“That’s me,” I said to the man in the uniform. He was not impressed.
“‘Richard’ is my legal name,” I explained, pointing to my driver’s license. “‘Rick’ is my nickname.”
“‘Rich’ is the nickname for ‘Richard,”‘ he informed me. “Not ‘Rick.”‘
Except, of course, that I’d been using “Rick” for approximately forever, and if I didn’t know my own nickname after all this time, who did?
He did, apparently. And he would not let me pass — not without calling for a supervisor. This could take a while.
At other times, at other places, I might have been distressed. Perturbed.
Not there, though, and not then. It was last Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, and I was in the security line at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
My driver’s license said “Richard,” but my boarding pass said “Rick.” This was a problem.
Yet I found myself strangely calm. There was still plenty of time before my flight. But it was more than that.
In that place, at that time, anything they wanted to do was fine with me. I’d wait as long as they wanted me to wait.
The tenth anniversary would have been fraught enough — emotion-filled, tension-filled — even without the alerts. Spending hour after weekend hour watching the old footage, listening to the names being read, would have been more than enough to put a security system on edge, even without the sudden prospect of new attacks. Attacks on Washington and New York.
With the new reports, though, the edge was just a little sharper, just a little more jagged. Which is why we were waiting for a supervisor. In the meantime, I stood off to the side, wondering vaguely just how suspicious I looked to the other people in line, people who were moving through the checkpoint without a hitch. I shuffled through my wallet, pulling credit cards and frequent-whatever cards that said “Richard,” and others that said “Rick.”
“See?” I reassured myself. “Same person.” But I kept it to myself.
Eventually, the supervisor appeared. My guard walked him through my situation, and I explained, again, how “Rick” is short for “Richard,” and how I’m still me, whether it’s four letters or seven.
I’ve been booking flights as “Rick” for years, I pointed out.
“They’re very strict at this airport,” the supervisor replied.
Was I really prepared to argue the point? To tell them they shouldn’t be very strict at this airport? Not a chance.
Then the supervisor looked at the driver’s license, and at the boarding pass, and back at the driver’s license. He had a solution for me.
Go back to the airline’s check-in counter, he told me, and have them reissue my boarding pass, with my name exactly as it appears on my driver’s license. Once I’ve got the new boarding pass, come right back, he said. I don’t even have to go to the end of the line again; he was authorizing the man in the uniform, he said, to let me go straight to the head of the line, once my license and my boarding pass were finally a match.
Which is exactly what I did, and exactly how it played out — but not before I thanked both of them for stopping me. For making me jump through the extra hoops. And I meant it. Absolutely.
I couldn’t help but remember an earlier conversation, with another security guard at another airport checkpoint. The line to the metal detector was the bottleneck that time, and when the guard was finished checking my bags for whatever needed checking, I thanked her for her assistance. She seemed taken aback.
Lots of people get annoyed, she confided.
Hey, I said, you’re only doing it to help us.
We wished each other a good morning, and we went our separate ways.
It was Monday, Sept. 10, 2001.
Rick Horowitz is a nationally syndicated columnist. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.