“If you see something, say something,” say the loudspeakers at Sea-Tac airport.
I saw something, I said something. And here’s what happened:
First off, I am not a hall-monitor type. I hated those smug kids with their little hall passes, threatening to rat you out for a harmless paper airplane.
Snitches get stitches.
If someone cuts in line, I roll my eyes and call it a day. I won’t tell on you for carrying an extra vile of liquid or playing hooky from work or cheating on a test.
But this was different. Way different. I saw a guy sneak a lighter through airport security. This was before I realized regular lighters without fluid are permitted in carry-ons. When did that happen? But who wants to carry a lighter without fluid – isn’t that just dumb? Doesn’t a lighter need fluid to work? Do they even sell fluidless lighters? Excuse me for my ignorance, I am not a smoker.
The Guy hid a blue BIC lighter under the vamp of a canvas slip-on, which was lurching towards the scanner in one of those bins. When I noticed it, he put one of those change tubs on top of his shoe. Clever.
My suspected terrorist tucks a tacky Hawaiian shirt into his jeans. And travels alongside a smallish, dark-haired woman who had a retired-teacher thing going on. I would guess mid-sixties, celebrating a 35th anniversary.
I went over the moral dilemma – should I tell? I looked around. I telepathically called to the girl behind me: look up, notice this, and say something, so I don’t have to.
It took a couple seconds, but I finally decided to say something, the way the loudspeakers at the airport kept demanding I do. What if this guy was the Bad-shirt Bomber?
There’s a lighter in his shoe
I walked over to the nearest TSA agent, who was busy chatting with his buddies. I noticed they were all properly mustached.
“Excuse me: I have a question.”
I intended to call him over, but be discreet. Clandestine. Spry. Is there a hand signal? Should I whisper?
When the Agent approached me, I said out of the side of my mouth: “There’s a lighter hidden in his shoes.” I nodded towards the bins.
He loudly repeated: “A lighter? In whose shoes?” Four or five people turned to stare at me.
I shushed him. Like the two of us were engaged in light cafeteria-table gossip.
“It’s two bins in front of my bin.” I said quietly, thinking at that point, we were partners in this thing. I waited for TSA agents from all corners of the terminal to descend on Hawaiian-shirt man like a pride of lions.
I suddenly felt bad. Instead of going to Hawaii, the Bad-Shirt Bomber was going to have to endure a cavity search when all he probably wanted to do was smoke a couple cigars on the beach.
What Actually Happened.
“If there is one, I am sure they’ll get it. Now – are all your liquids in a bag?” TSA Mustachio peeked at my bins and casted a judging eye towards my innocent flats.
I spent that morning getting rid of my grooming scissors, my tweezers, and pouring the allotted three ounces (a day’s worth) of shampoo and conditioner into eco-friendly reusable bottles. I made sure not to carry a razor, which I desperately need because there’s “relaxing by the pool” on my trip itinerary.
And he has the nerve to question my packing?
Meanwhile, they scan Hawaiian-shirt man’s briefcase. (Who wears a Hawaiian and carries a briefcase?)
Nothing happened – no pulling him aside. No little rooms. No cavity searches – he breezed through security and shot me a smug look. He knew.
I could not believe it. And then they motion me towards the full-body scan. Really, TSA? You’re body scanning me and the Tikki Terrorist waltzes right through the metal detectors?
When nothing happened, I expected John Quinones from the show, “What Would You Do” to pop out of a suitcase. I started preparing answers to his inevitable inquiry, which takes one of two routes: Why are you such an asshole? Or: how did you become so morally awesome?
“It was the right thing to do” I would say. “The voice-over at the airport says, ‘If you see something, say something.’ I said something.”
Readers, even after a whole lot of nothing, I still think if you see something, say something, especially when your silence could result in the harm of another human being. Sneeze-cough: Sandusky trial.
Only when you actually SEE something. Be SURE. Or you could really damage someone’s reputation. Also be sure the person you’re telling on isn’t all Mobbed up or G’d out or otherwise affiliated with people who occasionally take people out.
Maybe I over-reacted. Maybe I am more paranoid than the average person. What would you have done?