Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Debaser & Tester vs. Israeli Security Force
The following is taken from the 2007 Foundation Tour Journal. Written by Debaser:
Chapter 5.5: Do I Look Arab to You?
Charles De Gaulle Airport
April 4, 2007
We wait in line at El-Al airlines for our flight to Tel Aviv, we notice immediately that their security is very tight. Scott and I reach the front of the line, the lady asks if were travelling together, we say we are, and then she separates us. She takes me over to a little counter first, she starts asking me questions like, what I do, how I know Scott, where we've been before this, where we're going afterwards, who were staying with in Israel, where he works, what is address is, what he looks like, etc. etc. Then with a forced smile, she says she'll be back in a minute. Scott and I shoot each other confused looks from across the gate, and wait for our agents to come back. They continue to ask us all the same questions, and ask for our itinerary in great detail, they keep trying to trip us up by repeating things back to us out of order and making small differences in our stories, but we catch on and since were telling the truth (mostly), they don't catch us in any lies.
We know were treading in dangerous waters, our story does sound odd; how come we are staying at so many peoples houses that we don't know well, why our path of travel is so awkward, and why we just drove 13 hours to Prague only to fly all the way back to France the next morning.
The two female agents leave again after another gruelling 45 minute interrogation, and a freckle faced older guy comes up, puts his face 6 inches from mine, looks me in the eyes and asks me the same questions I was just asked. He asks when were going to Cairo and Jordan, I tell him we're not. He asks why we know so many people in Europe, but we don't know anyone in Jordan or Cairo, I look at the female agent, with a 'is this a serious question look', and then explain to him that, just cause you know someone in a few countries doesn't necessarily mean you know people in every single country. He leaves and gets on his phone.
I look over to see if they have a rubber glove on for Scott's cavity search yet, but instead he's on the ground going thru his bag with all the records and merch in it. I figure the jig is up at this point, they're going to realize something more than blind travelling is going on.
I watch a blonde with way too much makeup walk up to Scott and proceed to scream at him that he's lying to her about going to Cairo, she says she's found flights to Cairo with our names on them. He tells her she's wrong, and she walks back to freckle face, huddles with him and forms a new plan of attack.
Professor freckles walks back up to me, grabs my bags and, looks at me, squints and says 'follow me'. My ass clenches as I immediately envision the cold snapping sound of an elbow length latex glove against an agents arm in this cell they're taking me to.
I follow him into a tiny holding room that's split down the middle with a retractable curtain. He pulls my bags into the back part and snaps the curtain shut. After a minute he comes back out, asks me the same questions in different forms again, and then heads back behind the curtain. My mouth is as dry as the Israeli desert. I notice a poster of a child holding a big bunch of balloons, all your favourite characters are there in balloon form; Ernie, Bert, Mr happy, the whole crew. At first glance I think what an odd place to put such a happy picture, anyone that's in this room isn't going to have any sort of smile, even captain spotty face and his blonde clown friend seem to be cranky. Upon closer inspection of the kid holding the balloon, I notice he has the same facial expression I'd have if I just watched a puppy get run over by a dump truck. I wonder if he needed a body cavity search to enter Israel for this photo shoot.
The guy comes back out carrying my bag, slams it down on the floor and tells me to open it. I do, then without saying anything, he picks it up and carries it back behind the curtain. I wonder why they don't seem, legally, to be allowed to open it, but they're allowed to rummage thru it like a homeless man at a dumpster?
They bring Scott in a few mins later, he does not look happy, they take his bags back behind the curtain, tell him to sit in the seat next to me, and then they walk back behind the curtain. A minute later another few agents walk in and start doing whatever it is they're doing behind that curtain. A few minutes later a guy walks out and tells me to stand up. I stand up and with tears accumulating in the corners of my eyes, I turn around and bend over assuming I know what's coming next. He takes me into the corner of the 8'x8' holding cell, and snaps another curtain shut. He tells me he's going to pat me down, my sphincter immediately relaxes. He pats me down for a solid 10 minutes, then asks me to lift up my shirt and drop my pants. Scott's eyes bulge out of his head when he hears the 'drop your pants part'. So I'm now standing there in front of Scott and the searcher in my underwear. The guy uses some black metal detector thing to prod around down there, then after 5 more mins he tells me I can put my pants back on. He motions for me to sit back down, and tells me to take me shoes off. I suppress a smile knowing that, I've had these shoes on in hot clubs, walking non-stop around Europe, and even slept in them most of the time, because we crashed on a plane 2 nights, and spent a night in a car. As far as I know, these shoes are now fused to my skin. So little does this poor bastard know what noxious fumes are going to belch out from these shoes he now must search.
He scans over my feet with his magic wand for a few more minutes, then a second before he passes out, he stands up wobbly, and tells me I can put my shoes back on. Chalk one point on the board for the detainees!
They tell Scott to do the same thing, he searches him and then tells him to sit back down. Scott looks so angry I'm starting to think he might be a terrorist and I try to motion to the agent with my eyes to search him again just in case.
