Her voice was like a battle cry from Braveheart. "Get your shoes off the conveyor belt! Shoes in the bin! The bin! Now! Now! Now!"
The last time I experienced that kind of anger I was eight years old and had just been caught attempting to sell my younger brother to a passerby outside our home. (The man in the windowless van promised to give him a good home, yet my mother still threw a fit. Sheesh.)
“No shoes on the conveyor belt! In the bin! The bin! Now! Now! Now!”
I stood paralyzed at the airport security checkpoint as the uniformed woman blasted me with a fresh round of animosity.
"And take your laptop out of the bag! Remove it! Take it out! Now! Now! Now!"
I scrambled to comply as the other passengers in line scooted away from me, attempting to distance themselves from the rabble-rouser.
The woman opened her mouth, ready to fire another round of verbal bullets, but I cut out the middle man. “Let me guess,” I said, struggling to remove my laptop from its bag. “Something something something take this out of that. Now? Now? Now?”
It wasn’t that I was a difficult traveler—I just wasn’t an experienced one. For me a traveling experience was driving the extra ten minutes to the Applebee’s on the other side of town because their booths are comfier and the waitstaff appears to be more content with how their lives panned out (aka less likely to spit in your salad if you ask for dressing on the side).
It had been years since I’d flown on a plane and I was a virgin to the new security procedures. And at that moment I was having my traveling cherry popped by a burly woman with a voice like a buzzsaw. Merry Christmas to me.
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know you had to—I’m trying to hurry but—”
“Okay, okay—I got it. I got it. All my items are in a perfect single file line a’la the Von Trapp children. Can I go through now?”
The woman squared her shoulders and jabbed a finger in my direction. “You,” she said. “You—”
Her hand inched toward her pocket, toward what I presumed was a gun, club, or tasor. But I never found out. At that moment, a high voice resembling a squeak toy rose above the chaos.
“Oh, totally. Oh, my God, shut up! Seriously, shut up! Nuh-uh!”
I turned to see a blonde with a Juicy tracksuit and a purse with a ritzy logo (lest you mistake it for a purse that didn’t cost half a grand) splashed all over it. She held a cell phone to her ear, bullhorning her voice into it so that the recipient could hear every “seriously” and “shut up.”
My airport adversary’s eyes moved from me to the phone talker. Like a cornered gazelle that realized the lion’s eyes had drifted to weaker prey, I slowly slinked out of my predator’s field of vision.
“He did not say that! Shut up. Seriously, shut—”
“Cell phone! In the bin! Now! Now! Now!”
The blonde leapt backward, startled by the onslaught.
“I was just—”
“The bin! The bin! Hurry up! Now! Now! Now!”
“I’m sorry. I was just—”
“It’s in the bin! It’s in the bin now!”
“Why are you still saying that? I just put it in the—”
“Why is she still saying that?” the blonde wailed, looking on the verge of tears.
I hustled through the rest of the security process as the lion feasted.