I will once again flag this as NSFW (Not Suitable For Work). Sam is a very creative writer – Simon
TSA should stand for Tough Shit Assholes
The train eased into Penn Station and as soon as he got off the train and into the main concourse, Charles’ nostrils found Don Pepi pizza.
Or is it the other way around, he mused as he gathered his luggage and made the trek to grab some pizza and meet Gary.
Gary’s cab had arrived at roughly the same time as Charles’ train, and he, too, was making his way to Don Pepi while the cab he had commandeered waited for him to bring the both of them back and then onto LaGuardia for their flight.
Charles was the first at the pizza joint and found a place to put all his luggage down. He decided to scope out all the people walking by while he waited for Gary and was amazed at how many shapes, sizes, and colors of different people he spied.
“Seven billion people on this planet. What did you expect?” Gary said sarcastically after Charles told him about all the different bodies he saw walking by. “Something bothering you? You usually are the one commenting on other people’s stupid observations.”
“Good point. Yes, something is bothering me. I need a piece of pizza right now,” Charles said, changing the subject.
“Good idea. We have plenty enough time on the flight to figure out why you’re going ‘soft’ all of a sudden,” Gary said.
Charles forced a laugh replying to Gary’s comment and ordered two slices of pizza while keeping a keen eye on his luggage.
“Two slices please,” Gary said to the man behind the counter.
Charles licked his lips anticipating what was coming.
The man behind the counter took out the slices with the wooden apparatus that had a very long handle and plunked each one down on a piece of wax paper and went to wait on someone else while Gary picked up the slices and went to the cashiers to pay.
“I know why that handle is so long,” Charles said as he provided two paper plates that he had tripled up so Gary could place each slice down before the heat from the pizza burnt through the wax paper and his hands.
“Forget about the length of the tool and admire that he didn’t spill one drop of cheese or sauce in performing his craft. Dig in and remember no water!”
Using the wax paper as protective gear, they both folded their slice tip to crust and bit in.
As the pizza burnt the roofs of their mouths, both men couldn’t believe how something that was so hot tasted so good, and they smiled at each other.
“I want another!” Charles yelled.
“No way. Let’s get going. Remember we are flying from New York to Los Angeles. The security lines will be longer than the excuses you made about not writing,” Gary said as he made his way to Charles’ luggage and picked up the smallest item. Charles followed him out to the cab that was waiting for them.
“No cracks about terror suspects, Charles,” Gary said as they climbed into the cab after putting Charles’ luggage in the trunk. “Step on it, Abdul.”
Abdul?! Charles Craig Curtis cringed at the sound of the name, and when he made eye contact with the cab driver via the rear view mirror, Charles not only started to feel a panic attack coming on but thought that Abdul gave him a dirty look. With what was now becoming an instinctive reflex, he reached for a brown paper bag that he had safely tucked away inside the inner big pocket of the sports coat he was wearing.
“Charles, are you becoming car sick? Are you going to puke?”
Abdul the cab driver hears that and screams out “Please sir, open the window. It is very expensive to have my cab cleaned out of vomit.”
“Not to mention the smell that will stay with me for a very long time,” Gary said.
Charles ignored them and buried his nose and mouth into the bag and started to inhale and exhale until he found himself calming down. Thank you Alice he thought as he put the bag back into his jacket’s pocket and told Gary (and probably Abdul) about his new panic attack defensive arsenal.
Charles spent the better part of his ride telling Gary what happened to him on the train.
“What happened to Alice?” Gary asked him
“After we come back from LA, I intend to find her,” Charles announced.
“Is she good looking?” Gary asked.
“As a matter of fact, she’s a dog,” Charles said seriously.
Gary reached inside of Charles’ sports jacket and grabbed the brown paper bag and started huffing and puffing in and out of it.
“Not funny, Gary,” Charles said seriously.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Gary asked as he returned the brown paper bag to Charles and watched him carefully put it back inside his sports coat.
“Let’s talk about LA and our upcoming trip,” Gary said as he reached into his sports coat and produced two pieces of paper. One he kept, the other he handed to Charles.
“What this?” Charles asked his agent.
“It’s called an itinerary,” Gary said sarcastically.
“I made it? I mean I never have been given an itinerary before a book reading and signing,” Charles now said sarcastically.
“Your moment in the sun keeps growing longer. Don’t fuck up,” Gary said with a laugh.
You aint kidding, Charles mused as his thoughts were all about Emma being in the moment that Gary just mentioned. He looked at the itinerary and smiled as he read:
1) Flight to LAX. Arrive 10:30p.m. PCT.
2) Limo pick-up and drop off at hotel.
3) REST until a.m.
“Who came up with number three?” Charles asked Gary.
“I did. Ever hear of ‘jet-lag’?” Gary asked.
“Yes. But I have never experienced it,” Charles said.
