Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wear Clean Underwear, and Don't Accept Packages from Strangers

We didn’t travel much when I was a kid, but my mother did pass along that well-worn advice about wearing good underwear in case we got in an accident. Although I’m sure that would be the least of my concerns should something happen, to this day, whenever I dress to travel, I make sure I have on my very best undies. No frayed edges or split seams. And ALWAYS clean. Just in case.

In recent years, mom’s travel counsel has been upstaged by another warning. This time from a  disembodied voice overriding the clamor of a busy airport terminal: “Do not leave your luggage unattended, and do not accept packages from strangers.” 

Advice that seems obvious—until it happens.

I usually fly with just a carry-on, but all the electronic gadgetry that has attached to my life has made this more challenging. Stuffed among the chargers for my PC, Nook, phone, camera; hair dryer cords and blinking mouse, are a change of clothes and bag of toiletries. And so I was not surprised when my suspiciously wired bag got snagged by the screener who dutifully pulled me over, opened, examined, swiped, tested, and re-packed the contents before sending me off racing to catch my flight.

I was almost to the gate where passengers had begun boarding when a man approached me from behind. He touched my arm.

“Excuse me. Excuse me, mam,” he said. “You dropped this.”
Momentarily taken aback by being halted by a stranger, I looked at the object in his extended hand. I inhaled a gasp.

Oh my goodness! It was my flash drive. The one with my book, documents, and backups on it. Oh, thank God the man had seen it fall. I never would have known what happened to it.

But just as I was about to take it and offer my deepest gratitude, I heard the disembodied airport voice intone: “. . . and do not accept packages from strangers.” I looked the young man in the eye, sure that he read the conflict which had suddenly clouded my appreciation with suspicion.

Was it really my flash drive? It looked like it, but what if it wasn’t? Could it be triggered by some remote and cause a catastrophe? Were the lives of all those people in my hands? Would the woman in seat 33 E go down in infamy?

I didn’t know whether to praise God or walk away.

“Zone 4, all passengers in zone 4 may now board the plane.”

What would you do?

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