I'm writing this from, um, Pest Woint. I'm here for commencement. Bush is the keynote speaker, ergo the security for this is higher than usual, and I all but had to give up a DNA sample to get credntialed. Seriously, my boss could open a charge card in my name with all the info he had to get from me to give the service that is secret. They SO totally checked my FBI file. They had to. Which means they know all about me getting arrested for the self-defense keychain in Heathrow Airport. Hell, they probably saw pictures of it in its evidence bag from the U.S. Embassy.
As I went through everything but a full body cavity search this past week, I couldn't help but think that if that little incident would ever come back to bite me in the ass, it would be now. So.
5:00 a.m. Slap alarm clock snooze button.
5:03 a.m. Snap alarm on cell phone shut.
5:09 a.m. Snooze.
5:11 a.m. Second cell phone alarm.
5:12 a.m. Give up, get out of bed.
5:14 a.m. Catch self sleepily staring into space in bathroom.
5:15 a.m. Catch self staring at tile.
5:16 a.m. Shower.
5:21 a.m. Hop around in towel, trying to find which of three alarms is emitting Piercing Beep of Death and Hate.
5:22 a.m. Hop, shake covers, slap phone.
5:30 a.m. Leave house with all articles of clothing on self correctly.
5:37 a.m. McDonald's drive-thru. Bah-da dut dut dah. I'm lovin' it.
5:38 a.m. Well, I will be lovin' it.
5:40 a.m. Am only car in lane.
5:41 a.m. Surely will take order soon.
5:42 a.m. Success!
5:43 a.m. Waiting for food.
5:45 a.m. Waiting.
5:46 a.m. Need to be at security gate 50 miles away in 74 minutes.
5:47 a.m. Watching drive-thru employees refill sugar packets. Will just wait a moment before catching attention.
5:48 a.m. Will wait 'til 5:50 before saying something. Yes.
5:50 a.m. Chirp: "You know I'm here, right?" Meaning: "Give me my damn coffee before I try to snort any remaining caffeine out of that sticky puddle in the ashtray from yesterday's spill!... Please."
5:51 a.m. Have food! Am getting on highway! Happy!
5:52 a.m. Bah-da-dut- dammit! Sous chef at McDonald's has not included frightening but familar pink meat frisbee in Egg McMuffin that took 10 minutes to make. McMuffin is gooey egg discus with two dry sponges around it.
5:53 a.m. MMmm...Hash brown...
6:00 a.m. Foggy driving.
6:17 a.m. Foggy bridge.
6:35 a.m. Driving.
6:42 a.m. First security gate.
6:44 a.m. Second security gate.
6:45 a.m. Trunk check.
6:46 a.m. Media parking.
6:47 a.m. Credential check.
6:48 a.m. Media shuttle bus! Hurrah!
6:53 a.m. Metal detector. Hop on the "faster" line just for media.
6:55 a.m. In line.
6:56 a.m. Gear taken from me for inspection. Feel as though dropping child off at heavily armed kindergarten for first time. Watch $20,000 taken out of my control.
6:57 a.m. Agent drops a lens belonging to another photographer. (Lens costs more than my car.)
7:00 a.m. German- I mean, Liberty- Shepherd sniffs bag. Could be worse. Could be a Freedom Poodle.
7:01 a.m. Shepherd smells laptop bag and SITS. This is bad. It is bad for any kind of drug-sniffing, bomb-detecting, mold-finding, terrorist-catching animal to sit near your belongings while working. Sitting is its way of telling the nice man with the gun, "I smell pot! Or TNT! Or Al-Quaida! Or TOXIC MOLD! Come here! Come here! Here I sit! Here!
7:02 a.m. Probably a coincidence. Small talk with reporter colleague.
7:03 a.m. Talky Talk.
7:06 a.m. I can see my pink wallet getting the most thorough exam imaginable. I hope the agent bought it dinner first, at least.
7:07 a.m. The agents start pulling individual items from my camera bag. The agent puts on rubber gloves before touching my bottle of hand sanitizer. The irony. My heart is starting to pound, because this is starting to feel like Heathrow Airport. It is 1999, and I am scared, and alone, but thin.
7:08 a.m. Deep breathe. Am not in England. Breathing.
7:09 a.m. The Shepherd sits next to my laptop bag. Again. And one more time. Doom. DOOM!
7:09 and one-fourth of a second a.m.:
Agent- WILL THE INDIVIDUAL WHO BROUGHT THESE ITEMS STEP FORWARD?
Me: "That would be me," I say, smiling my most benign, least terrorist-y smile.
7:11 a.m. A second Shepherd is brought out. And.. he sniffs the now completely empty laptop bag.
7:12 a.m. And.... He sits.
Secret Service Agent: Ma'am, do you own animals?
Me: Yes, I do. My cat sleeps on the laptop bag. See... all the white cat hairs on the Velcro? He likes to rub his head against the velcro.
TV anchor from local affiliate: (takes her lipstick back from different agent) That's hilarious.
Secret Service Agent: (to me) You may reclaim all your belongings, ma'am. The media room is the first door on the right.
So the cat made the bag smell like bombs? I thought he was clever when he accidentally called Microsoft in the middle of the night. Twice. This is totally a new skill set for him. Hail to My Weird Little Cat.