Book Travel


Flying to San Francisco from LA, the security guard takes a little too much extra time examining the X-ray picture of my bag and asks to see my liquids.
As the man prods my bag I can feel my butt cheeks clench together, my muscles tighten and I hold my breath as if that extra oomph might help the bag pass inspection. Please don’t unzip my tightly packed bag and dig, I whisper. I have begun to feel a little like a shoplifter trying to get past the sensor machines in a department store.

“Inspection!” the bored guard shouts. “Whose bag is this? I am standing right in front of him with the doleful eyes. Wearily I raise my hand.

The airport security guard who lumbers over is young. As he unzips my bag he begins to examine each tube of lipstick like something out of CSI, I see his hands troll into the corner of my bag.

Involuntarily I reach to grab it, to spare him.

“Don’t touch the bag…” he says in broken English.

“I know, but… I just…”

“Don’t touch..,” He authoritatively picks up the single blue tinted sanitary napkin encased in its own weird plastic sheath that had been stuck in a magazine as a promotion.

His female counterpart was moving toward him now, in slow motion, maybe even enjoying this. Clearly this was the new guy.

“Feminine hygiene,” Lisa called out loudly with no inflection. Lisa was bored. This was the 110th sanitary napkin she had seen that day and she was amused. Fareed, as his badge said, was still holding the pad as she sidled up. Something in me snapped. I was sick of these airport shakedowns. We all had places to go. My promotional insert light days pad was not a security breach.

“It’s a light days PAD,” I screamed. His mouth sprung open and I continued. “It’s for when women are MENSTRUATING, you know?” He dropped the pad as if it were in flames.

In Seattle, I am stricken with every public speaker’s nightmare. Up to this point I’ve remained fairly relaxed talking to all sizes of crowds. But suddenly, out of nowhere, Dreaded Dry Mouth. At the podium for a book store reading I can still taste the highly spiced Indian food I have enjoyed an hour earlier with a friend. All of a sudden, as I am reading a passage, a mini curry burp erupts and a sense of impending doom grows as I realize there is nothing with which to wash it down. I have broken my second cardinal rule of book tours (after go to the bathroom frequently). I have nothing to drink, not one sip of water at the podium. This panic creates an almost immediate mini-desert effect in my mouth. All moisture evaporates. I can hear little clicks in the microphone that my tongue makes as it searches desperately for hydration. The painful sound of lips sticking around teeth is magnified by the microphone. The audience leans in sympathetically and I lose my train of thought.

Desperately, I resort to an old trick and picture the entire front row before me completely nude, mentally throwing some banana hammock bathing suits on some of the older, paunchier men. I being to relax and miraculously, my mouth begins to produce its own saliva again. The curry incident has passed like a hot flash.

By the end of week three I am almost finished. It’s the very last flight and I steel myself against delays or bad weather. Everywhere I go, violent spring storms seem to be swirling. I can no longer stand the sight of an airport. I’m perversely hoping that the security folks say “whose bag is this” one last time because I’ve decided that I will just walk away. I mentally calculate a hair brush I care about, a pair of earrings, the rest is all dirty navy-themed clothes and some toiletries. All replaceable.

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