The One Time They Thought I Was a Terrorist
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw this saga unfold in real time, but I think it's worth recording here, too, on the off chance that my future descendants (should our species survive the upcoming apocalypse) decide to hit up Google to see what kind of person their great-great-greatgreatgreat Grannie was. A bomb-maker, apparently, but let me start this sad, sorry tale from the beginning.
So December was a total wash for me in the sense that I barely got any writing work done and was waiting for copyedits. This is largely because things were so busy at my day job, and, let's face it, everyone's schedule goes cray-cray right around the holidays. So I was SOOOOO ready to head home to Arizona on the 22nd. SOOOOOOOOO ready. I left work around 3 that afternoon with my huge ass suitcase in hand and hailed a cab from the corner. Traffic, naturally, was awful. It took 40 minutes just to get out of Manhattan (LaGuardia is in Queens, in case you didn't know), and then there was more stop and go traffic once we were out of the city.
We got to the airport on time--thanks mostly to my dad paranoid teachings that one should always leave two and a half hours early to go to the airport--and I didn't have any trouble checking in aside from my continued bitterness about having to pay to check my bag.
Let me circle back again and just reiterate what I did during the hours between 7:30 AM and 3:30 PM: - Woke up, got ready - Dragged my suitcase down the stairs, nearly killing myself - Hailed a cab - Went to work - Had lunch - Left work - Went to airport
Shockingly, no part of my day involved me handling explosive materials, unless you count me moving my picture of Coach Eric Taylor from one end of my cubicle to another. Nor did I handle heavy duty chemicals.
So fastforward again to me at LaGuardia, standing in line for security. I tend to consider myself a pretty patient person when it comes to the airport, because I appreciate the fact that the Fake Police (as I refer to TSA agents in my head) are trying to keep everyone from blowing each other up, or knifing one another over who gets to hang their coat up in First Class (more on this later). I never complain or sigh or roll my eyes when I'm stuck behind a huge family with a zillion kids trying to take everyone's wee sneakers off, etc. I might get a little smug and judgey in my head because I'm super fast about getting my shoes off and my laptop out, but I would never make a soul feel guilty about it.
I let one pilot cut in front of me, and another one took that as an invitation to cut in front of me, too. Okay, fine! I'm heading home. I do not care! Free cuts for everyone! Except... when I walked through, I set off some random selector thing, that let off this horrible shrill beeping noise. I don't know what I thought, but my first instinct was to RUN LIKE HELL, and it must be most people's first instinct, because Fake Police Guy #1 ushered me into this closed off, clear-walled waiting area that immediately made me feel panicky, and hot, and embarrassed, and spiteful.
Fake Police Guy #1 then lifted my palms--without really explaining what he was doing, which was also alarming--and swabbed my hands with this square of cloth. He exited the Plastic Prison and walked over to the machine, where he put the cloth in.
And there I am waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Finally he calls over Fake Police Guy #2 to see the results on the screen, and #2 makes #1 rerun the test twice. Then they finally let me out of Plastic Prison and walked me over closer to the machine, where they had Fake Police Lady give me a full pat down.
Side note: It took a lot of willpower not to giggle every time the woman went "Sensitive area! Sensitive area!" as she was feeling all over my ladyparts and on the inside of my undergarments.
Then they run the test again, this time using a hot, wet pad. And for the fifth time, I ask them what's going on and why are you swapping every inch of me with little pieces of white cloth? Finally Fake Police #2, who was an older, slightly more senior Fake Police person, begins asking me a series of red-flag questions like, "Have you handled any harsh chemicals today? Have you been gardening? Are you on any medication?" I swear to you, readers, he asked me these three questions at least fifteen times, in the kind of way that made me wonder if he wanted me to lie to him about it. At this point, they start going through everything in my carry-on bag and wiping it down, but Fake Police Lady, who clearly has had enough of this shit, was all, "It's only on the palm of her hands. There's no other trace of it!"
Fake Police Guy #2: What have you done today? List every place and every vehicle you took. Me: I took two cabs. I was at work all day. Fake Police Guy #2: What do you do for a living? Do you work in a lab? Or landscaping? Me: Uh... I work in children's book publishing. FPG#2: Like that Percy Potter series? Twilight? You work on those? Me: Yeah, sure. Percy Potter.
