Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fly me to Tacoma

Whenever I fly, I take along something (or a few somethings) from my large and ever-growing collection of reading I want to do. Choosing what to take, though, was more difficult than usual as I prepared for this week’s trip.

A couple of standard rules I always follow: don’t carry anything that will weigh down the carry-on bag (no hardbacks); and avoid titles that might incite annoying people to strike up conversation. I have no objection at all to pleasant conversation with nice people; however, the books I specifically avoid reading on planes are those metaphysical or political ones that might make me a target for someone’s attempt to convert me.

Usually novels are fine. Until recently, academic and historical titles have been pretty safe, too. Maybe I’m worrying overmuch, but I picked up “The Invention of Somalia”, “Gender in Islam” and “Muslim Friends”...and put each one back down again on the shelf. It didn’t seem worth the risk.

Paranoid? Maybe. But one of my Somali co-workers - a gentle, peaceful person if there ever was one - is pulled aside for a “random” search every single time she flies. If it’s a coincidence, it’s a very interesting one. Someday I’ll do a survey of my friends and co-workers to see how many of them have been through the random searches. It will be interesting. But not today. I have a plane to catch.