I noticed something wrong with the passenger sitting in the seat in front of me.
I was going to Colombia, business trip, six hours on a flight, sitting in economy class, window. The passenger in front of me, restless, kept moving in his seat all the time.
When the plane took off, he began to speak softly, with himself, disconnected phrases. I couldn’t understand.
They served dinner, I couldn’t eat properly, I got angry.
Meals on the plane, especially in economy class is a balancing act, one has to be very careful that everything fits in that small space. You cannot make wide movements with your arms so as not to hit the traveler’s eye next to you. If you drop something on the floor then forget it. Attempts to recover what has fallen, as a rule cause spillage of liquids and more things fall into the darkness of the floor.
The passenger did not din, he was hitting his back on the back of his seat, swinging my little table, talking to himself, certainly very nervous. When I decided to talk to him and approached the span of the armchair that was parting us, I could clearly understand what he was saying:
“Me van a matar, me van a matar!” They are going to kill me, they are going to kill me!
I backed off, thinking it wasn’t a good time to complain.
From that point on, the situation got worse.
The passenger no longer whispered, constantly repeated that phrase aloud:
“Me van a matar, me van a matar!”
Other travelers moved in their seats, turned back to see what was happening. At one point, the passenger got up from his seat, stood up, and looked back at me, with his eyes bulging with dread.
“Me van a matar, van estar me esperando” They are going to kill me, they will be waiting for me.
He sat and got up from his seat, several times, talking louder and louder. The flight attendants gave him a tranquilizer and tied him to his seat.
I wondered why the passenger was so terrified. I commented with the traveler by my side, who gave a plausible explanation.
“I think he’s a mule”
“Mule, what do you mean?”
“One of those who transport drugs to the United States. He was probably picked up by customs and arrested.”
“Yes, but so what?” I Asked
“He’s probably being deported, and now he’s going to have to face the drug dealers in Colombia and account for the drugs he lost, that’s why the fear”
When the plane landed, he was escorted by airline personnel and disappeared, I didn’t know what happened to that passenger.
I arrived in Cali, early in the evening, there was a car waiting for me at the airport. The driver dropped me off at the hotel. After registering at the hotel, I went for a walk around town and stop at a snack bar to get something to eat.
The next day, I was picked up at the hotel to go to the company. I noticed a car was following us.
I commented with my company colleague who was driving the car, he informed me that the car that followed us was the company’s security personnel, bodyguards. I started to get worried.
At the company, I met with the director, who didn’t know me. As soon as he greeted me, he asked:
“Would you be the one I saw last night walking near the hotel?”
“Yes, probably me, I went for a walk and to have a snack”
“Don’t do that anymore, it’s too dangerous for foreigners to leave unescorted, especially if they work for American companies”
“Why?” I asked, but almost guessing the answer.
“Kidnapping for ransom.”
With a fear almost equal to that of the passenger of the plane, from then on, my routine became hotel company, company hotel. I didn’t venture out anymore. When it came time to return to the U.S., I met again with the director and after reporting the results of my work, he asked me:
“Are you going back to the States tomorrow?”
“Where are you going to fly to?”
“I never fly into the United States through Miami. I’d rather go to Dallas or even New York.”
“Miami immigration and customs, don’t leave me alone. They think everyone from Colombia, especially Colombians, are drug traffickers. I hope you have no problem entering the United States, especially because you stayed in a hotel where the country’s biggest traffickers often stay.”
I didn’t know that hotel was known and frequented by criminals and at that moment I remembered that my passport was from Brazil, another country targeted by the United States customs and immigration system. On the return flight, I couldn’t rest, I was anxious, worried.
The plane landed, they opened the doors, I was one of the first to exit the aircraft, there were only about three or four in front of me. I didn’t even notice there was no one waiting for us at the end of the telescopic bridge, that tunnel that connects the plane to the terminal.
As soon as I got into the terminal, along with the small group of hurried passengers, we noticed that the door in front of us was closed.
There was another door on the side, one of the passengers who was part of my small group, tried the latch and the door opened. He walked out the door and so did I. I didn’t see if any other passenger followed us. Apparently not.
I found it all very strange, but the biggest surprise would be coming.
After crossing some corridors, I ended up arriving at the airport entrance terminal, in front of me, the street where I could take a taxi and disappear. What the hell I thought, how about customs and passport control?
What about my suitcase?
I tried to communicate with the airline and explained what had happened, informed that I needed to return to the controlled area of the airport to pick up my suitcase. No one believed me. They said once I had left the controlled area, I couldn’t go back.
That was true until the police showed up. They had realized what happened, became aware that passengers left the controlled area of the airport without going through customs and immigration! A breach of the security system in one of the airports that was supposed to be the most secure in the U.S., allowing passengers arriving from Colombia, imagine, to circumvent the airport security controls.
From that point on, an airport policeman accompanied me the entire time. I went back to pick up the suitcase, went through immigration, always with the policeman by my side, he even waited for me to get on the connecting flight that would take me to my final destination.
Without a doubt one of the strangest trips, I’ve ever made.
Was it a human error at one of the safest airports in the United States or something was arranged, premeditated?
To this day I have doubts.