Eventually I told him that I had used Drain-o the night before (it was actually the day before that, now that I think about it), and he finally, after 20 minutes of this, went off to talk to his supervisor. The woman apparently also was sick of this shit, because she sent him back to me with a warning that if I hadn't brought up Drain-o, they would have been forced to take it to "the next level" and call the NYPD. He dumped about a half a container of hand sanitizer on me and told me to go scrub my hands.
I'm the kind of person that feels guilty about EVERYTHING, so I immediately had to call my mom and confess, like I actually had been making bombs or plotting some nefarious act. I still have zero idea what was on the palm of my hands that would have alerted the hyper-sensitive machines, but I have theory it was something in one of my face products. In any case, the rest of that trip was uneventful and I eventually made it home.
I seriously don't know what it was about my luck traveling these past few weeks, but I also had issues trying to get back to NYC. My flight out of Phoenix was late, so I missed my connection in Dallas. They (thankfully!) rebooked me on a later flight, but said flight didn't get into Newark until 11:30 PM, which is always a downer when you have to go into work the next morning.
I walked up to the gate counter to have them print my new ticket, and was immediately turned away by this flight attendant who held up a hand in the classic "bitch, please" pose and almost yelled "I AM NOT THE GATE AGENT, MA'AM. SHE WILL BE HERE SHORTLY." So clearly this guy was having a bad night, and I got to hear all about his work drama as he bitched loudly to his friends about "seniority politics." Also bitching loudly was this guy sitting to the left of me as I was trying to work on my copyedits and eat my sad Subway sandwich (sad because it had no cucumbers on it, FYI), who was REALLY angry that he didn't get upgraded and that the dog sitter hadn't washed his dog while he was away.
Anyway, so gate agent (who, yes, finally arrived) began announcing the boarding and all of first class/military/special people got to go on. Then this happened:
Gate Agent: Now boarding Group 1. Group 1? *No one stands, no one moves* Gate Agent: Now boarding Groups 1 and 2. Groups 1 and 2? *No one stands, no one moves* Gate Agent: Um... Group 3? *No one stands, no one moves* Gate Agent: Nobody wants to go to Newark??
That should give you a good idea of how crowded the plane was. First Class was packed, but the rest of the plane was maybe 50% full. I got a row all to myself and worked on copyedits the entire flight without someone looking over my shoulder (annoying!). But before we even took off, I witnessed my first flight attendant-passenger confrontation!!
I was sitting up towards the front of the plane, so I had a clear view of the same grumpy flight attendant from before bursting through the first class curtain and loudly asking, "WHOSE COAT IS THIS? WHOSE?!" And--well, have you guys ever seen the movie or read the book Misery? If not, I highly recommend it for authors, especially those who have no qualms about killing off beloved characters. Anyway, I swear, this guy just ERUPTED like Kathy Bates' character does when Paul, the author, says she didn't get the right paper. It was such a Misery moment that I really thought the flight attendant was going to end every sentence with, "Mr. MAN!"
As you probably already guessed, this coat belonged to the passenger who had been pissed about his dog babysitter. The flight attendant was, I kid you not, yelling at him from the curtain. "SIR, THESE HANGERS ARE FOR FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS ONLY!" And the passenger shot back, "But my overhead bin is filled!" and I could hear the guy/friend sitting next to him telling him to shut up, but it was too late. The flight attendant came storming over and flung open the three (EMPTY) nearby overhead bins and continued with, "LOOK SIR, I HAVE HAD A REALLY LONG, TRYING DAY, AND YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT THERE ARE RULES. I NEED THOSE COAT RACKS FOR FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS!!" The passenger's friend was frantically apologizing as the flight attendant walked away, but the sassy passenger let out a loud, "YEAH. THANKS FOR NOTHING." which basically made the flight attendant's head explode.
He and the other flight attendants had to spend the rest of the trip apologizing every ten minutes to the passenger, which got annoying after a while. Still didn't get bumped up to first class, though!
I hope you guys had a very happy holiday season--happy New Year!!