Tuesday, April 3, 2007

An Odd Occurence at Cartagena Airport

Cartagena, Colombia airport:

I wrote previously about the strict security when flying out of Colombia. That reminds me of something odd that happened in the departures wing of the Cartagena airport. As I was waiting in the very first line, where the check-in bags get scanned and searched, the man in line behind me said, "Habla inglés?" I said yes. He said in English, "Is this the line to check in?" I said yes. At this point the man set his two bags against the wall and walked off. I saw him go into one store in the concourse, then another store, then he walked off the other direction.

Twenty minutes later he had still not returned. There was no one watching his bags.

Who does this? It's bizarre. He didn't seem concerned that his bags could be stolen, or that someone could hide a package of cocaine in his bag, or that security might become alarmed. I mean, what kind of an idiot leaves his bags unattended in an airport, and in Colombia of all places?

I began to worry that it might be a bomb. I think this is a realistic concern in these times. I considered whether I should tell security. On the one hand, if I told them, they might call in the bomb squad and evacuate the area, and then I might miss my flight, or at least be delayed, not to mention cause a lot of inconvenience to a lot of people. Furthermore, I hate to get involved with cops, because then you get dragged into the situation and the cops are not always nice about it. I've had this experience before, where I've reported crimes, or in one case I apprehended a purse snatcher, and most of the time I've regretted it. And finally there's my dislike of being a snitch, of making trouble for someone.

On the other hand, if it was a bomb and I did not say anything, a lot of people could get hurt, including me and my family.

I asked Laura what to do. She said, I think you should tell them. So I called one security man over - this was not difficult, they were everywhere - and I said, "A man left those bags there and walked away thirty minutes ago."

The ending is anticlimactic, sorry. The guard spoke to another guard and gestured at the bags, and then... nothing happened. They were busy dealing with other matters and they simply ignored it. I was very surprised. But I had done my duty.

Amusing denouement: the man who had abandoned his bags obviously returned eventually, because when I found my seat on the plane there he was, in the seat behind mine.

I did not tell him that I had reported him, or that I thought he was crazy.

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