As with any travelling, especially aboard those large hollow thin-skinned birds filled with humans, there is a bit of anxiety engulfed with trepidation. It's not that J of J and L fears flying, but as his traveling partner Laureen takes to flight like the proverbial duck to water John clasps her hand and silently prays the jet liner will stay in the air long enough to reach their destination.
J knows he is not the only traveler who would rather Star Trek it by breaking into microscopic particles and beam seamlessly to another planetary location within seconds. As long as the final result would ensure his head was attached properly to his shoulders and not his rear, which would be hard to explain.
The flight reached it's cruising altitude within the anticipated time and Los Angeles was soon to the west as the Air Bus 319 darted east-bound toward O'Hare in Chicago where the travelers would change planes for the final leg across the Atlantic to Dublin International.
As with any exploration there has to be some angst and ours started with TSA - as do many such moments.
J had some concern that he may find himself on a 'no fly' list since he had just spent the last year and a half completing research for his newest novel, Soft Target. The plot revolves around a public school takeover by an Islamic Fundamentalist group (no further details at this time so not a spoil the anticipation) so there had been many 'Google' searches for jihad this and jihad that.
That is where the nagging back of the head thoughts came from when J approached the queue to start the bothersome but necessary procedure of taking off the shoes, the belt, the watch, and anything else which could hide something that could take down an airliner. J kept wondering which of the stern and serious TSA officers would approach him and advise him that there would be no flight for him on this day to the Emerald Island.
"We don't allow guys who do a lot of research on Jihad this and Jihad that onto our planes!"
But alas there was no 'no fly' list and J walked through unscathed. What nearly cost the intrepid adventurers was lurking within L's carry-on baggage. The bag went twice through the x-ray and raised eyebrows with a large woman behind the screen. She gave J a look and he innocently pointed at L as she was waved through the scanner.
"Is there something in here we should know about?" the woman questioned as instantly another TSA person showed up and took possession of L's carry-on.
J was minding his business retying his shoes but the focus of his ears were on the conversation between L and the TSA agent. He didn't feel the need to get involved - the image of the agent suddenly forgetting the carry-on and focusing his attention on the 'guy' who had spent 18 months researching Islamic terrorists still had J on the wary path. And besides, it wasn't his carry-on now was it?
At this point people were starting to stare over at J and L, especially L since it was her bag, with looks of worry. What line had they gotten into were the thoughts probably running through their minds? These people look just like the rest of us - what were they hiding to garner such a thorough investigation by the officials from the TSA? Why did we choose this day to travel with people like that especially the guy who is taking forever tying his shoes - he probably spends his time searching the internet for insights into the jihadist mind-set.
Within seconds, after two more TSA agents showed up and asked if they could open L's carry-on, as if she was going to deny them that privilege, and proceeded to do so.
A laugh. A chuckle. And a simple nod came from the three officers as they found what had caused all the consternation in the first place.
A large dark brown oblong shaped object was the villain on this day. A rather mild sausage that had been given to J and L by their daughters as something to eat on the long flights ahead.
|The afore-mentioned culprit!|
"It's just a sausage." grinned one agent.
"That's a relief," said another.
"Looks like a good sausage though," agreed the third.
One more pass through the x-ray machine for the sausage and we were cleared to travel with J wondering if the sausage had now been fully cooked and ruined from three separate trips through the machine.
It turned out that Mr. Sausage had been so cleverly wrapped to seal in the flavor that the machine only saw an oblong object which could have been a C-4 explosive device.
J and L thanked the officers for their diligence and made the final walk to the gate where their plane was waiting. Thank goodness that moment was over - J made sure that L continued to hold onto that carry-on.
Unfortunately, LAX didn't inform O'Hare about the disguised sausage looking thing in L's carry-on and the whole procedure happened again when once again the call to go through the TSA check-point came up. This time people in line with us actually physically moved to other more crowded lines to get away from the people with the suspicious package in the carry-on - L's not J's, I must continue to remind the reader. Within minutes J and L were again walking to their airline gate smiling to each other knowing as L is prone to state:
"We never go on vacations. We take adventures."
And isn't that the way traveling should be?
The guilty sausage was a thing of the past once J and L reached Dublin, along with the crackers and cheese nestled innocently beside the sausage within L's carry-on.
Though this was the beginning of a long trip, we from J and L have to give a round of applause to the TSA agents as they did a marvelous job and actually were pretty good natured with both of us at either airport. They were professional, respectful, and courteous which always makes traveling easier.
So, the journey begins minus the sausage but hopefully other tasteful treats will be awaiting our readers.