared at me with her pasty-white face and portly, red-spotted cheeks that had likely never seen a speck of make-up, and she was just seething over the fact that the Gestapo had given up the chase, and as a result, this festering snoop had lost her chance to ruin someone else's day.
March 11, 2004
Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a libertarian freelance writer, graduate student in Austrian Economics, and a business professional from Michigan. Her first book is still in the works. See her Mises Institute archive for more online articles, and check out her website
Copyright © 2004 Karen De Coster