Sometimes when I travel I feel paranoid and delusional. But am I really? After all, I could be standing beside a terrorist and not even know it. With the growth of home grown terrorists in America, I could be swapping football woes with someone contemplating blowing up a public building!
I don’t bother with profiling to determine who might be dangerous. That’s too much of a blind bet. Instead, I’ve been trained to look at two things: their position in the terminal and their eyes.
The more dangerous person sits alone, usually with his back against a wall or a bank of windows. He has a carry-on, almost always black, because of a desire to blend in (hopefully no bad guys are reading this or else I suspect there might be a spike in lone men traveling with pink carry-ons). I frequently spy these men (and they usually are men) with glasses, often of the mirrored type.
So I’ve seen a man sitting alone against a bank of windows with a black carry-on. Should I be scared? Should I report his man?
It could be a covert TSA officer. It could be a drug enforcement or customs border patrol agent or an air marshal. It could even be a police officer. The larger airports experience a deluge of interagency requests for operations to be conducted, whether purely monitoring or targeting.
If you’re in a large airport, the chances are the person is question either has already been targeted, or is the one doing the targeting.
But what about the eyes? You said the eyes give you away.
Not always, but they are great indicators.
Look at the eyes. You should see calm, tired, maybe a little stressed. You shouldn’t see focused attention and or anger. It’s amazing how often someone’s fear at getting caught translates into anger. Angry people are targeted.
But what does this mean? What should I be doing? Should I be as paranoid and delusional as you, Mr. Ochse?
Definitely not. But you should be aware. If you see someone suspicious, glance around. See if anyone’s looking at them. See how and where they are sitting. See their eyes, if you can. If you feel nervous, there’s no reason you can’t approach a TSA agent or a policeman on a Segway and point out your concern. After all, you’re not being paranoid and delusional. You’re being careful.
Weston Ochse’s last name is pronounced “oaks.” Together with his first name, it sounds like a stately trailer park. He is the author of nine novels, most recently SEAL Team 666, which comes out in December 2012. He lives in the Arizona desert within rock throwing distance of Mexico. For fun he races tarantula wasps and watches the black helicopters dance along the horizon.