I am getting tired of thinking about Homeland Security

Was he Central Asian? Was he from the Caucasus? Turkish? Syrian? Persian? Egyptian? I couldn’t figure it out…and usually I can figure that shit out. I have traveled a lot…I have seen and met a lot of people…I am good at figuring where people are from. He wasn’t an  ‘Murican that was for sure. Dark hair, not white, not black, not hispanic, not exactly olive-skinned…but definitely not a typical diverse ‘Murican. He was maybe 20. His ball cap and white track suit were Euro Adidas (Aw-dee-daws)…definitely not fashion that was bought here. When I saw him on the subway escalator, descending down toward the orange and blue lines at Metro Center, I immediately recognized that he wasn’t a local. His cautious, but nervous, nature and the black backpack immediately made me suspect. Tsarmaev brothers immediately jumped to mind.

Confused and lost tourists look up…attempting to find some sort signage pointing out where they are or where they want to go. Tourists don’t look down or at other people on the platforms. Tourists don’t scan crowds or look at the floor. Tourist block the paths of others or stop immediately causing the rest of us to jig left or right immediately to keep from running over their stupid asses.

The boy’s tight gripping of the backpack’s strap also seemed out of place. Female tourists from Mayberry have some fear of purse thieves and grip purse straps tightly…but tourist dudes on the metro are oblivious to this threat. This young man definitely did not want the bag taken from him. Everything about him seemed wrong.

After the 3 seconds it took to think all of this, I immediately felt guilty. I was being a racist, I was profiling. I felt ashamed as I continued to watch him across the train platform. He was going west, I was headed east…yet I watched him as my train arrived. I quickly boarded and stood in the door. There was a ding and the door closed. I didn’t move and before he became a blur from the speed of my train, I watched as he boarded his train. For the rest of my ride…ten minutes…I thought about my reactions to him…my thoughts and why I felt guilty. I thought about how I have had training on terrorism…hell I have taught classes on terrorism…I knew that there had to be some foundation in my reaction…yet I questioned my thoughts and actions.

Was I reacting to over a decade of dealing with homeland security issues? Was I finally internalizing all the fucking propaganda that the media and government (which I am part of) spout? Or was I correct and did I really see something I should report?

At my metro stop, I saw a metro police officer in full counter-terrorism regalia…body armor…boots…sidearm…assault rifle…if there was someone to report it to…this was it. I felt myself rooted in place. I didn’t approach the officer, what if I was wrong and by reporting this I was going to fuck up some innocent person’s day. Was it better to be safe than sorry or had I just overreacted? I left the train station and went to work with the image of kid in my head…guilt followed me to my office like a dark cloak of post-9/11 hysteria.

When I got to my office, my phone dinged when one of my best friends posted on Facebook. Seems, on his family’s flight home from vacation, his 15 year-old son’s laptop had been searched by TSA. My friend is of Indian descent and a Muslim but from Maryland, his 15 year-old plays basketball and baseball. His son, as an infant, rested beautifully in my arms when we all lived in Germany working for the US Army. The worst thing TSA may have found on his computer might have been typical ‘Murican teen male internet porn. I was immediately pissed at TSA…my friend’s son had been profiled.

The gods of irony were laughing at me that morning. Ironic moments such as these aren’t comforting…they are painful. I was filled with self-doubt, guilt, and an unsure feeling of “what the fuck was I thinking.” There were no reports of bombings on DC’s metro that day or since. For all I knew, the kid I saw was just visiting or a resident and feeling unsure…maybe he was on his way to class and wasn’t ready…or maybe…he wasn’t acting or doing anything I saw. Maybe I was fucking imagining it all.

I still feel like shit about this…and I am still pissed at TSA.

I’m getting tired of thinking about homeland security.

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Welcome to the Yak Express: A Unicorn Vomits

It had been a long weekend of fun, drinks, and Charleston humidity. The inn was gorgeous, the bourbon smooth, and my unicorn had enjoyed himself. My girlfriend and I had listened to him beg and plead for one more drink Saturday night…which was followed by him climbing a few trees as we made our way from the bar on King Street back to our inn on Broad Street. As far as fun goes…this had pegged at a Spinal Tap eleven.

