Mon
Aug 6 2012 9:45am

Airport Travel for the Paranoid and Delusional

Black bag and sunglassesSometimes 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?

Absolutely.

Not.

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.

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8 comments
Terrie Farley Moran
1. Terrie
Nice to know I'm not the only whacko keeping a suspicious eye on my fellow travelers. Thanks for adding "macho man with pink carry-on" to my list of suspects!
2. Master Blaster
Terrie,

HA! I've created a new stereo-type. I can see it now as addendums fly off the printer for the update to the Fly Friendly with Al Quaida International Travel Manual.

I travel a lot. I'm going to be on the look out for macho men with pink carry-ons. I think if I begin to see them, I'll probably laugh out loud.

-Weston
3. Nora
I never worry about this. Never. Seriously. I'm way too busy being annoyed at the person in front of me on the security line who STILL hasn't gotten it through her thick skull that you can't bring the Big Gulp with you, and who has a bajillion pieces of carry-on luggage and pillows and blankies and stuffed animals, and who doesn't even begin to prepare before she gets to the conveyer belt, and who still has to go back umpteen times to remove her various pieces of jewelry just to get through the metal detector.

What I do get paranoid about is how I scope out everything looking for ways to get around the TSA and various security measures that I can then use as a plot device in a novel. I start to think that TSA is watching me watch them, and that I'm being profiled because of my seemingly suspicious behavior, lol! I've also gained a good deal of respect for the TSA workers I've encountered. I've never had a bad experience, and we fly coast-to-coast at least half a dozen times a year.
Weston Ochse
4. Master_Blaster
Nora,

I have the same issues with the line. I got it down to a science and can strip and rip through the detector, while still having five or six electronic devices. Why can't everyone else? At Reagan in D.C. and in Phili (and some others) they have lines for experienced travelers. I blast through these and by-pass most of the FNGs.

"What? I can't carry a razor, a six pack of water, and a super-sized can of thrift store hair spray?"

Errg!

Makes me want to shoot them... in a very nice and sociable way. :)

-Weston
5. Scotty
You have just described me. I fly a lot for work, sometimes 10 or more flights a month. In the airport I sit as far away from other travelers as possible (I like my quiet time), back to the wall (won't be bothered by someone sitting behind me), sun glasses on (eyes are light sensitive, even those airport fluorescents can give me a headache), black carry on ( I like black), and my fondness for cargo shorts and tropical shirts makes me look like I am trying to look like a tourist.
Now everyone that reads this blog will have TSA strip searching me.

Thanks
Weston Ochse
6. Master_Blaster
Scotty,

But are you angry or agitated? Probably not. Probably disgusted with the whole thing. Yeah. I see you lots too. Hell, sometimes I am you.

-Weston

PS. Sorry if TSA is gonna strip search you, man.
7. Becky Masterman
Here's one. I was at the Tucson airport. Tall lanky white guy wearing big shorts behind me in line says, "I'm a courier. You can't look in this box. I have a letter." They let him through. It seemed fair that everyone on the plane should get to read the letter and then vote on whether he could fly with us. But it was the 7 am flight and I was still too sleepy to be properly scared.
Weston Ochse
8. Master_Blaster
I fly out of Tucson all the time. I live in Arizona. I think I've seen that guy, too.

I've couriered (sp?) stuff before too, albiet before the advent of TSA. That letter was most likely coordinated through an Airport office first. Probably had a stamp or a sig on it.

I find your description hilarious, though.

-Weston
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