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Enroute to Paris: Temporarily Detained in Rochester

I wasn’t expecting that one of my first ten ‘hot of the press’ copies of The Fearful Traveler’s Companion
– 30 travel essays written to assuage the multitude of traveler’s fears – would end up in the hands of a travel security officer at the Rochester International Airport – and that I was being ‘temporarily detained’ and p.s. “you may not make your flight.” The security agent didn’t want to know about the book – he wanted to know WHO I was and exactly WHAT was I doing, wandering unescorted through a ‘sterile’ area of the airport. Maybe you’re like me – my instant response to being stopped by a person in uniform is FEAR – have I done something wrong/ If I were still a teenager – I’d probably burst into tears. Now I just pee in my pants. That’s another good reason not to drink too much coffee before you go to the airport.

So what WAS I doing walking unescorted through a ‘sterile’ area of the airport? I was trying to market my book. Just before heading to our gate for our flight to JFK, I thought I’d make use of the time to visit one of the airport bookstores. When I asked the sales clerk the name of the branch manager, she not only told me his name, but said she’d page him. Which she did. Then she told me, “Hassan will see you in his office.” Then she walked me to a set of double doors. She punched in a code, opened the door and pointed out the office – the second on the left. When I walked into the office, the manager was on the phone. He put his call on hold, greeted me. I gave him my spiel and showed him the book. He asked me to go back out in the main lobby and he would be out in ten minutes after he finished his phone call.
When I headed back toward the double doors, they were locked. Just then, two airport staff members walked through the doors, so I exited when they entered. I waited for the manager to finish his phone call. While I was waiting, a security officer approached me and informed me that I had entered an area that I shouldn’t have entered without a badge. Believe me, this is something, you do NOT want to do. The second thing you do not want to do is panic, so I stood very still and asked as politely as I could if I might be able to use the restroom. This obviously wasn’t possible until a female officer arrived. Both officers were true professionals, and I sensed they were going to do their job in a professional fashion – which was to ask questions and get an accurate picture of the situation.
first, I was asked for identification, my home address and phone number. When I showed the officer my passport, he surprised me by telling me his name (which I would have noticed on his name tag if I hadn’t been so nervous). The reason he told me his name was because it was the same as mine. This made me feel better, the fact that he had said that put me at ease. Then they brought over the book sales clerk and the store manager and asked them questions about how I had entered the secure area. The officer informed my husband that I would be delayed. Then they took me back through the security checkpoint. They returned my passport and the copy of The Fearful Traveler’s Companion which I had handed over to them to show my reason for going to the bookstore manager’s office (I doubt very much a copy will ever appear in that bookstore branch after this incident).
The two security agents apologized for the inconvenience and directed me to the closest restroom.
It looked like I was going to make my flight after all.
The moral of this story is:
When you go to an airport to catch a flight, focus on that one goal and nothing else. As they say in the game Monopoly: “Do not stop at go. Do not collect $200” Do not try to market a book (I’m thinking about hiring a publicist). Most importantly, do not walk through unmarked double doors – especially if you see only people with badges walking out of them!