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Search & Seizure

I pray in airports.

Many of my fellow passengers likely pray on board the aircraft, but I find myself praying in the waiting place—my place of anxiety—and today my prayers are especially heartfelt.

I arrive at the Park-and-Ride with plenty of time to spare, despite the slow-moving traffic on the highway. My husband lovingly chides me for worrying:  “You always sit at the gate for at least an hour.”

He can afford to be good natured, since I am traveling alone for business and he has already arrived safely at his office. “Remember before 9/11?” he asks. “We used to leave for the airport an hour before our flight. Security was just walking through a metal detector.”

I recall our last real vacation, a before-the-baby-is-born trip to California. I stepped gingerly down the jet way, looking over my shoulder toward the terminal, wondering if I would be able to stretch my legs across his empty seat during the flight.  How long could it possibly take to park the car? I knew we should have left the house earlier!

“Yes,” I tell him. “And I remember the leeks, cucumbers and melons in Egypt. And the fish we ate for free.”

He laughs. “You have plenty of time,” he reassures me. “I have to get to a meeting.”

“I’ll call you when I land.”

I recite my first prayer—praise for the shuttle driver—as I step through the airport doors and note the time: my flight departs in 2 hours.

I’d heard on the radio earlier that “Security wait times” were close to 30 minutes. But as I round the corner, brandishing my cell phone with its QR-coded boarding pass, I see there is no line. Then I hear a commotion erupt beyond the glass partition.

“What should I do about this line?” one TSA officer calls to another.

“Turn them around and send them back through the next lane,” her colleague replies.

My second prayer is a petition: “Please, God, don’t let anyone who was at the front of that line realize that he is now going to be last.” I think my spouse is right, after all. Things were better in Egypt.

“You called 911, right?” another TSA agent asks.

“Yeah, I called.”

That’s when I realize the delay is not about searching carry-on bags and directing travelers through scanners. TSA agents are clearing the way for paramedics to attend to the woman at the front of the line who’d had a seizure.

My third prayer is interrupted by a polite request: “Ma’am, step forward please.”

I take a deep breath as I hand him my identification. My final prayer of the morning is gratitude: “Thank God for the TSA agents who acted decisively to help a fellow traveler.”

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