Rabbi Brian’s Public Diary




2019: ISSUE #19. @RABBI_BRIAN_1970




The outburst comes from the guy behind me in the TSA line at Portland airport. It’s late on a Thursday night.


We’d just participated in the spiritual exercise of removing ourselves from our possessions. We put our laptops in separate bins. But there’s a holdup.


 “Come on!” he shouts. “I could do this better than these clowns.”


I’d already sized him up: Mid-forties, average height, strong on a compact frame. Plaid jacket and tan boots. Probably a hunter. Seems a little twitchy. He’s just been rude in public. I think.


Still, I have no reason to notbelieve there is a possibility he could do the job better than these rained professionals. There’s a chance. I’m certain hebelieves he could. I wonder if he plays the lottery and is disappointed when he doesn’t win.


I recall we made contact as I readjusted my prayer cap a moment earlier. It didn’t dawn on me that my hat might have added to his edgy.



A shudder of panic.
Oh shit, he was talking to me. He’s expecting a response.




I begin to turn toward him. Because that’s what’s called for in such social situations. Ignoring him would be impolite. He wants to be seen and heard. C3PO in my mind reminds me that snubbing him would also be tactically foolish to ignore him. And, though I may not yet know what to say, I know from experience the right words will come. They usually do.


I turn to face him. And stop, somehow sensing he was not talking to me, that his words simply perked the air abruptly and vanished. No need to engage. The situation takes care of itself. 


I notice his body is bouncing, shifting its weight, in a self-soothing, self-calming neurological loop, perhaps reliving some trauma script from the past.


I  think about how difficult it must be to be him, to be so triggered.  I think about how fortunate I am that I am on a rabbi-bodhisattva path. And, then, like a spiritual wackadoodle, I think of an intention: May he find peace.




The smug, self-righteous crap I hear in my head makes me want to punch myself in the throat sometimes.


I assume he’s not trying to be twitchy.




Maybe I think about spiritual exercises too much. Maybe the guy is wearing a fire-engine red, metal-boned corset and worried the scanner will go off?


He mutters something about time lost.


I meet his eyes and quietly console him with a silent “It’s okay, brother.” I smile and raise my hands upwards. Slightly.  A sign of peace. He breaks eye contact with a nod and look-away. We’ve brokered some understanding.  He’s seen me see him.


We’re good.




I turn back toward the source of the delay. A gray-haired woman is clutching the handle of a sturdy plastic harness on a golden retriever.


In voices as loud as my buddy’s snarky comment, a blue shirt supervisor explains that the dog can’t go through the millimeter wave scan and the metal detector is unsuitable for the woman because of her pacemaker.


It isn’t long before they steer the woman and her dog through.




I take my time putting on my shoes, belt and blue sports coat. I wonder about how I might help TSA grow out of its binary gender screening options.  I walk to Gate 45C, sit down with my laptop and start to type.



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