Yalla Peace: Oh, the hassles of airline travel

Let me say from the start that I look like a terrorist...

SAYED BADREYA 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Americans are up in arms that they will be burdened and made to feel uncomfortable by the new security measures in place at airports.
If you refuse to go through the fullbody scanner – and display your private parts in chalk-like images – you will be required to be patted down by a security guard probing your private areas.
Is that too high a price to pay for security?
THIS PAST weekend, I went to O’Hare Airport in Chicago, one of the nation’s busiest, to pick up a guest who was speaking at a dinner I organized for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
The guest was Sayed Badreya, an Egyptian-born American Hollywood actor who often plays terrorists in American films like Iron Man and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, but also a nice guy like in Something About Mary.
Let me say from the start that I look like a terrorist. Badreya really looks like a terrorist.
When he was leaving Los Angeles, he left his cellphone in the limousine. So when he arrived in Chicago, he had to walk up to strangers and ask them if he could use their phone to call me.

O’Hare does not permit drivers to pull up to the curb to wait; it’s a security risk.
You can only pull up when your guest has arrived and is standing at the curb with his bags. So when Badreya landed, I couldn’t swoop in and pick him up before the TSA could swoop in and give my car a ticket.
Badreya went up to the first woman and asked to use her phone. Her first reaction was the proper one, to be startled and fearful – the kind of look you get when you are about to scream “terrorist” in a crowded airport. She’d seen his picture somewhere. Maybe in a movie. Maybe on a post office wall.
Maybe on the news.
She calmed down – Arabs have a way of making beautiful women calm down – and loaned him her phone. He called to tell me he was waiting for me to get him in Baggage Claim Area D. Of course, I couldn’t go to Baggage Claim Area D because if I did, the police would tow my car.
Well, O’Hare is not the best place for cellphone reception and the call didn’t ring but went right to voice mail.
When I didn’t answer, he waited and then had to borrow another phone.
This time, he went to the security desk.
He dialed me again.
This time, a number appeared on my phone before the call went to voice mail.
I couldn’t answer it fast enough. So I figured it was probably him using someone’s phone and I would call it back.
“Hi. My name is Ray Hanania. Did a guy just call me from your telephone asking to be picked up?” I asked the man who answered.
“Who’s this? The man asked.
“Ray Ha-na-KNEE-ya,” I said as clearly phonetically as I could.
“Ray Hakalaka?” the security officer answered.
“No. Ray Ha-na-KNEE-ya,” I said slower.
“Ray Hakalaka?” The man asked again.
“Yes. Ray Hakalaka. I want to know if there is a guy there who used your phone, looking like he’s waiting for someone to pick him up. Can you tell him to go outside and go to the curb?” There was a pause. I assumed he was looking around the terminal. “What does he look like?” the man asked.
That caused me a dilemma. How do I describe an Arab to an airport security person? “What does he look like?” The security guard asked again.
“Okay. Don’t get upset or anything.
I know how people get when they get in airports and hear what I have to say. He’s Arab looking. Beard. Dark olive skin. Egyptian. Speaks with a heavy Arab accent. He’s probably the only Arab-looking guy standing in the terminal right now,” I said hoping for the best.
They searched far and wide. And the security guy took my number and said he’d call me back.
As I waited, I got another call. This time it was Sayed Badreya. “Hey buddy.
I’m at Baggage Claim Area D,” he told me. “I had to borrow a phone from this nice lady.”
“Listen Sayed. Say good-bye to the nice lady and come right outside to the curb. I’ll pick you up.”
When he finally got in the car, he said to me, “Is there something going on.
Security is running all over the terminal.
They kept going right past me.”
Maybe that’s one reason why we need better security.
The writer is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist.