Balancing on one foot while re-shodding myself, stuffing my laptop into my carry-on and briefly marveling over the way my left leg sets off metal detectors yet contains no metal, I have made it through Security with a minimum of indignities.
I am trying to figure out what to do with my winter coat – do I put it back on? Do I try to cram it into my already cram-full suitcase? – when I glance up in time to see Mary shoot me a look of dismay.
“Ma’am,” says a man with a badge on his chest. “Please step out of line.”
Mary points to herself. Me?
“Is it what’s in my bag? I thought I could pack anything in the bag…”
My head swivels from speaker to speaker, my jaw open, a dog watching a game of ping pong. “What’s in the bag, Mary?”
“Ma’am,” and now he is addressing me – in the credits of this particular scene, I am, apparently, Second Ma’am – “Please step aside.”
I step, as instructed, aside. “What is it? Mary! What’s in the bag?”
And Mary, a woman whose skin tone is settled comfortably between alabaster and Cream of Wheat, has gone azalea on us.
And for just a moment, I have visions of prisons, of ill-fitting clothing and garbage-bag wine.
“What’s in the bag, Mary?”
“I – I – well you know how I go on my kicks!”
Bright spots appear before my eyes. A humming goes up in my ears that experience tells me is a precursor to fainting.
“What kinda kicks, Mary?”
The security guard, mirthless as Death’s dad, is unzipping the suitcase.
Should we start running? I mouth to Mary.
But Mary’s eyes are not on me. Large, bright blue, they are on the guard who is now removing the clothing from her carry on.
“Nice undies,” I say to her.
She looks up and smiles. “They’re new.”
And that’s when he holds them up. Not her undies, oh, no. There are more subversive things in store for this trip than Mary’s brand-new undies.
“You can’t bring these in a carry on,” says Security Man. Now surrounded by a supporting cast of other Security Men – all grinning – he holds aloft the offending items.
A squeeze container of Top The Tater.
A large bottle of Western Dressing.
The men in blue shake their heads.
And I am practically speechless.
“What?! Mary! No taters? No salad?”
The red in her cheeks sets off the blue of her eyes nicely. “We have a room waiting for us with a fridge and a microwave,” she says. “And I heard you can’t get these in Florida.”
“Can’t get --? What are we, traveling back in time?”
But Mary is undeterred. She shakes her head, firm in her understanding that she must travel with her own condiments.
Security Man #1 is back. “Ma’am, do you want to put these in your bag and then check it? You’ll have to go back through Security.”
And I already know the answer, know it just as surely as I know Mary.
She will check the bag. She will go through Security again.
And I tie my winter coat around my waist, take a seat on a bench leading out of Security.
“I’ll be here then, shall I?” I say.
Is there more to this? Of course there is! Come back tomorrow!