When most people look at me they see a petite, olive toned girl with a toothy smile and minor case of scoliosis. Who knew that the United States government could see me as something much more sinister? Let me explain what I mean. I found out recently that my name is on a Terrorist Watch List. I know what you’re thinking, “You could never be a terrorist, Danielle. You’re so nice and caring, and don’t have enough upper-body strength to do all those monkey-bar exercises that you always see on those terrorist training videos.” Well, I say back to you, “That’s sweet of you to say, and you’re right, I should start toning my arms.” None of that matters however, because even though I have done nothing wrong, I am on this list and it seems I am going to have to live with it for the rest of my life. It’s like I got Herpes…from the government.
Now how did my name end up on this list you may ask? I wondered that myself for a long time. It all started one day at the airport when I was checking in at the counter. There seemed to be a long delay as the desk agent looked over my itinerary and ID. When I asked her what the trouble was, she said in the most casual way possible “Oh, it looks like your name is poppin’ up on our terror watch list.” Like it was no big deal. This was a life altering piece of information and the phrase “poppin’ up” should not have been uttered anywhere near it. It was like going to the doctor for a check-up and having them say “Looks like you got cancer poppin’ up in ya.” Neither of those things should ever be referred to as poppin’!
I asked the desk agent how I could have possibly ended up on this list. I then proceeded to regale her with stories of my patriotism, which mostly just consisted of me showing her an old “I voted” sticker that was smashed up in a dirty corner of my purse, stuck to what I think was a cranberry. She had no information regarding the reason why I was on the list, but suggested that I call the TSA. In the meantime, she explained that I could board the plane, but until this matter was cleared up, I would never be able to check-in online and that I would be subject to further checks and searches at the airport. Translation-I would be spending hours waiting in long lines and then get felt up by a large woman with a five o’clock shadow.
I called the TSA immediately, and after waiting half the morning on hold, I got through to a woman whose Caribbean accent was so thick I pictured her on the other end of the line wearing a headdress made out of fruit. She told me there was no way I could find out why I was on the list, but that I could fill out some paperwork and try to get my name cleared. The file of paperwork to fill out was so heavy, I once accidentally dropped it and my house has been off kilter ever since. I didn’t have time for this bull-crap. I wanted answers.
I went to the only place where I knew where truth ruled supreme, the Internet. I read that some people were put on the watch list because of suspicious things they had looked up online. Had I Googled anything terrorist-y lately? I immediately went to my browser history to see what I had recently looked up. The only thing that looked slightly suspicious was the name “Paula Abdul.” I don’t remember why I Googled her. I can only assume I was really trying to find info on her old partner, MC Scat Cat. Could googling “Paula Abdul” really have put me on the watch list? It could have been a code name terrorists were using to communicate with each other. If that were the case though, the only people on the terror watch list would be me, old-school American Idol fans, and a bunch of gay men.
I decided the problem lay in my name. Maybe another Danielle Schneider was out there makin’ mischief and me and all the other Danielle Schneiders of the world were paying for it. Through the magic of the Internet, I found six other individuals with my name and got their phone numbers as well. I left messages for all of them, but not one of them called me back. Note to self: In the future, don’t leave a message in people’s voice mails saying, “My name is Danielle Schneider and so is yours. I’m not a crazy person. Are you on a terrorist watch list? Call me back.”
Months had gone by and I still didn’t have any answers, when suddenly a Google alert popped up with my name (Yes, I have a google alert for my name. So do you. Shut-up). A German national named Daniel Schneider had been arrested for his association with an Islamic terrorist cell in Berlin. Holy Crap, Danielle Schneider gone bad! I immediately looked him up. There he was, the man who had caused me so much misery. With his long beard and “I don’t care” stare, he actually looked more like a Brooklyn hipster than the scary terrorist I was picturing.
Things have gotten better since Daniel Schneider was arrested. I don’t have to go to second base anymore with random members of the TSA, which truthfully I kind of miss. My name, however, is still on the Terrorist Watch list. It’s not all terrible, I suppose, since I don’t have any tattoos, have never been in a brawl (again, no upper-body strength), and have only been to jail on a fun ghost tour of Alcatraz. It’s the only thing I have that makes me feel a little bad-ass.
image via truthalliance.net