Yesterday, as I was sitting in handcuffs in a small, stuffy underground room deep in the bowels of the Earth beneath the Denver International Airport, I began reviewing the supreme level of stupidity that had landed me in this position and remembered something I had told my Kid many times: “If you do something stupid and land in jail, don’t call me.” Now I gotta rethink that policy.
It all started way back in March (of 2020 – the year that has been universally agreed upon as being expelled from Satan’s anus). The Hubby and I were in Colorado Springs for a fly-fishing weekend when the pandemic lockdown started. Let me remind you that we are from Texas. And even though we’ve been in hippy-dippy Boulder for 25 years, the essence of our beings is still rooted in Texas and our primal instincts are very much informed by that Texessence, so this next part makes perfect sense to us:
Hubby was convinced that the planet was on the verge of a Coronapocalyptic Toilet Paper World War for which I would need to be as well armed as he is, therefore it was imperative that we get to the nearest Bass Pro Shops to buy me a gun immediately.
We chose a palm-sized revolver with five shots, called a .38 special (chosen because 80’s Southern rock!) and when we got home, I completed my conceal carry licensing stuff. Within a few weeks, I was legally toting a lethal little firearm in my hand-painted Coach purse – you know, the one with the Dia de los Muertos sugar skull. So cute.
Of course, the COVID shutdown marked the end of the “Traveling with The Hubby” part of my fuckabout life. Hubby continued to travel for work because he had to, but other than a quick jaunt to Texas to pick up our puppy, I was stuck at home for the next six months, bingeing Netflix and NutterButters like everyone else. Fast forward to present day and now I am testing the travel waters; Hubby is working in Nashville and my first excursion back into the world is to join him there for a romantic weekend getaway.
After making all the arrangements, I drive to the airport, making great time. I find Hubby’s car in the parking garage because he is there so often he has his own special space. Today the space next to his happens to be open and I get to park right beside him, just like in our garage at home. So cute.
I sashay through baggage check, then TSA Pre-Check, then get my eyeballs scanned at Clear, remove six pounds of jewelry (but not my shoes because Pre-Check!), drop my phone and my purse in a bin to send them through the x-ray machine and I walk through the metal detector without a beep. I’m so proud. I always get beeped because of some ring or necklace or buckle on my shoe but this time, I made it through on the first try.
Standing at the x-ray machine exit, I’m curious as to why the guy behind me is stepping in front of me to grab his backpack but my purse still hasn’t come through. Why is this taking so long? Why are all these other security people walking over?
Then I remember the pandemic gun. The loaded, .38 revolver that has been languidly chillin’ in its special holster in my purse since March.
The world around me collapses into a swirling hot vortex of panic that slams into my chest with a heavy WHUUMP. It’s one of those soundless sounds that I feel more than I hear, because I can’t hear anything over the high-pitched ringing in my ears from the impact of blunt force stupid.
“Umm, sir, I have a permit for that, could I just take it back to my car?”
“No ma’am. Denver police are on their way.”
First thought: Hubby is gonna be SOOOO pissed.
Second thought: Am I gonna lose my TSA Pre-Check status?
Third thought: Wait – am I gonna go to jail?
An apologetic Denver police officer escorts me to a little room off to the side of where the good, normal people are flaunting their normal-functioning brains at me by sitting there putting their shoes back on all goodly and normal-like.
DP Officer 1: Have a seat ma’am.
Me: Yes, sir.
O1: Is the gun loaded?
Me: Yes, sir.
O2: That’s too bad.
Me: Yes, sir.
TSA Officer: If the gun weren’t loaded, I’d just let you take it back to your car.
Me, brightening: Yes, sir?
TSA officer: But it is loaded. (He says, removing the bullets).
Me, dejected: Yes, sir.
O1: I’m sorry ma’am but I’ve got to put you in handcuffs now.
Me: Yes, sir.
I haven’t been this agreeable since grade school.
The officers escort me on a high-speed perp walk through the entire airport with one cop in front of me, one behind me. It was like the Cersei Lannister walk of atonement except instead of random people shouting “Shame!” random people stopped the police officers to ask for directions. Twice.
(I am not making this up. What I am telling you is that the sense of entitlement and narcissism in our society has reached such a level that two separate groups of people, upon seeing an agitated middle-aged woman in handcuffs hoofing it through DIA surrounded by cops, wholeheartedly believe that their inability to find a bathroom supersedes whatever the fuck is happening here.)
We powerwalk out the big doors past that weird bowtie-shaped building (or is it a bird? a mustache? maybe a brooch or a pterodactyl?), down an escalator, across a breezeway, then hop an elevator and begin our descent down, down, down through the depths of the Earth’s crust.
I am gasping to catch my breath (I have a touch of asthma plus I am an out-of-shape 54-year -old, running with my hands cuffed behind my back while wearing a mask plus all the adrenaline rushing through my veins has my heart racing like a hummingbird on meth), and Officer 1 says casually, “You just forgot you had a gun in your purse?”
