Just another day at the TSA

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Rick Horowitz
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Rrriinnnng! Rrriinnn…

“Good morning, and thanks for calling T.S.A., ‘Your Travel Partner.’ This is Janet speaking—how may I help you?”

“I want to make a reservation.”

“Certainly, sir—that’s what we’re here for! Now, I’ll need some information from you. Let’s start with dates—do you know what day you’ll be traveling?”

“That will be 25 December, please.”

“Christmas Day! That’s one of my favorite days of the year to be going places. And your final destination?”


“I’m sorry, but I don’t think we…”

“Detroit. I meant Detroit.”

“Much better! We have plenty of flights to Detroit. And your return date?”

“No return.”

“That’s OK—we can book you with an open return. That way, whenever you decide it’s time to…”

“No return. I am traveling in one direction. Only one direction.”

“No problem. We’re here to accommodate you, whatever your travel needs happen to be. Luggage?”

“Excuse me?”

“Will you be checking luggage? Most of the airlines charge a small additional fee for excess lug…”

“No luggage.”

“No luggage.”

“Correct. I am traveling light, as they say.”

“That’s fine. And you know that you can bring one carry-on bag aboard, as well as one personal item—a briefcase or purse, a laptop, a…


“A syringe?”

“For medical purposes, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Of course. What other purpose could there possibly be?”

“Certainly. It’s not one of those really big syringes, is it? Because you can’t stow it in the seat pocket in front of you. They’re pretty strict about that these days.”

“No problem. It’s a little syringe. Just the right size.”

“Fine. And which credit card will you be using?”

“Not a credit card. Cash.”

“You want to pay cash?”

“Please. This is not a problem, yes?”

“Well, it’s a little…unusual. Most people these days prefer using credit cards—you know, just for the convenience. And for their records.”

“I don’t have need for records, so for me, cash is better. I will bring it with me to the airport, OK?”

“I guess we can—sure. Now let me get this all in the system and—oh, your name! I almost forgot to get your name!”



“U-M-A-R. That is the first name. The middle name is Farouk. F-A…”


“Correct. And the last name is Abdulmutallab. ‘Abdul’ is like it sounds, and then M-U-T-A-L-L-A-B. Two L’s.”

“Two L’s—got it.”

“Two near the end. Plus one also in the middle.”

“Three L’s all together. Got it. Now if I can just…hmmm.”

“A problem?”

“Well, this is interesting.”

“What is?”

Very interesting. When I put your name in the computer. Did you know that your name spelled backwards is ‘Ballatumludba’?”


“And nothing. It’s just a really pretty name spelled backwards—you know, almost like a poem or something.”

“And your computer tells you this?”

“Oh, these computers are great! We’ve got a terrific system here—they can do anything!”

“In my life, I have never thought of my name backward. Only forward. It is from my father’s name.”

“And a very nice name it is! I’m sure your father is very proud of you.”

“Perhaps someday he will be.”

Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

Last updated: 12:04 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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