“Do you trust me?” So asked the petite, blonde, senior Delta flight attendant in the short red dress, fresh from delivering trays of cocktails to first class passengers. “Believe me, I’ve been through much worse than this on my plane before. Front page news stuff. Don’t want to talk about it right now, mind you.”
“But you can trust me, this woman is no physical threat. She’s just flown in from Dubai, which is an 18 hour flight, and she’s just a little irritable. She’s an American, but she’s absorbed a lot of the culture over there, if you know what I mean. I’ve got this under control.”
The 98 lb aspiring Navy SEAL was assuring me that I should not be concerned after she was running up and down the aisle asking passengers where the woman with the “thingy” on her head was sitting. I believed her, though she would have been more convincing had she known what a hijab is. And been a hundred pounds heavier. And been a man with a gun.
As it was, I’d already heard quite enough to be concerned about how this flight was shaping up yesterday. I was on my way home to Denver after a long work trip on the east coast. The woman with the zebra hijab was in my row, and even before we took off, she’d wasted no time in provoking the other women in the row into panic by chatting about terrorism. They responded by burying their faces in their books and by begging her to mind her own business. She then moved on to me, insisting that I witness some imaginary insult someone had done to her, and stating loudly to the whole section that “You see this?? This is TERROR!” I don’t even know what she was talking about. Perhaps she was upset that the flight attendants had not brought her before-take-off wine yet. But several things were clear: she was neither truly upset nor irritable in any way. She was relaxed and playing a part, and it was quite a performance. She was also clearly an activist. And that’s what worried me.
My concern was not expressed until after the flight attendant had spent a lot of time calming down the stricken women in the row while Miss Zebra Hijab was in the washroom – quite the drama in itself. I thought she should know that passengers shouting about terrorism in a crowded plane about to take off was not ‘ok.’ Especially on the day after the Steven Sotloff beheading, in the month of September while the entire country was in a panic over our leadership’s soothing warnings about expecting anything and ‘everything’ on the terror front.
My concern was not about this woman, even though nobody in their right mind would think this belligerent harpy had been properly searched by our crack TSA. My concern was with the mysterious group of young men clustered together in the back of the plane, and the fact that her act seemed designed to distract. It concerned me so much that before we finished our taxi to take-off, I hastily turned my cell back on and fired off a text to my 16-year-old son, letting him know what was happening and the seat occupied by the woman and her description and a command to report it if anything bad happened. I also told him not to tell his mother for a few hours. That ended up being the most important part of the message, of course. He performed his duties faithfully; God bless him.
But none of it mattered. Nothing happened, except that the woman crazy-talked intermittently the whole flight, mostly directed at me, for no reason I could discern, while I tried to ignore her and sleep, which I did, somehow. I was pretty tired, and she was pretty annoying.
Air Travel Concerns are Mounting
This was just a minor personal adventure, but all over the U.S. concerns are being raised about incidents that seriously cast in doubt the safety of domestic air travel. Just yesterday it was confirmed that an American jihadi killed in Syria had been an airport worker in Minneapolis / St. Paul with security clearances. A few weeks ago, the Obama Administration ignored the pleas of Congress and lifted all bans on Libyans training in the U.S. as pilots or nuclear scientists. But this shouldn’t concern you. It’s still unlikely that the captain of your flight to Duluth will be a Libyan national. It’s far more likely he’ll be the navigator or co-pilot. That’s what the administration says, anyway, and they have a stellar track record when it comes to assessing threats against Americans. As far as you know.
Perhaps the most alarming news recently is that the DHS confirmed that TSA is letting large numbers of illegal aliens on domestic flights without subjecting them to the usual airport security. Given that many of these aliens being transported are not originally from the Western Hemisphere but are, inexplicably, from the Middle East, one might hesitate to conclude that we are getting our money’s worth from the TSA. To use a personal example again, I found a disturbing boarding pass tucked into the seat-back pocket on a flight going east a little over a week ago. It belonged to a gentleman named Muhammad Al-Something who had occupied my seat from Las Vegas to Atlanta earlier in the day. There’s no strong reason to assume that Mr. Al-Something was a Middle-Easterner or was an illegal being transported by Immigration, but the Las Vegas origin made me wonder. I suspect I’ll be wondering a lot of things on future flights around the country. Sleep tight, Folks! Enjoy your flight.