Returning to America...

istanbul1b.jpgCoffeeCrew.Com Correspondent Bob Harris has just returned from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He almost did not return from his trip. You see, folks, while there he took a side trip to Turkey and Egypt for some sightseeing. Last time I checked, Americans were still free to travel where ever they wanted. Things have changed since 9/11 obviously. Turkey and Egypt are Muslim countries and judging by Bob's treatment, going there for fun and adventure is risky business... if you are an American thinking of coming home hassle free. Hey! Let's let Bob tell some of his story...

Bob Harris prepares to board a plane for a 15 hour flight back to America. Here come's security!

First, routine: did you pack your own bags? Have they been in your possession the whole time?

And did anyone give anything to you?

Normal so far. Then, with God and perhaps 100 other passengers in line as my witness:

Where did you stay on your trip, sir? What hotels? Do you have receipts to prove it? We'll have to see those.

Where did you purchase your ticket? How did you pay for it? Can you prove that?

Where did you stay in Istanbul, sir? Which hotel? How many days? Can you show us a receipt to prove it? Can you show us all the receipts you have?

Furious, intimidated, embarrassed, unsure. Feigning calm. On my knees in the ticket line, going through my bags, trying to remain cooperative while being forced to produce documentation no one else was asked for, and which I had no way of knowing I might need.

The line stops, grumbles, and is re-routed around me.

No explanation as to why I alone am pulled from the line.

Red sticker affixed to my passport.

At security checkpoint, my backpack opened and inspected thoroughly, item-by-item. My camera bag opened and inspected thoroughly, item-by-item.

At the gate, quiet hostility. A criminal suspect. My backpack opened and inspected thoroughly, again, twice more, item-by-item.

My camera bag opened and inspected thoroughly, again, twice more, item-by-item.

My camera equipment taken, with no promise of return. I watch as a security employee simply walks away with my things.

My passport and ticket taken and withheld.

Still no explanation of why this is happening, or why I'm the only one selected for such scrutiny. Polite, soft-voiced inquiries presented with a well-tended smile and a patient tone are met with increasing hostility.

Segregated from the rest of the passengers for 45 minutes. During this time, I am in a position to watch perhaps a half-dozen gates. Not one other passenger is receiving this treatment on any other flight that I can see.

Taken to a special examination room. Thorough body search, front and back.

No bombs in my testicles, we all learn. I am relieved.

Moments before the doors close, and a full hour after it was clear that I was clean, I am given back my passport and belongings and allowed to proceed to the United States.

I am also blithely told by Delta representatives, with no sense of irony, to "enjoy my flight."

Other passengers, having noticed the proceedings, react to my presence on the plane with a mixture of sympathy... and fear.

One particular bottle-blonde married to a square-headed pink man who snores watches me suspiciously for almost ten straight hours. Her grandchildren will no doubt grow weary of hearing about her thrilling bare escape from death at my hands.

I still have no explanation. Your guess is as good as mine. Probably better. Did I look like someone? Did I pack too lightly, frightening them with my small backpack? Was it simply that I had visited two Muslim countries? Or was it something else?

I do not know. And I do not know how to know.

I am in Los Angeles now. I am in the United States.

But I am not home.

Source: Tom Tomorrow's Daily...

Editors Footnotes: If you are an American citizen, a shopper at Safeway America and you use your Safeway club-card, please be advised that the FBI has access to the Safeway database as a result of the patriot act. Plan on buying Falafel, Feta cheese, Tabouleh salad fixin's and the like? Well, you watch your step bubba! Fortress America is on guard against all evil-doers and the stuff they eat.

..Pass the Donair..

Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria, B.C. Canada (thankgawdforthat!) and values the fact that he can buy as much Feta cheese at Safeway without fear...
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