Thursday, August 4, 2011

At Face Value, Or, My Harrowing Trip to the Atlanta Airport to pick up a friend

I was on my way to pick up a friend from the airport. He was flying into the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and I had driven up from Orlando. Granted, these were uncharted waters for me, but hey, one airport is as good as another, right?

Well, not so much. Being a veteran of the Orlando International Airport, I was under the naive impression all airports were easy to navigate. Not so much at Atlanta. Don’t get me wrong, I love coming up south. I have cousins who proclaim they are southerners and Floridians are 'misplaced Yankeess'. They become annoyed when we point out to them, geographically, Florida is further south than Georgia. So our Florida family teased, we come 'up South' to visit. Most all Floridians hold a special place in our hearts for our northern-southern brethren. Just not at this particular airport, and not at this particular moment.

As I attempt to negotiate the road to the designated pickup point, I find myself trapped in an entrance traffic jam. There is a truck obstructing my view of the cause of such an oddity. Then, as the truck moves forward, I see the Atlanta police department has dispatched two of their finest to this locale. Not airport security, mind you. Actual police officers, with lights flashing on their cars and impatience painted on their faces.

I guess now would be the time to tell you I am a fifth generation Floridian However, the distinction is on my blonde-blue mother’s side. My biological father happens to be Iranian. So being the product of these two DNA’s, I am a dark skinned, dark brown eyed, very Middle Eastern looking man. The fact I was born and raised in the tourist mecca that is Orlando is irrelevant to those who take things at ‘face’ value. Such as annoyed police officers. They simply observe a Middle Eastern man driving through the Atlanta airport during what appears to be an airport lockdown. You could say I am a tad nervous. In my possession is my drivers licence, car insurance, hell, even my military ID will come in handy. But I really don’t want to use them. The great state of Georgia is known to take their patriotism seriously. I do not want to present my own pride and patriotism to an Atlanta police officer. Especially not at an Atlanta police station. Please, dear God, let me get through this without questioning.

The truck in front of me is being waved on by the police. However the driver does not want to leave his designated pickup point. The officer trying to get him to move appears to be getting agitated with him. As for me, I’m cheering on the officer and yelling (from my car with the windows up) at the driver of the truck to move. The cops are not checking anyone and they don’t appear to be looking for anyone in particular. It now seems they are here to get this congestion cleared. Perhaps something else had happened earlier. I breathe a deep sigh of relief as the idiot in the truck begins to pull away, freeing me to get the rock out of there.

I circle around and after dodging a few more traffic jams, I find myself back on the ramp for arrivals. The Atlanta police department seemed satiated by whatever conclusion their reason for being there might have been. To my relief, my friend exits the building at that moment. I slow down for him. I can’t swear I came to a full and complete stop or not. I must’ve, because he and his stuff were with me as I pulled away.

I’ve experienced the questioning glares of others. I’ve been ‘randomly selected for screening’ at airports. I generally make those people laugh and feel at ease with me, because they’re doing their job, and I accept that. On this particular occasion, all I wanted to do was pick up a friend from the airport and get our weekend visit underway.

I am a fifth generation, native born, freedom loving, proud citizen of the United States. You just wouldn’t know it if you take things at face value. Sometimes, that makes me nervous.

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