Sunday morning, as the time to check-out arrived, Hugh Nickorn sprawled across the bed moaning about his hangover. We nodded and understood, but showed no sympathy. If you are going to party in the Holy City then you have to accept responsibility for your fun. We shoved his pink, plush…and now tree/bourbon-stained…head in a bag and headed to the car. My girlfriend was going to show us a bit of the surrounding area before we needed to get to the airport for mine and his return flight at 7:50pm. By 1pm, his bitching had reached an apex. Enough was enough…a man can only stand listening to a unicorn bitch for so long. My girlfriend and I decided to end the weekend a few hours early. She had heard enough of his whining (whining, whinnying, same difference) and I was tired of apologizing for his lack of partying fortitude. There was a 3pm flight from Charleston to DC…I hoped to get us on standby, and if lucky…catch an early flight home.

As she dropped us at the curb, Hugh muffled his thank yous in a pitiful but honest manner. I kissed my girlfriend goodbye in the low country wet and warm air and carried his mangy ass in and to the airline ticket counter. We were put on standby, but informed that the 3pm flight to DC was oversold by one and that the chances were slight for an actual seat, let alone two seats…if we did get on the flight…the mangy unicorn would be riding on my lap. Having a hungover unicorn riding bitch did not sound appealing.

We made it through security…and as usual I was eyed suspiciously. What kind of man has a unicorn in his carry-on? is always the look I get when we fly. I nod and pretend that I am simple and slow…and ensuring that Hugh’s mouth is firmly taped closed. A mouthy unicorn is a quick way to get yourself pulled to the side and then questioned.

As we sat down at our gate the announcements had already begun. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Flight 666 is a completely full flight and we are looking for one volunteer to give up their seat.” Yep, I was not getting on this flight and Hugh was going to have to sit in the Charleston airport from 1:30pm to 7:30pm. There isn’t enough ibuprofen in the world to soothe the headache this unicorn was going to give me considering his hangover and his attitude. I broke out my laptop and put on Spongebob for Hugh…he is easily amused. We settled back and I tuned his laughter and his moaning out.

Flight 666 began to board and I became further and further saddened by the realization that I had willingly given up an afternoon with my girlfriend just so this unicorn could get home sooner. My back pack was partially unpacked, and Hugh had his headphones on…we had established a semi-permanment residence at the gate. We weren’t going anywhere soon.

“Sublimemonkey please come to gate B2 immediately” came across the speakers. From a haze, I immediately snapped to and in one single swoop I grabbed my unicorn, the lap top, and my backpack. Hugh screamed…everyone jerked their heads up to see a grown man wielding a unicorn in one hand, a back pack in the other, and a partially open lap top stuffed under an arm as I sprinted to the gate. The gate attendant was waiting and waved me through the jetway door as she was shutting it. She didn’t blink at the unicorn…she wanted our asses on the plane. “We had one too many passengers sold for this flight…but have two no shows…who have checked in…but never boarded…I hate when people do that. It’s your lucky day…you have the last seat.”

“Need to see my standby pass?” I asked marveling at my good luck. “Nope, just need to see an ID.” “Need a credit card for the standby fee?” I asked…”Nope, let me see an ID…don’t need one for the unicorn though.” I presented my ID. “Thanks, now get on that plane before those rude passengers arrive.”

As I stepped on the plane I realized I still hadn’t put Hugh in my backpack. He begged to stay out…so I didn’t put him away. I stowed my lap top and threw my back pack on my shoulder and boarded. It takes a brave…or stupid…man to be the last person to board a plane that is late for departure…due to late passengers. Everyone eyed me as if I had killed their dog. Of course they thought I was the reason the plane hadn’t pushed away…I was that slow passenger…and here I was walking down the aisle with a pink unicorn AND being the reason for the delay. The rudeness they must have assumed.

