..Jon Simonds..

Cat Stevens, Osama, and Me

It happened at Kennedy Airport. I arrived two hours prior to my departure for Sarasota, Florida with my 11-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, and made my way to the Jet Blue kiosk. I swiped my credit card for identification purposes only and was surprised with the message I read on the screen. "Oops! We are having a problem processing your information. Please see a ticket agent at the Jet Blue ticket counter."

I went to the back of a check-in line and waited the forty minutes to get to the ticket agent at the ticket counter. She was friendly and chatting it up with my daughter as I handed her my driver's license. After a few minutes she was over come with a really bizarre look, which she immediately directed at me.

"I can't issue you a ticket," she said. "You're on a No-Fly list."
"You're kidding," I said with a grin. After all, I flew out of Tampa a few nights earlier without much of a hitch.
"No I'm not," she said putting my license in her shirt pocket. "You'll have to wait here."
I watched her walk away.
"This is so embarrassing," my daughter said, glancing around at all the people watching us. "You're not going to get arrested, are you?"
"No," I said, but wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do.

None of this made a whole lot of sense. I received my Bar Mitzvah at Judea Center on Bedford Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York. No self-respecting Muslim terrorist group would even consider letting me fill out an application, let alone allow me to leave the premises if ever I walked into one. I worked for several years as a member of the New York City Police Department. I have too much respect for Law Enforcement, and too large a glass jaw, to ever commit a crime. How in the world did I end up on the same list as Cat Stevens and Osama Bin Laden? I leaned back against the counter and looked out into the general direction that the ticket agent took off in. I started to think about how much things have changed.

Did a very rich and powerful Governor from Texas run for office because, "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad," (September, 2002)? You never really hear anything about Osama Bin Laden, anymore. There really hasn't been any further attacks on our country and why should there be? We have created a terrible mess in the Mideast, one that has turned the fears of Iran, (Saddam's Iraq) into the progress of power and defiance far beyond the wildest dreams of any of those who partook in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

We are mired in a Civil War that is not taking place overseas, but is being fought in the halls of our very own Congress who drew their lines during the Clinton years and have dug in even deeper since the unity of September 11th faded in the weeks that followed. Does anyone care about the greater good anymore? Or, is it all just about winning? I wish somebody would ask the candidates that silly little question.

The Jet Blue girl was visible now as she made her way back to the counter.
"Well, dad, I don't see a swat team behind her."
"You're 11 now," I reminded her. "You want to see 12?"
"Okay," she said. "I won't say a word."
"Hi," the Jet Blue ticket agent began as she stepped back in behind the counter. "I can issue her a ticket, but you'll have to take a Greyhound Bus."
She stared at me for a moment and then added. "I'm only kidding."
She started to laugh.
"I don't think that's very funny," I said but couldn't keep the grin from crossing my face.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I couldn't resist. That was actually very weird. You must have ticked somebody off, somewhere."

I thought about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent in Tampa who made me empty both my carry-on bags. He took everything and anything that fell on the list of things not to bring. For example, I bought a small sample size of deodorant that was 0.1 ounce over the legal limit. He tossed it. He tossed every tiny toiletry item I purchased that morning at the local Wal-mart, except for my toothbrush. I asked why the toothbrush wasn't considered a dangerous weapon and wanted to know if he had any idea where one might shove it. I shouldn't have said that. I was wrong to have said that. He was just doing his job and, judging from his attitude, it was a job he hated to do. I'm sorry I didn't jot down his name. I think he might have jotted down mine, though. Do you think they can do that? Jot down your name and throw you on a No-Fly list?

"You two have a wonderful flight," the Jet Blue girl added, handing me our boarding passes. "And thank you for flying Jet Blue."
"You're welcome," I said. "Does this mean I'm off the No-Fly list?"
The girl didn't say. She just went on to the next customer and I have to admit, the curiosity is killing me. If there is anyone out there interested in helping me satisfy this curiosity, I understand the weather in Hawaii is gorgeous this time of the year. Just send the round-trip ticket to me, in care of The New Sun. I'll be more than happy to let you know.

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