How to Travel as a Minority (And Not Look Like a Terrorist)

I’m a frequent flyer. I am not a terrorist.  With facial hair, I slightly resemble 11 of the 19 September 11 hijackers. No one aside from my friends has accused me of being a member of al Qaeda, but I do things when traveling to assure skeptics that while I am a minority, I’m not planning a jihad.

Avoid attention by looking like you belong in the intro for Love Actually. Cameras. Everywhere. Check-in online, enter the airport, and head directly for security as if you’re a darker George Clooney in Up in the Air.

Place your wallet, watch, phone, and belt in your sole item: the backpack. Avoid luggage lines and a $25 fee. Divide days away from home by three to calculate the number of shirts and pants needed. Add one for the number of underwear.

You travel light. Dismiss strangers’ jokes that you’re going to need more clothes to survive with a wink and say, “Oh, I’ll survive.”

Stand patiently in the security line with your shoes already off because you’re not a shoe-bomber. In the ten seconds it takes an official to check your boarding pass and ID, joke about Barack Obama and threat level orange.

Load your backpack in the screener and pause thoughtfully. Full scan or metal detector? You share society’s exasperation. Chuckle as security does a full body cavity search of the grandmother in front of you.

As you contemplate an order outside of McDonald’s, accept a request to watch the luggage of a stranger who goes to the bathroom. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. Leave the bags unattended, get your American order of fries and pies, and head to your gate.

Linger by the ethnic family who inevitably sits next to you. You’re not with them, but you could be.

When your name is read, and butchered, over the PA system, stand cautiously. Look bewildered. Standby passengers argue for a seat, but you publicly refuse the offer of an upgrade to first class because, “It’ll mess up my plans.” Sleeping is hard without a window seat.

Wade through first class as you board and return the stare of the white middle-aged man with glasses. He looks away. It’s an act of solidarity.

Stow your bag and begin reading American Way or another not-as-good inflight magazine. Smile and laugh to yourself, because you really, really love seeing who America’s best rhinoplasty surgeon is.

Stare intently at the flight attendant demonstrating safety. In the event of a sudden drop in cabin pressure or water landing, you can be their hero.

Rest your head against the window, only to slip forward and lean into your lap for a 45 minute nap.

When the pilot announces the descent, hold your hands together and pray softly out loud, ideally in another language, to show your flight mates that while you don’t look like them, you still care about the greater good.

Five minutes before landing, turn on your cell phone so your ride will be ready upon arrival and you can make a quick getaway without delaying traffic on the pick-up sidewalk.

Ignore the angry man screaming for you to turn off your electronic device: “Do you know English? Do you really want to blow up this plane?”

Say that this is racial profiling and get up well before the seat belt sign has turned off.

On your way to the front of the plane to speak to the attendant, when you feel wheels hit pavement, yell Zindabad or Allah hu akbar to celebrate your safe journey.

Cushion your body from the U.S. Marshall, who’s been following you ever since your name appeared on a suspicious flyer list, when he tackles and tasers you next to the lavatory.

Twenty-four hours later, laugh it off as one hell of a misunderstanding with your roommates in Guantanamo Bay. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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