Ahhh, the Orland airport. Nice people, really – until you tell them you lost your only photo ID at the Titanic exhibit. As miserable as it was, I made it my own private writing seminar: developing tension in scene.
I turn my carry-on bag upside down. Throw stuff into the check-in line, searching frantically. Nervous flyers squeeze past. Curse me. Nothing in the bag. Tension up. Airline lady says don’t worry about it. Tension down.
At security, the agent’s frown says worry about it. Says I’ll have to call my supervisor. Tension up. The supervisor has to call his supervisor who has to call his supervisor who has to call WASHINGTON. My family stares, waits, worries. Tension up, way up.
Supervisor goes up, up, up, up the chain, each time answering a code: X7449. LHU992. N50. CCFTY. Is he calling the CIA? FBI? The President? Tension soars. I envision the President hanging on the phone, sweating, knowing his answer could threaten national security while his advisor shouts we need an answer, Mr. President. We’re out of time!
Supervisor tells me, we have to ask you some questions. He WINKS! Tension drops.
Question one: Your address? Damn. We moved three weeks ago. Which address? I give the new address. His eyes say don’t mess with me. I think we’re going to miss our flight. Tension up. But the old address appeases him.
Question two: Where do you work? I’m a writer. A stay-at-home writer. He sighs, rolls his eyes. Nearly whispers into phone stay-at-home writer. Yes, stay-at-home writer. Tension up. I’m sweating.
Question three: Maiden name? That’s easy. Tension down.
Question four: Where did your social security card originate? Oh man oh man. Trick question? Born in Wisconsin, yet a name change in Minnesota, hence a new card. But don’t all cards originate in Washington? My soon-to-be husband’s face says don’t worry, I’ll get you a lawyer. Tension rockets. I tell the guard Wisconsin. He squints. What county? I need to call my mom on that one but I guess. Pierce?
He says okay. You’re set. I’ve got to search your bag. You’ll have to be x-rayed, then go through a pat down with a female guard, Ms. Tougas.
He didn’t even ask for my social security number.
I say so I can board the plane? I can go home? He smiles, says you’re going home. Ms. Tougas, this happens 50 times a day. Tears of joy from my almost-husband, daughter, almost-step daughter, and almost-step daughter’s boyfriend. Everyone in the security lines gives me a shout out and claps. (That part’s in my mind.) Tension gone. Cathartic moment for the reader.
And now I’m home. As for the pat down, it was just like a date in high school, only with a woman who had mean eyes and latex gloves.