They bring out the records and ask what they´re for, we tell them were collectors and we travel with them to trade. He then asks about Jungle Royale and Sound Test records that we've got multiple copies of. We tell them that they're our labels and then as per the travelling DJ handbook, we finish our explanation with the standard customs line: 'it's for promotion, were giving them away'. Heh heh. That aught to throw these dogs off the trail.
A woman brings out a bucket of my electronics, my laptop, 2 blackberries, camera and electric shaver. She asks me to show them how each worked. She takes out both blackberries and tells me to show them my call list to see who I've called recently, then she asks me to make a phone call to make sure it works. She then tells me to take the battery out of my phones. She grabs the camera, tells me to show her some pics I've taken. Luckily, before I left I erased the pictures of me and my militant Muslim friends shooting AKs into the Afghani Mountains. She tells me to take a picture, and I just took one of the wall (I now wish I would have taken a better shot of the room as a memento). They do the same thing for Scott's camera, he turns it on and the last picture he took was of a tag in big bubble letters that read "BOOBS". She says that's enough, then takes them back behind the curtain.
A different woman walks out from behind the curtain with a basket of my clothes and walks back out to the gate, I assume they took it to be x-rayed or tested for explosive residue or something. As she passes by I thank her for doing my laundry, and ask her to make sure she separates my whites and colours, she smiles and laughs. We sit there and exchange a mixture of annoyed and worried glances for another 10 mins. Periodically someone would come out and ask us about something we had in our bag.
We're worried that we're going to miss our flight, or not be allowed to board, or shoved into a tin hut in the middle of the scorching desert.
The clothes basket lady walks back in, smiles and says 'your laundry is done'. As she walks back in, we notice that Scott's bag is zipped back up on the floor. We take that as a good sign.
Sir Frecks-A-Lot walks back out and tells us to put our belts back on and to take our wallets. Everything else, including our passports, phones, cameras, my laptop etc are still with them somewhere. The blond with the clown makeup walks in and tells us were getting on the flight. She tells me my laptop and backpack is going to be held in Paris and sent on the next flight. I think in my best terrorist impression "Oh what? You mean my laptop bomb is going on the next flight, so I can still blow up a plane AND make it to my destination alive? Maybe I'll still get a few blonde virgins". So they give Scott his backpack with his dubs, and nothing else, everything else is ripped out of it and is nowhere to be found.
We get escorted thru security, then to the gate. The blonde hands our passports and boarding pass to a cute little security girl. The blonde tells her to sit beside us until we can board the plane. Her name was Ella, and she seemed to be annoyed with the troubles we we're having too, but were thinking 'good cop, bad cop' so we proceed with the conversation cautiously. She was telling me that you need to be an Israeli citizen to work security at El-Al. If you're Jewish (if either both parents are, or just your mother that counts as Jewish), you get your Israeli citizenship as soon as you arrive in Israel to live. If just your father is Jewish, then it takes a while to get your citizenship. If neither are, you have to be living there for a long period of time, then pass some tests. She also said that all the people working security at El-Al at CDG were Jewish, but that it's not necessarily a requirement.
After 10 mins she takes us to the front of the line, and we meet back up again with our arch nemesis, Captain Freckles. They both walk us down the ramp, we say bye to Ella, and Freckles escorts us right our seats. He tells us to enjoy our flight, and to make a claim at the lost and found for my backpack and laptop when I arrive in Tel Aviv. After we settle in, we discuss how when we land, were going to call the blonde clown "Hey, remember me? Guess what? We're in Cairo now, bitch! HA!" *click.
At 2:30am, the flight takes off, we get served the worst food ever, Scott passes out so I pile all my garbage on his tray, fold mine up and fall asleep until we land in Tel Aviv.
Debaser & Testers Failsafe Pan Handler Dismissal Methods:
#1 – The Standard Method: When a pan handler approaches you in a foreign country speaking in a different language, the easy way out is just to say “Sorry homeless guy, I only speak English”.
#2 – The Flip It Method: This method is similar to the Standard Method, and works with an efficiency rate of around 85%. When a beggar comes up to you in a foreign land and asks you for money in English, reply with “Sorry, I only speak Hebrew” (or whatever language is native to that country). This will throw their alcohol soaked brain into overdrive, and while they’re trying to comprehend the situation, you can make your exit.
#3 – The Quick Draw Method – This is for the advanced homeless dodger with a watchful eye. It’s tricky to pull off, and as such, the efficiency rating is a method high winner of 99% (with a 1% margin of error). When you see a derelict approaching, just before they open up their toothless mouth, quickly ask them for change before they get a chance to ask you.
#4 – The Don’t Mind if I Do Method – This one is only for the truly sophisticated homeless dodgers amongst us. It is most commonly useful in areas of a high tourist attraction concentration. When a bum is standing out front with a cup of money, a good percentage won’t even ask you for anything, they’ll just hold out their cup for you to deposit change into it. When this happens, look inside the cup, casually grab a coin or two, thank the kind fellow and keep on walking. This method is best utilized with a spotter, occasionally the beggar will run after you, at which point the spotter can alert you to the oncoming madman and tell you to make your getaway. If a chase ensues simply drop the coin, the bum will immediately stop and grab it like if you were to drop a string of sausages to stop an angry dog from chasing you.