Why It's Dangerous to Go to the Bathroom on Airplanes

I remember once, on a long series of flights out of Iraq back to the States, I had to visit the bathroom not infrequently.I won't venture into too-much-information territory here, except to say that my reasons for visiting the bathroom were legitimate. After reading some of the coverage of people who have recently gotten into trouble on airplanes for visiting the bathroom, I consider myself lucky that I wasn't met at Dulles after this flight by police (and I wonder if the police would have met me had I been dark-skinned.) Jim Fallows has been collecting various outrageous stories from the sky, including an amazing one about a half-Jewish, half-Saudi woman (in and of itself an amazing phenomenon) who fell victim to in-air paranoia. Read the whole thing, but what follows is a partial account of her experience:


"...on this flight she was sitting by chance in a row with two Indian-looking passengers, neither of whom knew the other or knew her. But collectively they aroused the suspicion of other passengers or crew, and when the plane landed, heavily armed troops stormed aboard, handcuffed the three of them, and took them off for extensive questioning. After which they were eventually released with "no charges filed." Which is fair enough, considering that like everyone else on the plane they were simply trying to travel from Denver to Detroit and had done absolutely nothing wrong except to have "suspicious" looks.

A sample of her account of what happened after the plane landed and was directed away from the normal gate area:
Then what looked like the bomb squad pulled up. Two police vans and a police communication center bus parked off the road. I started to get nervous and rethink my decision to fly on 9/11.
   [A Tweet she sent out: Cops in uniform and plainclothes in a huddle in rear of plane.]

We had been waiting on the plane for a half hour. I had to pee. I wanted to get home and see my family. And I wanted someone to tell us what was going on. In the distance, a van with stairs came closer. I sighed with relief, thinking we were going to get off the plane and get shuttled back to the terminal. I would still be able to make it home for dinner. Others on the plane also seemed happy to see those stairs coming our way.

   [Another Tweet: I see stairs coming our way...yay!]
Before I knew it, about 10 cops, some in what looked like military fatigues, were running toward the plane carrying the biggest machine guns I have ever seen-bigger than what the guards carry at French train stations.
   [My last tweet:
   Majorly armed cops coming aboard]

Someone shouted for us to place our hands on the seats in front of us, heads down. The cops ran down the aisle, stopped at my row and yelled at the three of us to get up. "Can I bring my phone?" I asked, of course. What a cliffhanger for my Twitter followers! No, one of the cops said, grabbing my arm a little harder than I would have liked. He slapped metal cuffs on my wrists and pushed me off the plane. The three of us, two Indian men living in the Detroit metro area, and me, a half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife living in suburban Ohio, were being detained.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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