Packing a suitcase for a New York City Trip did not only mean tucking in the usual t-shirts, a sweater, jeans, socks, underwear and my toiletry with its conventional content. No, I most certainly must not forget to take two red handkerchiefs from the neatly ironed  and folded pile in my wardrobe: One for in my left trouser pocket and the other -as a spare- in the corner of my suitcase. That should be enough for these upcoming eight days.

It is -as long as I remember- my red weapon against a haunting virus or an unfamiliar allergy, as I -entirely unpredictable when- have a (few) sneezing fit(s) every now and then: I quickly “fill up”, have to sneeze, firmly blow my nose and it is over again. My personal record is fourteen sneezes in a row. I hardly ever catch a cold.

On our way to Schiphol[1] -fortunately my wife was driving- I suddenly had such an attack. So I got my handkerchief out and sneezing began. This time I got to a respectable number of seven and I just as often blew my nose. “When will you ever start using paper handkerchiefs?” grumbled my wife, once more rehearsing that discussion. “That was it”, I said resolutely, “I just saved on seven paper handkerchiefs.” She looked denigratingly at me: “I keep finding it unhygienic, such a red rag.”

On our flight to the USA I produced (because of the air-conditioning?) another three sneezes: “That makes ten already!” I said to my wife, pulling out my handkerchief and firmly blowing my nose. “I sincerely hope you do not break your record”, she said, looking disapprovingly at my handkerchief. “I got a spare one in my suitcase”, I replied.

At JFK Airport in New York we had to pass passenger control. The cabin proof bag, belt, cell phone and shoes in a plastic tray over a conveyor and through a luggage checker and I via a walk through metal detector, in which I had to put my feet on two marked footsteps and raise my arms above my head as indicated on a similar drawing on its inside wall. While -still on my stockings- I subsequently stepped out -no alarm triggered- a young security officer -dressed in a tight uniform, white shirt, necktie, his hair sleek and smooth and critical eyes though black glasses- said, pointing a finger in the direction of the bulge in my pants: “What have you got in your pocket, sir?” He looked at me quite alarmed, gave a stop sign with his right hand and instructed that I had to act with restraint: “Easy now, sir!” With my left hand I slowly reached towards my pocket (as  a cowboy to his colt) before going in. I grabbed the tip and pulled about one-third of the red bulge out: “My handkerchief, sir.” And: “It is being used!” He now looked at me expressionless, briefly pulling up his nose and upper lip.

Fortunately I was enabled  to enter the country.

[1] The official name of Amsterdam Airport.

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