FORBIDDEN: My Not So Excellent Adventure

by Susan Mckee


After flying into Tel Aviv, Israel, from Amman, Jordan, I went to the transit area of the airport (since I was changing from a Royal Jordanian flight to the El Al flight to Newark).

There was no one in the area, so I picked up the phone and asked for instructions. I was told to wait. Three more passengers from my same Royal Jordanian flight then arrived, plus two airport workers, one in a suit and both with mobile phones. The workers told us to sit and wait for our luggage. One kept repeating the numbers from our baggage tags into his mobile phone. 

After more than a half hour, the bags for the three other passengers arrived, but mine did not. The workers said that my bag was not on the baggage carousel with the other luggage from the flight. I asked to leave and go through passport control to check with the Royal Jordanian staff about my luggage. I was told to sit down and wait where I was.

More people arrived (no one was introduced), including a series of security officials who questioned me about my travel. Why was I in Israel? (The Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers was invited to come.) If I was a guest of the Israeli tourism officials, with whom had I met? (The names were all on the papers in my missing suitcase.) Why would Israeli tourism host me? (You’d have to ask them.) What people had I met in Jordan? (The usual tourism industry folks.) Did I have any relatives there (no), and on and on and on. 

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Airport Therapy: Overcoming Shyness in Buenos Aires

I am a shy person. I spend most of my days alone. Although it was daunting to figure out how to pack my 21-inch carry on with clothes for hot weather in Rapa Nui and Buenos Aires and freezing weather in Patagonia, dealing with more than a dozen strangers for three weeks was even more of a challenge. During the first few days of the trip I quietly mingled and occasionally exchanged stories, but it wasn’t until the group and I were in the Buenos Aires airport that I discovered there were limits to my shyness.

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Air Travel Madness

We have rules, people.

Sure, I feel sorry for those 47 passengers stuck on a Continental Express plane for nine hours at the Rochester airport, but just because they’re trapped in a device where excess flatulence violates EPA standards doesn’t mean they should be allowed outside the jet.

photo via Flickr by Kevin Boydsto

We can’t let people wander willy-nilly at our airports late at night because, heaven knows, even a blue-haired grandma or a nearsighted professor or a Nintendo-crazed kid might actually be a world-class terrorist who is going to hide in a broom closet until dawn, headlock the pilot of a 747 who’s having a triple latte, put on his uniform and commandeer the plane, take off, fly the jet into the command center at ESPN over in Connecticut, bring down sports broadcasting and cause widespread panic, tempting Vlad Putin to lob a few SS9s our way, starting World War III and causing the collapse of civilization and, not incidentally, indefinitely postponing the start of the NFL season.

Can’t have that. Right?

Wrong. Wrong, that is, on the whole paradigm in which we Americans frame air travel these days—security threats lurk under every bush and babushka; and yet the best commerce is utterly unfettered. In fact, we kind of have those two upside down.

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