Passover is one of our most ancient and sacred festivals. It is seven days long, and above all else a celebration of nation, friends, and family. I needed to see them, so I boarded a morning flight to Israel.
To some extent, this time stands outside my quest. But it left me with stories and this is my platform. More than that, my quest is intertwined with my identity, and I did not leave that behind in Greece.
I checked in at an electronic station in the Athens airport and carefully read the list of dangerous items I was not allowed to bring on the plane. Lighters and many other things were not allowed but the list did not include kayak paddles, which was a good thing because I had one of my storms with me.
The next step was to check at the information booth.
"Hi, if I bring this with me through security, will they confiscate it or just tell me to check it?"
The woman told me that security is after I get my passport exit stamped, so there would be no way to check it at that point, but I could check with the head security office only ten steps away.
I went into the office.
The squat officer told me, "No, you cannot bring that on the plane. You have to get permission from the airline."
"It's a hand crafted, custom designed, traditional Greenland storm paddle. It's very delicate," I lied.
"No. Ask the airline." She insisted.
"So if the airline says yes, then it's okay?"
"No. You still need permission from us, which we won't give. But you should ask the airline."
I went to the check in counter. To check it would cost thirty euro. They called the on board staff and I got permission from Helen, the boss.
I returned to the security station and asked for permission to bring my "hand crafted, custom designed, traditional Greenland storm paddle. It's very delicate," on board. Short Squat didn't believe me.
She did and I got confirmation. Still, I couldn't bring the paddle on the plane. Rules were rules.
But I should try, she told me.
At the passport stamping booth, the officer looked at my book. Since it was issued in Naples, there was no EU entrance stamp.
"You entered the country illegally," the officer told me. He glanced at my paddle then looked back at me.
"No I didn't." I explained about Naples.
"So you live in Naples?"
"No, I don't."
"How long have you been in the EU?" Had he checked the issue date he would have seen that I long overstayed the three months allowed to tourists.
"Not sure, maybe two months, maybe a little more?" I offered.
"Three months?" He probed.
"Can't say. Maybe a little over two." Five months is a little, right?
Grudgingly, he let me leave Greece.
At the security terminal I explained about my "hand crafted, custom designed, traditional, Greenland storm paddle. It's very delicate," and the officers x-rayed it slowly.
My knees rested against the back of the empty seat in front of me. I reposed in an aisle seat and hoped that none of the folk still boarding would occupy the seats to my right.
I settled into a book and explored the universe. A man in a sports jacket vocally grimaced at me. He didn't think people like me should be allowed on planes.
I got up and he and his lady squeezed into their seats. The emergency exit row in front of me was empty.
The stewardess passed me. Some airlines seem to have equal hiring policies. Others only make uniforms for slim twenty somethings.
"Excuse me, Slim Twenty," she stopped and flashed a big smile that melted my soul a little. "May I move up?"
"Those seats cost fifty more dollars," she told me apologetically.
I returned to outer space and the ironic punchlines of great science fiction.
"Excuse me, miss," the man to my right caught Slim Twenty's attention. "Can we change seats?"
She explained about the price tag and apologized for the heat, which would be resolved once we took off.
"It's not just the heat," the woman in the seat next to me complained. "It's the smell."
Hey! I showered last night and my clothing was recently washed.
Passengers were shuffled and seats were found. I wasn't convinced I smelled bad; I think it was pesody. I stretched out over the whole row and woke up when we landed in Tel Aviv.
Seated behind me in the rear of the aircraft was a red haired six foot 250 pound retired boxer.
I chatted with him at the departure gate and he didn't seem like a terrorist. Still, it freaked me out that he was playing with a lighter as we waited for the doors to open. I stood over him. If he tried to light anything on fire I would pounce. No hesitation.
I spoke loudly. "I can't believe they let you take that on the plane." Slim Twenty was on the other side of a curtain. I wanted them to hear.
"It's not allowed?" the Greek giant asked me.
"No, it's not," I said firmly. I was still ready for a lunge.
He put the lighter away. We exited the aircraft and nothing went kaboom. But two Israeli security guards stepped in front of me and blocked my path.
The giant stepped around and left.
"Security, can we see your passport?"
I showed them my Israeli passport. Surprised that I was native, they asked me in Hebrew about my paddle.
They welcomed me home, and I was pleased to be there, however briefly.