Arrival Complications

In our last post we described the arrival of our moms to stay with us for a month during which time Julie will deliver our third child. Their flight was smooth enough, a direct flight from JFK airport in New York, landing about an hour and a half late, but with no complications.

Getting to the airport – and getting home again, was a bit more complicated. We have acquired a list of phone numbers for local taxi drivers and airport shuttles, so we called around and got the best deal. (Incidentally, the hour ride to the airport is only about $20 – round trip.) We stated the time, got the price, fixed the passenger number, declared the amount of luggage, and asked for a car with a roof rack to facilitate the ride home. Right on time the car parked at my office, and all was ready.

Except for the roof rack. The car was comfortable enough – four doors, roomy, and air conditioned. It even had a big trunk. Big, as it turned out, fit two large suitcases plus a smaller carry-on, but this left two other large suitcases and a smaller carry-on to be manipulated inside, around a driver, me, and two not-yet-elderly grandmothers. Perturbed at the failure to procure the requested transportation, we took off anyway, as the plane was due to land shortly.

As I mentioned earlier, the plane was late, we got there early, there was a mix-up with the airport restaurant lunch I bought to eat and pass the time, and when they finally arrived, I saw them behind the glass, just standing there, for what seemed like forever.

Our moms had successfully bought their visas, moved through passport control, and maneuvered through the twists and turns of the airport like professionals, putting to rest their initial fears about doing so without their husbands. Reaching baggage claim their suitcases rolled off the conveyor belt one right after the other, and they mounted them on the luggage cart, provided free by the Cairo airport. Except, that is, for one bag, for which they waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.

This is where I spied them through the tinted glass on the other side of customs. I could tell they had their bags, but wondered why they were just standing there. There was no official holding them up, and having waited far longer than I had planned already, I was getting both tired and anxious.

As it turns out, the last bag was held up in New York by the generally reliable (read on) Transportation Security Administration for a hand search. This was not discovered until they got home and opened it, finding a small note from the TSA describing the procedure. At the time they simply rejoiced that the bag finally arrived, as did I, and we stuffed ourselves into the car for the hour ride home.

The next day I went to work as normal, and did the same Thursday morning. I began the day by reading the daily Egyptian news, when among the regular musings about the Mubarak presidency and protests about this or that, I was astonished to find this headline:

NY Passenger with Lethal Weapons in Luggage Detained at Cairo Airport

As it turns out an Egyptian professor of botany in a New York university was arrested for trying to pass two handguns, hundreds of bullets, two swords, and eleven daggers through customs on his way out after picking up his bags. There is no speculation about his purposes, but there was never any fear he had intentions for the airplane. Nevertheless, there is an interesting question to ask:

How did he get these weapons past the formidable TSA? Score one for security in the Arab world!

On a personal note, what would this incident have done to the arrival process one day earlier with our moms on board? Reading the article put my trivial complaining described above in proper perspective. We are glad our moms are visiting, and thankful as well they arrived safe and sound.

You can read the original article here. (Don’t worry, it’s in English.)

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