“Haven’t you ever travelled to California or Europe the home of your ancestors?” Gary asked.
Charles shook his head. “Up until recently I have been poor.”
“I know. That’s why number three is there,” Gary pointed out. “By the way, being rich and experiencing jet-lag is better than being poor and never experiencing it.”
“Is it bad?” Charles asked.
“If you don’t rest, it can be a real pain in the ass, especially for our type of trip. And your brown paper bag won’t save you from it.”
Charles looked at the rest of the sheet and hoped he wouldn’t suffer from jet-lag.
4) Breakfast at sister agency.
5) Tour of the studio.
6) Meet with public relations staff for Sir Stephen.
7) Meet with press.
8) Sir Stephen enters and talks.
10) Q and A.
11) Photo op
12) Lunch with Sir Stephen
13) Back to Hotel.
14) Book signing.
15) Free Time.
16) Next day off, sightseeing.
17) Leave following a.m.
“Well?” Gary asked Charles.
“I feel important,” Charles said with a smile.
“Important enough to help me get laid?”
“I thought you were in a relationship that was going very well,” Charles stated.
“Was is the keyword not in your statement, Charles,” Gary said. “I’m horny and I’m relying on your overzealous sexual appetite to leave some crumbs for me,” Gary said as he playfully punched Charles on the shoulder.
“Watch it, bub, that’s my writing arm,” Charles said.
Gary laughed, and Charles thought — of all the times he wants me to help him get laid, he picks a time when I believe I have no desire to play that game anymore.
“Timing is everything, Gary, and this isn’t your time,” Charles blurted out.
Just as Gary Harte was going to respond to Charles Craig Curtis, their cab arrived at LaGuardia and they exited. The cab driver didn’t help them get their luggage out and waited to be paid. Gary paid the man and he sped off.
“You didn’t say anything to him, did you?” Gary asked Charles as they brought their bags to the curb side check-in.
“Nothing. He did give me a dirty look though,” Charles said.
“How do you know that?”
“When we locked eyes via the rear view mirror.”
“Arabs hate when we do that. I think it means they think we don’t trust them.”
“I don’t. I don’t know about you. Remind me to always look in the rear view mirror and make eye contact with an Arab driver,” Charles said as he and Gary made the way to get their tickets and wait in line for the security check. They were both relieved that they had plenty of time to go through the long line of security clearance.
“Can you tell me now what you meant about ‘timing’ and me being horny as hell?” Gary asked Charles.
“Wait until we are snug into our seats, because I think once I start talking, I won’t shut up until we land in LA,” Charles said.
“Must be good,” noted Gary.
They both got in line to be inspected by airport security.
“These guys should be stationed at every hiring office in every taxi cab company in this city,” Charles said with a sigh as he saw that it was going to be a long time in line.
“Lots of people flying today,” Gary noted.
Then the robotic responses of the travelers began as they waited to be searched by the members of the TSA.
It was obvious that all the people in front and behind Charles and Gary had travelled before. The men took their belts off as they prayed to the embarrassment god to not let their pants fall down. They removed their shoes and hoped that their feet didn’t stink and hated the feel of the cold floor as their warm feet touched it. They emptied their pockets of anything that might set off an alarm and cause TSA guards with guns drawn to put them through hell as they were further patted down and delayed. They took one final look at their cell phones, finished their last text and shut off their phones. They did their best to appear patient as they slowly snaked through the security lines hoping that they were not randomly selected to be a TSA laboratory rat.
The women dealt with the upcoming searches a lot better than the men.
“Probably because they are used to be treated like sex objects from such a young age”, Charles later texted Emma while he waited to board the plane.
Emma responded ‘I can’t believe that remark came from YOU all of people. But it’s a good start if you’re writing a term paper.’
Later that night in her diary Emma wrote What a boring paper that subject would make.
The women in line hoped that they were not picked for extensive searching, because they know they would be groped and abused and possibly would have secret pictures taken of them that would circulate the Internet forever. At first, only attractive women had to worry about this happening, but as the TSA stayed around, it seemed every day there was a horror story about any and all women being manhandled, as they say, when it came time to be the one randomly picked to be searched.
Charles noticed that one woman ahead of him in line seemed to be enjoying the process of glancing at her shoes and mesh stockings. He elbowed Gary in the ribs and motioned to the woman. Gary became intrigued as soon as he saw the woman.
“That’s some pair of stiletto heels,” Gary pointed out.
“Never been anything better invented for women’s feet,” Charles said.
“And boy do I like those mesh stockings,” Gary said.
Charles noticed that a lot of other men were staring at the woman as she quasi-seductively took her sweet time at removing her second spike. “I think a lot of others follow your lead.”
Gary looked at the other men who were copying him, and asked “How do you notice others noticing?”
“I am a writer. It’s my duty to observe.”
