My husband Mark has this adorable/ annoying habit of telling the ending of a story first. It is something I find endearing but the thing that upsets me the most about it is this: his technique gets people hooked quicker than my intros do. So as a tribute to my spouse, let me start this story with:
If anyone should be allowed to have guns in her purse, a mom traveling with two small children should.
I am not a TSA hater. I realize that they are just doing their jobs and they really do want to keep us safe. Ok, I hate taking off my belt and I especially hate taking off my shoes and sharing my non-pedicured, callus-filled feet with my fellow travelers. Plus, the security checkpoint is a particularly difficult time when traveling with my two small children, a stroller, my large travel purse, a Minnie Mouse suitcase filled with crap my daughter can’t live without and a Lightening McQueen suitcase filled with crap my son can’t live without. But frankly, TSA is part of the travel hassle and for the most part I don’t complain about it. Mark does not agree with this view and instead equates his TSA Pre designation (the one where you can skip the lines) to winning the Nobel Prize.
I thought the benevolent TSA karma gods were smiling on me as we left Phoenix to go home to San Francisco. I did the total mom thing in the hotel room frantically shoving every article of clothing or toy into suitcases or into the aforementioned large purse. We headed to the airport, returned the rental car, and packed up the suitcases on a cart. We felt pretty proud of how organized we were. The TSA line wasn’t packed and the family line even less so. My husband and I did our usual divide and conquer: I put the carry-ons onto the conveyer belt then I walked the kids through the metal detector while Mark pushed the stuff further into the X-ray abyss and folded up the stroller. No sooner was I putting my shoes on the other side of the checkpoint when the conveyer belt stopped. Two TSA agents began whispering to each other. Another agent told the people behind us to go to another line.
I watched in horror as I held my kids and TSA called for the police to come to the X-Ray machine. “What is it?” I ask, wiping my increasingly wet palms on my son’s shorts. “Is it a water bottle? I have had so many of them in my purse this weekend.”
“It’s no water bottle, ma’am,” the first TSA crew member said. He followed that with, “It’s standard procedure- we have to call the police over whenever there is a potential for a gun.”
A gun?!?! How in the hell did a gun….
Oh fuuuuuuck. The night before, the family went to a Wild West town and the only souvenir my son wanted was a holster and fake miniature six shooters. In my hurry to get everything packed, I made the genius move of putting my son’s toy weapons into my unchecked purse. Now, I was about to have my bag searched by airport po-po.
The apologies started pouring out of me faster than a bullet out of a gun. “Oh my God. I am so sorry! I didn’t even realize that was in there. Just take it out and throw it away- it’s okay.”
“It is the policy of this airport that TSA not touch weapons; we have to wait for the police.”
“It’s not a gun. It’s a toy,” I argued to deaf ears.
“Please, throw it away,” Mark said. Mark says that about most of the children’s toys.
Two police officers arrived and grab my purse. “Whose bag is this?” I wanted to make a joke about it being my daughter’s but the embarrassing lump in my throat wouldn’t allow it. “Mine. And I am so sorry.”
“This happens,” the officer said. As he began to pull everything out of my purse, the TSA agents looked on eagerly. After my wallet, magazines, and diapers were pulled out, the police officer gingerly raised the offending 5-inch long weapon.
“This sometimes happens with cap guns. Are the caps in here, too?” The officer asked, still searching.
“I don’t think that’s a cap gun,” I answer.
“Yup, it is.” “Uh, huh.” “Yes, it’s a cap gun.” The chorus of TSA agents confirmed that not only had I bought my three year old a toy gun and not only had I packed it in my purse but I also had no clue it was really a cap gun. I said the first thing that came into my head: “I am from San Francisco; I don’t know anything about guns. I do know what’s in season at the farmer’s markets, though!”
One of the police officers left, probably feeling pretty secure that I am just an average run of a mill idiot and not a terrorist while the second cop told me that I could give him our address and he would mail the weaponry back to us.
“No, no, that’s okay. Just throw it away. Just toss it,” Mark, the anti-Santa Claus chimed in.
“It’s no trouble,” the officer said, leading me over to podium where he was working. As I wrote down my information, I said, “Can I give you some money for doing this?”
“See these cameras all around us?” He asked, pointing skyward. “They have sight but no sound. I would prefer that they don’t watch you slipping me some cash.”
“Fair enough,” I said, thus beginning my speech alternating between apologizing and thanking him. I walked off to join the rest of my family who were waiting with all our stuff.
About a week later, a package arrived from Phoenix with two silver toy cap guns. They are still in our house even though Mark had wanted to get rid of them. Now, whenever a kid comes from our son’s room with the two silver shooters, Mark tells the parents, “These were almost taken away from us at the Phoenix airport because Stacy tried to smuggle them in her purse.” Then he tells them the story.