Sticking it to the man
November 7, 2005
I peeled the prize from the back of the boarding pass. It came off in pieces, as a result of its nontransferable design, but I managed to restick it on its very own page in my pocket-sized moleskin notebook. Ahhhhh. I gave the shiny sticker one last look, put the notebook back in my pocket, and read a book for an hour until they announced that the plane was boarding.
I handed the gate agent my boarding pass. She saw the bold, blue check mark on the front, flipped it over and handed it back to me.
“They forgot to give you a sticker after they searched you,” she said. “You need to go back to security and get one.”
And just like that I was out of line, walking back to security. It started to dawn on me what I’d just done. Holy s—.
They’ll think that I “accidentally” missed my earlier plane, knowing that I’d be selected for a search, giving me access to the magic sticker, the sticker that my terrorist brethren were surely waiting for me to return with, the sticker that would allow them to pass through security with their exploding shoes and triple-blade razors. Very clever, Mr. Smith, now come with us.
I started to sweat. What am I gonna say? “I’m not a terrorist, I’m just a guy who likes stickers!” Like that’s gonna help me in Guantanamo Bay. I’m about 10 minutes away from a broom-handle enema.
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OK, I need options:
– Confess my lack of judgment to the folks at security. Maybe they’ll see the humor in it. Yeah, right.
– Duck into the bathroom and try to reaffix the sticker to my pass. No, it’ll be obvious that it’s been tampered with, then I’ll REALLY be screwed.
– Duck into the bathroom, tear the sticker from my book and flush it down the toilet. No evidence, no case. Except that I’m sure the security cameras picked me up scratching the sticker from my ticket. Plus, despite how terrified I am, I REALLY want this sticker.
– Play dumb. This is my best bet, as I’m obviously a bit retarded.
“Hello,” I say to the TSA agent, handing her my pass. “You guys searched my bag about an hour ago, and I guess I’m supposed to get some sort of sticker or something?” I know a thing or two about acting, so I scratched my head with my index finger to drive home my innocence and bewilderment.
“Oops,” she said, and directed me to the guys in the booth next to her. “Oops” seemed like a good sign.
I didn’t see the guy who had searched me ” another good sign ” I repeated my head-scratching routine and they peeled off a new sticker and put it on my pass.
Pheeewww! Home free!
As I turned to head back to the plane, I heard one of the guys say, “Who searched him?”
“Jim,” answered the other.
Oh no! They knew who searched me! When Jim returns they’re gonna mention this to him, maybe even reprimand him. Jim was very meticulous, and will not only remember me (bald guy with glasses who made a fuss about watching his bag being searched ” doh!), BUT will remember that he put a sticker on my pass. This will throw up a red flag, and he’ll come after me, Jim will.
Be cool. Don’t run. But people run in airports, right? I mean, my plane is boarding. No, don’t run. And DON’T look over your shoulder, you’re almost at your gate.
By now there were only three people left in line, and there was a different gate agent. I could almost feel Jim’s hand clamping down on my shoulder. Please, just let me get on that plane. C’mon, c’mon …
The agent took my boarding pass, and, ignoring the blue check mark on the front, passed it through the machine without so much as a glance at the hard-earned replacement sticker on the other side.
All that for nothing?
I didn’t fully exhale until the plane left the ground. Then I took out my notebook to look at my sticker.
Shiny. Very, very shiny.
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