This morning I travel to West Palm Beach, Florida for a speaking gig and to visit a dear friend. I’m grateful for the way my life looks pretty much all the time these days. This day is special even by my measures. I am returning a visit to a friend who has come to see me nearly every year since he moved despite the fact I have gone to see him only once in those 15 years. He always does the work to keep the connection even when I seem to be too busy.
My early morning flight left me with only five hours sleep and presented me with long lines for check in and security at the airport. Recently Christiana applied for our TSA pre-check permits since we are traveling with greater regularity. We are waiting for our TSA interviews so we continue to have to wait in line. I got through airline check in easily thanks to all the computer terminal assistants at the gate. The security line was a different story.
The line for security stretched the entire length of the front of the terminal and even wound back in the opposite direction another quarter length. I found myself wishing that we had already completed our TSA pre-check paperwork or for some other miracle that would get me through the line quickly. Remember that thought! After I had waited and moved in line for a about 15 minutes an agent wearing in a red coat with the airline logo approached me. He said, “Is this your carry on bag sir?”
I told him that indeed it was and he asked me to follow him. I questioned why and he said, “They are asking me to check the size of your carry on…”
“Who are they?” I wondered in my mind. Is there some unseen set of eyes in the sky singling out certain black rollaway suitcases for detailed inspection? My suspicion was that “he” was the “they” and “he” had decided to check my bag but didn’t prefer to take ownership of the choice.
I left the line with fear, thinking I would have to go back to the end of the line after this un-welcome side adventure. My bag inspector in the red coat lead me to the standard bag measuring device you have all seen in every airport terminal in the world. I picked up my bag and slid it easily in between the two panels. Just as I was about to jump up, pump my fist and scream, “Take that you red coat wearing bag policing jerk” he said, “Your bag is too tall…you will have to check it…”
I had carried this same bag on dozens of flights before and the only times I have checked it in the past had been with my own intention. I was stunned! I told him that I did not have time to go back and check my bag. I told him that I was not willing to pay to check my bag since in my mind it was within the acceptable size limits. At that point he told me I could, “either pay $25 to check the bag or I could go back to the main customer service desk and plead my case…”
I did the instant analysis and realized that I had no time to go all the way back to the main check in desk. I started to take a few things out of my bag that it looked like I was about to pay $25 to check. It seemed the less difficult path to travel even if it wasn’t my preferred path. I muttered under my breath, “I have no idea why they are so focused on one bag that is borderline sizewise?” It was “they” again in my brain space.
Without and instant of pause, the man in the red coat looked down at me scavenging through my bag as I sat on the tile floor of the terminal and he said words I never expected to hear. He said, “Have you heard of this thing called ISIS?
I looked back up at him in disbelief. The first thing I thought was, “there is no way he said that…”
I then mustered the words, “What did you just say?” He looked down upon me and I could see he questioned his choice of words. Words are so powerful. One simple choice can alter the course of our days or even our lives. I sat in stillness for an instant that seemed like an eternity. My primary emotion in the moment was sadness. I was sad that there was at the very least a possibility, that this red coated man assumed because I too was white, male and over 50 that I would understand his language of judgement and fear. This language that uses buzz words to keep its flock living in a place of separation and hate. I my mind I thought, “I can assure you, Mr. Redcoat, that I no longer speak that language.”
I stood up on my feet. I looked into his eyes and I said what my soul spoke to me to say. I said, “I know of Isis. She is the wife of Osiris. The mother of Horus the Sun God. It is said she gave birth to a Divine child on or around December 25th near the year 3000 BCE and that the child went on to heal and teach and was followed by many disciples….and I’d like to see a supervisor…”
Let’s just say my response was not the response he expected. By now he had collected a few minions who came to see if I was about to cause any trouble. The minions dispersed at my use of the word supervisor.
About five minutes later I was standing face to face with a nice woman name Claudia. I explained that I was disappointed because I had flown many times with my carry on bag and that this time I was told that it was too big and that it needed to be checked. I told her that as much as that disappointed me, that I was even more disappointed that an employee of their airline had asked me if I had ever “heard of this thing called ISIS?” When I asked why there was so much scrutiny about my bag. The minute I said the word “ISIS” the entire staff in earshot stopped what they where doing and looked at us.
The supervisor sized me up. She paused for a few seconds and then looked at my bag. She picked up the bag and put it in a different but similar looking bag measuring device and said, “Clearly this is a carry on…how can I help you get to your destination sir?”
I told her I was now short on time and still needed to get through security. She carried my bag to the front of the TSA pre-check line and said to the agent, “please help Mr. Herbert move through quickly…”
Within in three minutes I had bypassed a line that was likely an hour long. In a way that I never expected, I had gotten my “wish for some other miracle” that would get me through the line quickly. I’m not so sure I like the path even if I was presently enjoying the result.
As I like to say, the Universe will always give you what you ask for, if you keep your mind open to every possibility! As elated as I was for my unexpected twist of good fate I had a few other thoughts running through my mind at the same time.
As I sat on the bench on the good side of security and laced up my boots and put my liquids back in my backpack I couldn’t help but wonder what might have gone differntly if my choice of clothing was a little less “western” looking. Or if my skin was little less white. And again I was sad.
So if you happen to look LIKE me and you happen to look AT me and assume that because I too am middle age, middle income, male and very white that I share your views Mr. Redcoat, allow me to tell you I do not. I choose not to live in a place of judgment. I choose not to live in a place of fear. I choose not to live in a place of hatred. I am grateful to have found a path that allows me to see that everything is the same. That everything is love. I wish I could say that I knew that all along, but I can’t. What I can say though is that I took that red coat off many years ago…and it’s never going back on this body or soul again…
When I got to my departure gate I noticed that the flight was quite full. I walked up to the desk and asked if it would be helpful if I checked my rollaway. I told the agent that I’d be happy to do so if it was complimentary. She then said, “Aren’t you thoughtful. I wish more people were like you.” She took my bag and gave me a claim check and even upgraded my boarding class to Group 1. As I walked away I noticed that she too was wearing a red coat with the same airline logo. I was reminded that I should never judge a coat by its color…in fact I was reminded that my true test, my true awakening in the moment was to make sure not to judge at all. Even when it comes to judging those who have judged others. Don’t judge the judger, lest you wish to be judged you’re self…