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Nina In New York: What Exactly Is A ‘Stowaway’ Anyway?

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TSA Screeners(Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

TSA Screeners(Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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By Nina Pajak

Last week when I was traveling from Northern California to Los Angeles, one of my companions declined to go through the security x-ray machine. An extremely frequent flier, he decided at that precise moment that he’d hit his x-ray limit and said, “that’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” Honestly, I can’t explain it. I thought he was being obstinate, but he committed to the decision and chose instead to undergo an extremely stern, thorough (though entirely clothed, thank goodness) search of his person and his possessions. It was annoying that I had to wait for him, and it did feel like the TSA employee inspecting him was perhaps going a bit overboard in the name of “teaching him a lesson.” But rules are rules, and with all of the scary happenings in the world, I certainly am not going to be the one to moan about increased airport safety procedures.

So I was just a little frustrated when I read about Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, the guy who “stowed away” onto a Virgin America flight out of JFK with a boarding pass that:

a) Didn’t match his identification

b) Wasn’t for the flight he boarded

c) Because it wasn’t even for a flight that day

This raises a lot of important and hard-hitting questions about the efficacy of the Transportation Security Administration and the realistic application of its regulations. For instance, what exactly is the TSA guy thinking about when he leans over his podium and stares gravely into my driver’s license? Perhaps whether his wife put mustard instead of mayonnaise on his turkey sandwich again. Also, what exactly does it mean when the security checkpoint lady draws that little scribble on my boarding pass after scrutinizing it like a diamond dealer would a suspect stone? That it is, indeed, a boarding pass and I am, it seems, a human passenger? And why the funk am I wasting my money on plane tickets when it seems I could be joyriding the metaphorical rails like some futuristic sky hobo as long as I can fish a few boarding passes out of the garbage?

The amazing part is that Noibi probably would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for his apparently devastating body odor and a couple of extremely sensitive (or perhaps, insensitive, depending on how you see it) passengers who complained, leading to the ultimate discovery that he was safely buckled into a seat that belonged to someone else. Yesterday.

The good news is that regardless of the fact that he fraudulently breezed through security, his baggage was still screened properly and was deemed devoid of anything hazardous. You know, aside from ten other boarding passes that didn’t belong to him. And here I am like a jerk, holding my little plastic baggie of lip gloss and removing the grommets from my jeans. I’ve had face wash deemed hazardous for being .2 ounces over the limit! He better not have had a 3.6 ounce bottle of face wash in that bag, or I will just lose it.

Sidebar: I’d like take issue with the term “stowaway” in this case. I’m not sure whether that was a media branding or an official accusation of some sort, but in my mind a stowaway actually stows away. As in, sneaks aboard and cleverly hides himself, surviving the journey by eating morsels of cheese from the rat traps and perhaps the occasional  fallen biscuit from a careless child. Noibi just strolled right on and took an empty seat, which by some great luck was actually empty. Let’s not romanticize this by using fun pirate talk, now.

Nothing like a humiliating security breach to get the holiday weekend started off right! I hope everyone has fun. I’m packing a few 3.4 ounce bottles into a bandana tied to a stick and stealing the boarding pass off some unsuspecting tourist.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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I’m Back, And I’m Not Going Anywhere. Until I Go On Another Trip.

Peace Out (For A Week)

Time For New York To Step Up And Commit Already

Let’s Drop This ‘Rehab’ Thing, Shall We?

The Great Purge

You Can Find Me At The Dog Run

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