SH and I went to Pittsburgh for the New Year. Traveling has become easier since I got my TSA express lane pass (or whatever it's called). Getting the pass was a pain in the neck - I had to go to the TSA office and wait and be interviewed and questioned about my multiple trips to the Grand Duchy of Fenwick as if I had actually WANTED to go to GDF, which I did not. I was stuck going there for work with my former Bad Boss who thought that someone spending Thanksgiving weekend flying 16 hours from Atlanta to GDF was not something worthy of giving someone a few comp days upon her return.
No, this was the man who proudly proclaimed that he had spent X hours flying back from China and was at work the next day, as if there is some big Work Olympics where people can win medals for going to work after spending a weekend flying across a dozen time zones.
"But I never make big decisions on those days," he warned.
Anyhow, I got the express land pass so I could skip the regular security line and go into the fast line and not wait.
It is totally worth $100 and an afternoon at the TSA not to have to stand in line.
Except when we got in line this time, there was a family ahead of us - husband, wife, two little girls.
"They got the pass for their kids?" I hissed to SH. I was not surprised - when I was getting my pass, there was a family there. I asked the mom about it and she said that it didn't do her and her husband any good to have the pass themselves if their kids didn't also have the pass and that made sense.
However, I was kind of annoyed because I was having to wait. And then I was getting the sense that the kids did not have the pass because it was taking forever and sure enough, the TSA guy escorted the family to the other line, the regular people, long, have to wait line.
Which was still not so bad as getting in the end of the line.
And honestly, TSA, as much as I do not want kids in this line unless they go as fast as adults, what are the odds that a kindergartner and a second grader are terrorists independent of their parents. I do not know many little girls who spend time flying around to dangerous countries, cavorting with terrorists, on their own.
So we finally got in line and I was all happy that I did not have to remove my shoes - yet another reason it is worth it to pay $100 for a lifetime pass.
I was all happy and ready to move on to get my airport treat coffee when I realized my bag was stuck in x-ray.
That was when I remembered that I had forgotten to remove my Swiss army knife from my purse.
It is usually a part of my routine. I have not lost a knife for over ten years now. But I had changed from a purse to a large tote bag and had thrown purse stuff inside the bag. My routine was off and I did not do it right.
The TSA guy asked to whom the bag belonged. I sighed and admitted it was mine. "My Swiss army knife, right?" I asked.
He asked if there was anything in the bag that could hurt him.
"There are pens," I said. "And the pen is mightier than the sword."
He shook his head slightly and whispered, "Say the Swiss army knife."
"Swiss army knife," I answered obediently.
He found the knife and removed it from my bag. "The customer service people will mail it back to you," he suggested. "It would cost about three dollars. A new knife would cost twenty dollars."
SH and I actually had slack time at the airport. That almost never happens, as SH's philosophy is he would rather risk missing an airplane than spend one extra second at the airport.
"I'll mail it," I said. I had time.
The TSA guy walked me out of security. "I hate that I have to take it from you," he confided. "I make knives. My daughter and I are going to start a knife business."
We got to the edge of security. He handed me the knife and pointed toward the customer service booth.
I walked over to the booth and presented the knife.
"Oh, dat one will cost about tree dollars," said the 80-something woman at the booth. I read the sign - the booth is staffed by volunteers.
"Just fill out dis envelope and I will drop it off at de post office on my way home," she said. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "We are not supposed to do dat, but you know. I do it anyhow."
All I had was a twenty. She didn't have change. There was a Starbucks across the hall.
"What kind of coffee do you like?" I asked her. "And what's your name?"
"Oh, just black," she said. "My name is Esther."
"Thanks, Esther," I said. "I'll be right back."
I ran to Starbucks and waited behind the couple who could not decide between a no-foam soy latte and a soy mocha and then had to pick the right muffin and I was ready to put my hands around their necks and squeeze because all I wanted was change and I was not even going to get a coffee for myself, which is one of my usual airport treats, because the money I would have spent on coffee was now being spent on returning something to myself, even though humankind had been flying with Swiss army knives for millennia with no problem but our TSA theater had screwed everything up.
I finally was able to get Esther her coffee and three on-dollar bills.
"OK, den," she said as she sealed the envelope. "I'll drop dis off today and it will be dere in few days."
And it was.
And I thought wow, there sure are some nice people around.