“Do you think it’s her overall attractiveness, her heels or the stockings?” Gary asked his client.
“Yup,” Charles replied as he found himself more intrigued with — why the woman was showing off to strangers in a security line at an airport, instead of scoping her out to be a potential target.
Has Emma got me, he mused.
“You’re mine Mr. Curtis. All mine,” Emma said to him on the phone before he boarded his flight and had to turn off his phone.
“I’m so glad you said that,” he said as he drifted to the side so he would have a few more minutes to chat with Emma while the other passengers boarded the plane.
“Why do you think she was so into everyone watching her? By the way, don’t think that it was only men checking her out. I’m sure there were women doing the same for a whole host of reasons.”
“I’m thinking she was somewhat of a show-off and knew that she could do it and enjoyed doing it,” Charles said.
“She might have been outsmarting not only everyone in line but the security people as well,” Emma said.
“How’s that?” Charles asked.
“What TSA person would dare think that woman had anything to hide with the way she showed off her shoes and feet?” Emma pointed out.
“Good point, Emma. Now I have to worry about Arab cab drivers, and stiletto wearing women in line at airports,” Charles said with a sigh.
“Charles Craig Curtis don’t ever forget it is my profession to know what is going in deep inside of people’s brains,” Emma said.
That’s scary, Charles thought.
As the line moved forward Gary turned to Charles and offered up this observation about the woman with the stiletto heels.
“Maybe she was showing off her pedicure?”
Charles laughed and was immediately stopped by two burly TSA guards who asked him to accompany them to the side office.
“Do I have a choice?” Charles asked very politely.
They didn’t respond and each grabbed one of his arms and guided him to a door off to the side near all the security gizmos.
“Excuse me, officers,” Gary said to them “we’d better not miss our plane.”
They didn’t respond to Gary, either, who threw up his arms in disgust and went back into line, made it through security, and waited for Charles. What is happening to Charles… and the looks I am getting here for being his companion, from the other passengers in line, are almost as appalling as the actions of the TSA goons, he thought.
As Charles shuffled into the waiting room, the guard holding his right elbow motioned him to step onto the two red painted footprints that were in front of him. The writer in him thought — irony. How ironic that me, the man who sees a terrorist lurking in every turban that drives a cab, is now being treated like a terrorist!
“Sir, do you know why we have detained you? The TSA agent, who held him by his left arm, asked him after Charles had placed his feet on the red footprints.
“I must look like someone on your most wanted list,” guessed Charles.
“No,” replied the guard who now let go of his right arm.
“Because I’m Jewish and therefore I’m the ‘chosen one?’” Charles answered in his best sarcastic tone.
“Sir, that is not funny,” the second guard said.
“”I thought it was. Certainly not as funny as this charade you’re putting me through. By the way, do you know that Reese Witherspoon is my mistress?”
Both TSA guards scowled at that remark.
“The computer randomly selected you for this pat down,” the first guard said. “Don’t worry — you won’t miss your flight.”
“Unless you give us cause,” the second guard added with a grin.
Cause? Charles thought. How does an innocent give anyone ‘cause’? And for some reason, only known to the panic attack gnomes, this mode of thinking started to bring Charles’ newest affliction into view.
He immediately reached into his sports jacket’s left inside pocket for Alice’s wonder cure of a brown paper bag so quickly, that the TSA guards were stunned at how quickly he moved.
They were trained agents who thought the worse and were instinctively upon Charles like flies on shit. They knocked him off his feet and had him on his stomach.
“What are you doing to me?” Charles managed to scream out between gasps for fresh air.
“No sir, what are you doing?” the first guard screamed as he tried to get Charles’ hands to stop waving all over the place so his partner could slip a pair of plastic hand ties around the author’s wrists. They had a hard time accomplishing this.
Later Charles attributed that to the strength in his “writer’s hands.”
The guards finally subdued Charles, and stood him back up on the footprints, hands plastic cuffed behind him. They inspected the bag and then looked at him just as he was passing out from not being able to control the amount of oxygen going to his brain as a result of his panic attack. Charles Craig Curtis went down for the count, as they say.
“You were lucky you didn’t hurt yourself,” Gary later remarked when Charles explained the scenario. “No, better yet-they were lucky.”
“Why were asshole and moron ‘lucky?’?”
“If you would have been hurt, think of the lawsuit you could have filed!”
“You read too many novels by John Grisham,” Charles said.
“I don’t, but I wish he was my client,” beamed Gary.
It was now time for the two guards to semi panic. They got Charles up, removed the plastic hand cuffs, checked his head for any wound, and then steadied him in a chair. When Charles revived, they got him a glass of cold water and they watched him sip it.
Funny, how passing out cured me of my panic attack. However, I would rather have solved it with my bag, not by falling down.
“Are you feeling better sir?” TSA #1 asked.
“Why did you reach into your jacket without asking permission?” TSA #2 asked.
