‘You’ve been chosen.’
It was either my lucky day or the world was being so generous for apparently no reason. You don’t get to be ‘the chosen one’ three (or was it four?) times in a single day. The only difference this time was that I was expecting this, and I was prepared to do what I did – or what happened to me – next.
As the man standing in front of me tried to keep his smile spread from one ear to the other, I put my heavy bag down. He wasn’t even blinking, of course. How can you take your eyes off of the chosen people?
I took my jacket off, removed my watch, got rid of the belt which was trying hard to hold my jeans in its place, looked down, spread my legs wide, opened my arms up, stood still, holding my breath, when he realized the need to say something (which I already knew).
His smile grew even wider when he repeated those same, random words, with the same, random stress on the last three, ‘You’ve been chosen... for a random security check.’
These security checks are anything but random.
In my case, at least, I think there were a few solid reasons which led to this sacred cause, where I ended up giving a detailed account of my family, opening my bags, feeling hands crawling up my legs, almost missing my flight, and still managing to smile, as you cannot risk going all the way to Islamabad from Philadelphia because you forgot to smile at something so random.
Having a green Pakistani passport makes you eligible for being among the chosen ones.
Your chances are brighter if you have a Muslim name, and even more, if your last name is Khan. Although that poor guy made an entire movie saying ‘My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist,’ but that doesn’t make any difference. If anything, it makes Khans more suspicious.
It does seem weird, and a little embarrassing too, when you are standing in a long line, everyone in front of you is being welcomed with a ‘Hello!’ and 'Welcome aboard' — but not you.
Not once, but every single time, are asked to step aside.
I, being the lucky one, made it through. It was difficult, but, by the end, I think I got used to it. These security checks, these are random anyway, aren’t they?