Every year Terri and I pack a bag and head to Ohio to celebrate Christmas with her family. To no avail, over the years I have tried to convince her and her sister Karen, that we should come for the Fourth of July celebration. December is not the best time to travel to Ohio. In fact, you can almost predict the worse weather of the season because it will correspond with our arrival.
This year was no exception. As we were driving to dinner the night before we were to leave, my friend Doc Hardy reported that he had seen a televised report that afternoon about an ice storm in Dayton. Until I told him I didn’t want to hear it, he graphically and gleefully reported on video of cars sliding all over the roads.
When not traveling on business, so we are not rushed and to allow time to eat dinner at the Outback Steakhouse in the Orlando airport, we always allow extra time to catch our plane. So dreading cold weather and ice, Terri and I got to the airport two hours before our flight. As we walked into the large lobby at Orlando International, I was surprised at the long lines of people waiting to get through security. In fact, I commented to Terri that it was a good thing that we had allowed plenty of time or else we wouldn’t have had time for a drink and dinner – foolish words.
In front of me going through the metal detector was a family obviously returning home from a Disney World visit: mom, dad and an approximate nine-year old boy. Excited about Christmas the kid was wearing a red colored elves hat and was happily singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. When the TSA officer made the kid take off the hat, put it through the X-ray machine, and asked him to hold out his arms so that he could be frisked, I should have known we were going to have problems.
Being German and a CPA you have to know that Terri is going to follow every rule. So she had carefully made sure none of her cosmetics exceeded three ounces of liquid, packed them all in a regulation size baggy and had them out to hand to the security guy. I saw her beam as the agent thanked her for having them available and then she glanced at me when I said I was headed to a bench to put my shoes on and would meet here there.
After tying my shoelaces, I looked and saw Terri still standing at the end of the security line. I didn’t think much about it until she spread her arms and legs and a female officer patted her down – twice. About this time I was beginning to wonder what was going on but prudently decided it was better to keep my distance rather than risking being frisked myself.
I continued to watch as they guided my wife to a table, where I could see them open her bag. By this time I was beginning to think they were going to put her in handcuffs and haul her away so I decided to find out what was going on and casually wandered to the far side of the table.
Since the TSA agents were occupied patting the luggage with what looked like a disinfecting towelette on the end of a spaghetti server, I asked Terri what was going on. “They found residue on my cosmetic baggy.” “What?” “They found residue on my cosmetic baggy!” “What kind of residue?” “Residue, how the heck should I know.”
In the midst of this conversation the guy rubbing the luggage with the towelette and the spaghetti server, decided to crank up a friendly conversation and asked Terri what she did for a living. She replied that she was a CPA working in private practice. He smiled and then a couple of minutes later wandered off to speak with another officer. A minute or two later the second officer casually strolled over, smiled and inquired about Terri’s occupation. Shades of T.J. Hooker, he was setting a trap that could take my wife down. Fortunately, she still remembered she was a CPA and avoided the snare.
As they continued running tests on the towelettes, the team leader – you could tell he was the team leader because his badge said so – asked Terri for her boarding pass. As she reached into her purse, he jumped back and yelled, “stop, stop!” It’s a good thing he wasn’t armed or he might have shot her when she ignored him and retrieved the document.
Scowling, he spent several minutes studying the boarding pass. Then he conversationally commented on the amount of clothes packed for a trip to Ohio. And then, shades of Columbo, as a staged afterthought he asked Terri what airline she was flying. You could see the disappointment in his eyes as again she cleverly evaded the noose by answering his question correctly. Resignedly, he handed the boarding pass back to her and walked away.
Meanwhile, the female agent who was now in charge, after conferring with the Bomb Appraisal Supervisor, who was on the scene, turned to Terri and said, “now here is what we are going to do.” At that point I had two thoughts: first they were going to haul Terri off and second, that this year I was going to celebrate the Fourth of July in Ohio rather than Christmas. However, what they proceeded to do was unpack and check each item in the suitcase.
I was beginning to realize that we were probably not going to have time for the drink and dinner, when I heard the bomb supervisor ask if Terri or I took heart medicine. Immediately, I answered that I did and that I had used the same baggy Terri had packed her cosmetics in to transport my nitroglycerin tablets on a prior trip. Of course, I don’t have a heart condition and thus no nitroglycerin but what the heck, I wanted that drink.
Suddenly the residue was explained and the problem solved. They told Terri to repack her bag and we could be on our way. I didn’t say anything until we were on the tram headed to the airside terminal, then I looked at Terri and told her that I didn’t know how she kept her terrorist identity hidden through 25 years of marriage. I’ll be darn, my wife may be one of those radical Presbyterians.
“If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom, and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.” -W. Somerset Maugham