Once again, I am about to be interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security. Technically, I am now in the United States. For some reason I’m relishing the experience perhaps because I want to see what they’ll ask me (this happened to me some five years earlier while trying to visit my brother in San Francisco) or perhaps I just want another story to tell.
Unlike the area they corralled me in at Pearson International in Toronto, this room is pleasantly devoid of large, imposing nostalgic photo spreads of the Twin Towers flanked by smiling portraits of Bush and Ashcroft. This place is starkly officious and bureacratic with connected chairs reminiscent of a Greyhound terminal. To my left are a series of small interview rooms where a varied assortment of officials – Customs, Immigrations, etc. – pass each other and engage each other in vapid banter. A few minutes ago I witnessed a Bangladeshi man being politely told by an unusually friendly officer that the reason he’s here is because his name is disconcertingly similar to “someone else”. His last name was “Abdullah”, which makes me wonder of the literally millions of people in the world with this surname who this “someone else” could be. Mr. Abdullah is asked a series of extensive questions on his work and family history. Once I think he’s done, and Mr. Abdullah can assuage himself that this traveller’s ordeal is over, he is asked to take a seat again. He is then told rather non-chalantly that he can’t be promised he won’t miss his flight. I can’t gauge Mr. Abdullah’s thoughts; however, if it’s anything like mine he’s wondering desperately what could come next.
The “interview” was remarkably quick, which is to say I only had to wait for 75 minutes to be asked by one Officer Luna several quesions including: where I was going, whom was I visiting at what address, where I worked, how long I had been in Canada, etc. (She was particularly interested in typing where I worked and whom specifically I was visiting.) All things considered, Officer Luna was quite friendly, making sure I wouldn’t miss my flight and mentioning how “Omar” was a common name in Latin countries (she made it a point to mention she was of Mexican extraction). I was out fairly quickly, passing through security with ease. At the other side, past security, a T.V. screen in one of those faux, over-price bar-restaurants ubiquitous to North American airports announced that Glasgow’s airport closed after a terrorist attack involving a car ramming into one of it’s terminals. This followed the announcement of a renewed search for two suspects wanted for leaving two explosive-laden cars in Central London. Certainly not the type of news I wanted to see immediately going into the United States.
6.41 pm Washington-Dulles Airport
I’m feeling utterly physically exhausted. Nothing to note at Dulles save for a myriad of shirts and other apparel emblazoned with the acronyms of sundry agencies: CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. Naive as this may sound, by it makes me wonder who would ever buy a CIA T-Shirt, or, for that matter, sell one. To be fair, the airport’s namesake was the brother of the CIA’s first director, so perhaps my weary bewilderment is a bit out of place.
Christiane Amanpour’s CNN special on London’s jihadi groups is making me quite uncomfortable as I watch it amongst a group of Americans at the departure gate who are a bit too attentive to it’s content (if content is what you want to call it) for my sake.
Most flights, mine included, are delayed. Just had a conversation (or, to be a bit more accurate, a conversation was had with me) with very elderly couple going to Maine. We spoke mostly about lobster. And crab. And Alaskan salmon, the same type that “Bill” (I never caught his last name) in his time in the Navy used to fish frequently in the war. It was Bill’s reckoning that these delays were related to the attacks in Glasgow, remarking he didn’t understand “how vicious these people can be”.