Passenger Actually Considers Telling Authorized Personnel About Suspicious Person, Unattended Baggage
Southwest Airlines passenger Carmine Ovarenus admitted that while waiting for his flight to arrive, he considered informing authorized personnel of a bag that appeared to be unattended, and of suspicious looking people not talking into cell phones or using other trivial electronic devices while waiting for the same or other flights.
The thirty-nine year-old owner of local Carmine's Grocery and Deli, on his way to visit his Mother in Newark, NJ, was surprised to find himself considering notifying security for reasons of shaky credibility, which he claimed felt more like an out-of-body experience than being an observant traveler.
"It can be a shock when a person experiences his or her first moment of true suspicion of the innocent-looking purse, or of the man of Middle-Eastern descent sitting in the same row," said criminal psychologist Gabe Remus. "Some people have been doing it before the terrorist threat was even as ubiquitous as it is now, but for those of us who like to think of ourselves as above purblind suspicion of our fellow man, the first experience can be a real shocker."
Ovarenus had been sitting near gate A7 at Chicago's Midway airport when he first noticed a cell phone sitting atop a physics textbook, which he says started the chain reaction of finding things to report to security.
"After I saw the cell phone sitting alone and thinking to myself, 'That's strange, can't those things be used to remotely activate bombs?' I began to notice other things like foreigners from the middle latitudes, and bags that didn't look to belong to anyone in particular," said the nervous American. "I thought about finding the first person wearing a badge and reporting these 'abnormalities', but one by one each bag found its owner, and each suspicious looking person either started talking on their cell phone, began watching 'Jesus Christ Superstar' on their portable DVD player, or got back to reading [Erik Larson's] 'Devil in the White City'."
"What a relief," added the grocer.
While happy to not be privy to a terrorist attack in the works, Ovarenus is afraid of what the impulse to report benign travelers and inanimate objects to airport employees means to the condition of his psyche.
"What's next? Will I avoid going out because of an 'Orange' Terror Alert level?" wondered the conflicted passenger. "Sure, you hear those words, 'Please report any suspicious persons or unattended baggage to airport services immediately,' but when it actually impacts the way you think, it feels kind of like you’ve been violated."
"It's like waking up one day and suddenly your knee-jerk reaction is to vote Republican," he also said.
Experts say that Ovarenus should not be concerned about being suspicious of anything unusual or different, and that most experts themselves have, in fact, reported loose and unattended baggage to airport staff immediately, complete with exact coordinates and profiles of the solitary luggage.
"Being ambiguously afraid is not only not unusual, but is actually helpful and could someday be harnessed into a way of bringing known and unknown terrorists to justice," said a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security. "Evidence of this is clear in cases like that of Mr. Ovarenus, in which his omnipresent fear of being victimized by terrorism manifested itself in suspicion of specific items and people. If Mr. Ovarenus had contacted the authorities and the bags actually been bombs or people terrorists, then he would have been the first citizen in America to stop an act of terrorism single-handedly. As it turns out, he's just another shmoe on a plane for Newark."
The Chicago grocer has since found himself also to be wary of criticism of the handling of the war in Iraq, and of movies staring Omar Sharif.