Finally, I experienced a very belated light-bulb moment. So I hastily rummaged through our suitcases, found my long-forgotten down coat, plunged my shaking hand into its deep pockets and extricated our plane tickets.
We rushed to the check-in line as the final boarding call for our flight came over the loudspeakers. After all the drama, despair and triumph, we were told that it was too late to board our scheduled flight. Instead, we were put on the next available flight to JFK, arriving an hour or so later.
Grateful to be en route at last, we boarded the flight and tried our best to avoid the topic of my free fall from grace. A few hours later, while we waited for our connecting flight, we frantically called our kids to update them on our change of plans and our new flight information.
Alas, our ordeal was far from over.
When we arrived in JFK several hours later, we went through the standard procedure: passport control, baggage claim and customs. Again, according to the usual routine, all of our luggage was opened and inspected. And, just like all of our previous experiences, the customs officers discovered the following contraband: bags of our dirty laundry, as well as cases of vanilla Crembo and multipacks of Bamba and Bissli for our kids.
Unlike our prior inspections, however, this one did not end with a smile and a casual send-off. Quite the contrary.
Two burly customs officials accompanied my husband and me to a corner of the airport customs area and escorted us into two separate unadorned interrogation rooms. It was like a poorly acted scene from an old cop show, but it was all too real. And we were the real live hapless suspects.
Unbeknown to us, an upscale airport jewelry store had been burglarized a week earlier, on the day of our outbound flight to Tel Aviv. Surveillance footage captured the image of the two perpetrators, a 40ish man and a woman, who had made off with multiple expensive watches. We were shown enlarged photos of the thieves, whom, needless to say, we were hopelessly unable to identify. The one thing that was crystal clear to us, however, was that the robbers bore no resemblance to us whatsoever.
Ostensibly, the police had done an extensive study of the passenger lists for that day, on which our names were included. The fact that we had missed our scheduled flight and had to be redirected most likely activated some type of alert, and we were consequently deemed suspicious.
Both of us were grilled regarding our activities on the date in question. Initially my apprehension prevented me from remembering all the details but, Baruch Hashem, I eventually recalled the whole stressful series of events and was able to recount it to the officer’s satisfaction. More importantly, my husband’s testimony matched up with mine exactly, and the interrogators were convinced that we were speaking the truth.
Following the longest few moments of our lives, we were ultimately released to be reunited with our children and catch the final leg of our trip. Several hours later, we were blessedly on our way back to the West Coast – and home sweet home – without a single snowflake in sight!
And, needless to say, the convoluted tale of my chilling encounter with severe brain freeze has since become an embarrassing but prominent feature of the annals of the Klein family history.Naama Klein
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