When I was done signing a death warrant for Shamu, my other client asked me to spend a week touring small museums. It felt like a small-town bandit road trip, except this time for pay.
I spent a day in glamorous Pensacola, touring the Naval Aviation Museum. (If you ever get a chance, GO! They let you geek out and climb around inside all of the airplanes.) I spent a stormy night stranded in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sharing a plate of nachos with a three-toothed man named Shiloh. I loved being stranded in six-gate Fort Wayne “International” Airport, so named because of the occasional flight to Canada. I conditioned my hair with hand lotion, ate at every Waffle House I could find, and learned about all the local murders from gregarious cabbies.
I found the last leg of my trip, to a submarine in Michigan, cancelled due to my delay in Fort Wayne. Then, by a wonderful stroke of luck, I found myself in Milwaukee with a four-hour layover. I spent most of those four hours tossing back beer and brats, making new friends, and watching my bad habits absorbed by the generous expense accounts of the Ford Motor Company.
Eventually, my Midwest Express flight was called. I wobbled on over, ready for home and a hot bath.
When I reached the gate, I was pulled aside for further inspection. My ricochets around America, last-minute flight changes, and imposing demeanor had landed me on a terrorist watch list.
My bag was searched. Unfortunately, nothing interesting turned up. Nowadays I travel with an econo-pack of condoms and a Magic 8-ball, just to give the TSA something to think about.
Then I had to step to one side, and put my arms straight out so I could be wanded. I’m not proud of what I did next. But bear in mind, I was floating on hours of free beer and cute businessmen.
I began to touch my nose with my pointer fingers and recite the alphabet, in the manner of a field sobriety test.
The TSA agent cracked a smile and waved me on board. When I reached my seat, the flight attendant gave me a cookie and a glass of champagne.
The lesson? Never turn down a chance to make a drunken idiot of yourself in front of Homeland Security. Because if you do, you'll get a cookie!