Charles wanted so badly to lie, just to ruin their days or better yet, show he was funnier and smarter than these two goons when Dr. Emma Everly Hancock’s elixir of recovery grabbed him by the throat and told him to be honest.
“I was having a panic attack and needed my medicine,” Charles said.
“We didn’t find any medicine on you?” TSA #1 said.
“A likely story,” offered up TSA #2.
“May I show you?” Charles asked them both.
Both the guards looked at each other and shrugged and at the same time gestured for Charles to ‘show them’.
“After all, they work for the government, what do they have to lose?” Gary said later when both he and Charles were on their way to the gate.
“Nothing,” Charles said.
“The beauty of being on the public teat,” Gary said.
Charles slowly opened up the left side of his sports coat and gingerly moved his right hand and placed it inside the top inner pocket and produced his magic brown paper bag. His left hand let the jacket fall back into place and he opened up the bag and formed it like Alice had shown him. He then blew in and blew out of the bag.
TSA #1 walked over to Charles and held out his hand for Charles to put the brown paper bag on it. Charles complied and TSA #1 walked back over to his partner and they turned their backs on Charles. Suddenly Charles was startled by a loud pop and the guards quickly turned around facing him. TSA #1 was holding what was left of Charles’ brown paper bag.
Charles frowned as he thought I really liked that bag. It was my first one. Why do people with badges have to do things like that?
“Because they can,” Emma told him when he explained the whole torrid story to her.
“Mr. Curtis,” began TSA #1 “Do you have any other dangerous bags like this on you?”
How can a brown paper bag be dangerous? Charles thought. This has to be a joke.
“We’re not joking, Mr. Curtis,” TSA #2 said seriously.
I never was good at having a premonition, Charles mused. He shook his head, because the only bag he had been keeping on him was the original one given to him by Alice.
“In your carry-on bag?” TSA #1 asked.
Charles nodded, and TSA #2 went to Charles’ carry-on luggage and opened up the over-the-shoulder bag and found the rest of the bags. He removed them and handed them to his partner.
The partner picked them up by the corner like he was handling evidence and brought the bag of brown paper bags with him to a locked cage that as Charles strained his neck, he could see that there was a lot of items in there.
“Bet they sell at that stuff to flea markets,” Charles later told Gary.
“Probably eBay,” Gary said.
“I wonder what you can get for a bag of brown paper bags.” Charles asked his agent.
“Your brown paper bags were evenly split between the slobs so they could both save a trip to the Dollar store and buy their own bags to take for work lunch.”
“Excuse me officer, but why is my torn brown paper bag dangerous?” Charles asked TSA #2.
“The more simple, the more dangerous,” TSA #2 answered.
Simple as a lunch bag. But not when no one knows it’s healing powers when it comes to a panic attack, thought Charles.
“It’s all right here in our manual,” TSA #1 said to Charles as he handed Charles a pamphlet.
“What’s in this?”
“How and what we can stop anyone from taking on a plane,” they said together.
Of course, Charles needed his reading glasses, and when he touched the top of his head to bring them down, they were not there. The glasses had been knocked off his head when he was tackled and he now started to look around the room.
“What are you looking for?” both TSA guards asked him at the same time.
“My reading glasses,” Charles said.
TSA #2 saw them on the floor before Charles did and walked over to them and picked them up.
“Uh-oh,” TSA #2 said as he walked over to his partner.
“I’ll say,” TSA said.
“Say what?” Charles asked them both.
“We are not only confiscating your brown bags but your reading glasses as well,” TSA #1 told Charles.
Charles later told everyone he could that he had to have looked like a deer caught in the headlights, as they say.
“These bags can be blown up and popped. The noise will startle passengers at the least and induce panic at the most,” TSA #1 said.
“Your glasses were broken when you fell and one arm has come off and the end is very sharp. You could jab someone in the neck and kill them instantly,” TSA #2 pointed out.
“Hey, I saw that in one of the Godfather movies,” his partner said. “Good job.”
“So my bags and my reading glasses are being taken from me. Other than that, can I get back to reality?” an annoyed (but not angry) Charles asked them both.
They nodded that he could.
Charles left the room and quickly found Gary and gave Gary a look that Gary knew not to question until they were in a safer area.
“You have got to be kidding,” Gary said.
“Oh my God,” Emma said to him when he had called her. “What are you going to do?”
“Buy a new pair of glasses along with some brown paper bags,” Charles said.
“Good idea,” she said.
Charles and Gary found a store inside the airport that sold everything that the TSA agent hinted was “dangerous”. Charles bought what he needed, and both of them laughed at the incredible irony that what Charles couldn’t get through security, he could buy after he had passed security and was ready board his plane.
“A little victory,” Charles said as he and Gary walked to their boarding gate.
If you missed the earlier Chapters you can find them here.