When they said I had the last seat, they meant it. Literally, I had the last seat and it was the very back of the plane…up against the window. As I got closer…and feeling the cold piercing stares of my fellow Flight 666 passengers, I began to announce loudly “wow, my lucky day…standby bump on an oversold flight.” I don’t think anyone believed me or Hugh, who at this point was also realizing the evil looks we were getting. I could feel him attempt to shrink into my arms. We had to have a guy move for us to settle in…but settle in we did. This flight was so ready that as soon as my ass hit the seat the plane pulled away. At that moment I imagined two confirmed passengers standing at the jetway door banging on it for entrance…suckas!

When one is the last passenger on a flight…and seated at the very back of the plane…one doesn’t get overhead. When one has a unicorn that usually rides in one’s carry-on…one cannot put the carry-on under the seat in front…unless the unicorn is out of the carry-on. This was going to be a flight that Hugh was going to take on my lap. Again…what kind of man travels AND flies with a unicorn in his lap? I swallowed all pride and put him between me and the window…if nothing else, maybe his mangy head could be used as a pillow.

The plane lifted off quickly and slightly bumpy…the Atlantic coast was experiencing some foul weather…lots of puffy clouds that was mixed with rain and wind. Puffy clouds are that way for a reason…but once we broke through the ceiling the flight smoothed out. Quickly, Hugh and I were forgotten. Flight 666 was on its way. Hugh begged for a drink…I quickly reminded him that his drinking from the night before had rendered him near dead…I would not be buying him anything to drink on this flight. He eventually shut up and began to snore…snore so loud that it kept me awake.

The flight passed fairly normally, no turbulence, no issues. I read and Hugh slept…unicorns, when asleep, are fairly cute creatures…then we began to make our descent into DC. As the typical 20 minute descent began toward northern Virginia and Reagan National airport, the pilot announced that they expect some turbulence. Those puffy clouds below us began to engulf the plane…then the plane banked sharply to the left…banked hard. The seatbelt sign dinged not once, but three times. The flight attendants scrambled to their jump seats and cinched their belts tight. Someone groaned a few seats ahead of us.

The plane banked hard the other way and then dropped a good 20-30 feet. Suddenly groans became squeals and screams. Someone shouted “shit!” really loud. Hugh was no longer asleep and he murmured a whine. The guy beside us was white knuckled. The plane continued its descent and it quickly jarred left and right…with intermittent drops that equaled or surpassed any roller coaster I had ever ridden. Suddenly it dawned on me…I had experienced this before…on a military aircraft flying in to a hostile zone…military aircraft did these types of maneuvers to avoid ground fire. We weren’t taking ground fire…the pilots were trying to thread a needle through the clouds to avoid as much turbulence as possible. The turns and drops continued and the screaming increased…”gawddamn” and “shit” were finally punctuated with a “help me Jesus.”

Throughout this I had tried to remain focussed on staying calm and maybe enjoying the ride…that is when the puking began. At my best estimate, at least three passengers were forced to use the vomit bags…you know those bags you put your used gum in…well this flight caused people to actually peel back the old gum crusted opening on those bags and actually use them for what they were intended for. In my amazement in hearing people throw up, I was totally unaware of Hugh getting sick. One moment I was watching and feeling the plane bank and drop, and the next moment I was covered in glitter. Hugh…my pet unicorn…had thrown up glitter. Head-t0-toe was how I was glittered. I now looked like I had spent an evening with four Vegas strippers…I was glitterfied! Hugh emptied his bourbon -lined stomach on me.

That is when the plane broke through last of the puffy (cumulus?) cloud ceiling and within minutes the plane landed quite smoothly. I guess Jesus had answered and we were helped. The joy of getting an earlier flight had now been replaced with being covered in glitter and having to wait until every other person had gotten their bags and unloaded. I walked off the plane covered in unicorn glitter vomit. It was a flight to remember and a lesson was learned. Don’t let a whining unicorn convince you to end your weekend away with your girlfriend in the Holy City just because the unicorn is hungover.