“YES!! My-husband-made-me-get-it-for-the-apocalypse-and-I’ve-been-carrying-it-around-for-months-and-I-totally-forgot-it-was-in-there-because-I-never-use-it-and-this-is-TOTALLY-his-fault!” I said in a single breath because fuck asthma.
He nods knowingly and says, “We see it all the time. You’re the ninth person this week to do this. In fact, you’re the second person today.”
Knowing that it is only noon and I’m the second person today to forget they have a gun in their bag at the goddamn airport is both comforting and deeply disturbing.
When we reach the molten magma of the Earth’s core, we exit the elevator and make our way through a labyrinth of dark narrow hallways to finally arrive in the aforementioned small, stuffy room where I now have to confront how ill-advised the instructions I have given my Kid about getting arrested may be.
It is a room full of cops, computers and one unconscious guy in a holding cell that is broadcast on a 32” video monitor even though his cell door has a very large window that provides the same view. This room is so not cute. You know the jokes about DIA being built by the Illuminati and them having their headquarters underneath it? I say doubtful. Sure, it’s the perfect environment to run a clandestine global organization dedicated to justice through enlightenment and reason, but having seen it, I feel like the Illuminati would have built something classier. More like the catacombs of Paris or the crypts beneath Winterfell and less like where Paul Blart goes to grab a sandwich and scratch himself.
My handcuffs are left politely loose but even so, my arms are starting to ache, my fingers are numb and it feels like a white-hot knitting needle is being slowly drilled into the top of my shoulder, down the length of my back, jabbing into my sciatic nerve. I’m trying not to be that insufferable chick who demands to be treated like royalty even when she’s clearly in the wrong (although admittedly, this is sort of my default setting), so I sit quietly, wiggling each finger in turn, rolling my shoulders forward three times, backward three times, counting my breaths, then holding my breath, trying to focus on watching Tiger Woods in the US Open rather than watching the agonizingly slow progress of my report being filed on a computer that looks older than Tiger Woods and has exactly the amount of Wi-fi connectivity you’d expect it to have here inside the Earth’s core, which is to say, none. I am starting to feel a little jealous of the unconscious guy in the holding cell who is being allowed to peacefully sleep off his mistakes sans handcuffs.
O2: May I remove the gun from your purse?
Me: Yes, sir.
O2: Am I going to find anything else in there that I should be concerned about?
Me: (Is this a trick question? I didn’t even remember there was a loaded gun in there! I clearly can’t be counted on to know the contents of my purse let alone understand which of those contents will concern him! Will a shit ton of expired Klonopin be of concern?! Fucksticks. I have to say something, he’s starting to look at me funny…) “I don’t think so?”
Just then, from somewhere deep inside my purse, Tom Petty starts singing “Yeah, you’re keepin’ me alive,” and the room gets very still. Sensing their alarm, I explain, “Oh, that’s just my husband calling,” thinking that would break the tension. The tension snapped right in half.
Suddenly, the two standing cops spin around, the two sitting cops jump out of their chairs, and one of them angrily shouts, “YOUR HUSBAND IS HERE WITH YOU?!!”
“Umm, no?? He’s … calling … me … from … Nashville?” (If I speak slowly will it de-escalate the situation? Or does speaking slowly sound condescending? What is the right speed for speaking?! I forgot how to do speaking!??!)
“I THOUGHT YOU WERE TRAVELING ALONE?!!” says Officer 1.
“Yes sir, I am,” I say meekly (is this voice the right kind of respectfully meek or the bad kind of annoyingly childlike meek?!).
We have already had this conversation a couple times but I have obviously failed to comprehend the importance of my husband’s whereabouts to these folks. What I later piece together is that having a person detained while the person’s partner may be running around god-knows-where in the airport is potentially a very bad thing. I could be a decoy designed to distract them from some nefarious deed that my accomplice is perpetrating or that phone call could be a signal that all the detonation devices are in place and it is ‘go time’ or countless other sneaky schemes which require precision timing and a partner with Tom Petty ringtones. But I don’t know that now. All I know now is that a room full of cops is alarmingly angry with me.
Somehow this new tenor of rage and suspicion makes my shoulders hurt worse. I assure them several more times that I am indeed alone in the airport. Completely and utterly alone and at their mercy.
At this point, a couple of deputies from the sheriff’s department come to take the unconscious guy away but they discover that there has been some sort of paperwork snafu and they have the wrong warrants or the warrants are for the wrong county or some other such hilarious cockup and a great deal of merriment and laughter is had by all, so now everyone is in a much better mood. They go back to work tagging and bagging my gun to be used as evidence later at my hearing.
After an hour of handcuff-related muscle spasms and panic-sweats, I am officially “processed” and assigned a date to appear in a Denver court next month. “Oh, and be sure to watch your mail for a TSA Notice of Violation too,” says Officer 1. “They’re gonna fine you between $4,000 to $13,000 for this.” He looks at his watch. “Hey! You might still make your flight!”
With that, he unlocks my handcuffs, hands me my Denver summons, then leans in close and says encouragingly, “You should run like hell now.”
I make my flight, board the plane, and text my Kid: “Feel free to call me if you ever get arrested.”