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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Uber Author Trapped In ATL airport

The Photo that saved me:

Here's a story,
About a girl named Jenny,
She lost her ID at the Atlanta airport.

Okay, I'm tooooo tired to write the whole story in song ;-). The thing is, I never seem to be able to get HOME without a big to-do at Atlanta airport. Delta and I--we just make stories together. My girlfriends always tell me they NEVER want to travel with me because I've so much bad luck.

That's why I asked y'all to cross your fingers and toes for me whenever I travel. It's ALWAYS a scary adventure, of a sort. One year, all my panties were stolen. I kid you not. Another, the plane had to make a detour to Athens, GA, because of strange hailstorm and lightning.

So, anyway, this time...;-)

I lost my ID.

I have to backtrack a bit here and add that there was a warning from the universe the night before. I lost my Gennita Low name tag that had all my little pins on it and technically, without it, I wouldn't have been allowed to enter the gala or parties. So I was non-Gennita Low that night.

So, on Sunday, at the airport, I went through Security the usual way, taking off my bracelets, belt, pulling off the sunglasses, shoes and cellphone. Laptop out of bag. Shoulder bag. Then I go through the Security tunnel barefoot, with ticket in hand. I remember showing the attendant there my ticket, remember slipping the ID back with the ticket into the paper jacket.

Usually, and I have done this dozens of times, I would put the ticket (with ID) into the side pocket of the shoulder bag, take it off, then proceed to put on my trinkets, shoes, etc. Then replace laptop back into carry-on, and tada! I'm off to the concourse to catch the plane.

Well, I thought I did that. I remember pulling at my belt and some gentleman joked about whether he could help, and I laughed and joked back about "all I need now is to walk onto the shuttle with my pants falling down." I'm not sure whether this was the point when either the ticket dropped out of my bag or someone tried to pickpocket my luggage.

Anyway, I took the shuttle to Concourse B and got to my gate. Put my hand into the side pocket. NO TICKET. NO ID. Oh-oh. I only had 20 minutes before the plane took off. The airline attendant at the counter told me the plane couldn't wait for me. As if I didn't know that!

I had to circle back to ground transportation and went back to Security, this time WITHOUT an ID. The guard said to me, with this incredulous look, "You want to go through here without an ID?" I explained the situation to him but of course once wasn't enough; he had to listen to the story again. I obliged.

"You want to go through Security and you don't have an ID," he said again.

"I already did it once," I said, then hastily amended, "No, I mean, I went through the first time WITH an ID. I just don't have one now. I lost it somewhere in there."

"So why are you over here on this side?"

"Because I can't get in there through anywhere but here!" Was I not making sense? I didn't have any access through the secret passages so of course I had to do it the normal way. "I lost my ID between the checkpoint and the ticket counter and I'm hoping someone found it and gave it to y'all."

"Okay, hold on a minute."

A minute was more like fifteen. I had lost hope of actually making my flight. Four BIG airport security dudes showed up. BIG DUDES. I guess one or two were too few to handle me. Anyway, they escorted me to the security checkpoint, bypassing the line, and then I had to go through the whole thing again--take off belt, shoes, trinkets, phone, etc. etc. This time, they went through everything twice because well, they felt like it. I didn't make a beep going through the tunnel again, but they still ran a wand up and down my body and my bare feet. I patiently let them put my laptop through some special test behind another screen. Well, I guess, without an ID, I was a security risk, you know.

Then the four men took all my stuff--one had my tray with the trinkets; one had the tray with the laptop; one held my shoulder bag; and one took my carry-on--and escorted me to this booth. The man was most helpful, calling people left and right, but there was no sign of my ID or ticket.

By this time, my plane was long gone. The man in the booth became even more helpful. He informed me that since I'm without an ID, I couldn't get another ticket to go home unless I could get another ID with a pic.

Of course I didn't have my passport on me. I didn't even have my book to show them my picture at the back!

"Couldn't your husband fax your passport?"

You know, many people only have one photo ID and that's their Driver's License. I was fortunate to have a passport but it was going to be such a pain to call home and get one of my dogs to work the fax machine. That was, if they could use those clever little paws to unlock the safe.

Hmm. Dilemma, dilemma. Everyone I knew was out of town, including my own neighbor! RB didn't own a cell phone, as you know. Argggh. I was seeing the handwriting on the wall: HERE LIES GENNITA LOW, FOREVER TRAPPED AT ATLANTA AIRPORT BECAUSE DELTA WANTS TO KEEP HER.

Then, the biggest LIGHTBULB came on in my head! Memory cells were still present in spite of my attempts to kill all of them the last five nights ;-). I remembered that a few weeks ago, I'd tossed my Fl. concealed weapons ID into one of my handbags after screaming in horror at the PHOTO that was on it. The photo was one of me looking like a murderess on the run--hair in all directions, maniacal eyes, a sneer of a smile. I had joked with RB that "yeah, with my luck, some cop will look at this some day in the next five years and they're going to think 'she owns a weapon??! Danger...Danger!'."

Me and my big mouth.

But I still squealed in excitement at the knowledge that I might be able to escape my fate of being Identityless in Atlanta. The squeal apparently scared all four of my "guards." I ran toward the one with my carry-on. Oh, please, girlfriends, don't ever do that. It makes big dudes with guns very nervous. All of them started making these "whoa, whoa, whoa" noises and "what are you doing?" and "STOP. RIGHT. NOW."

Okay, so I froze in mid-squeal and mid-jump. I explained that I remembered that I had an ID in that bag.

The men were now joined by TWO BIG Homeland Security dudes. And my story was repeated a fourth/fifth???? time.

"And now you say you have another ID?" one of them said, somewhat skeptically.

"Yeah, I remember that I tossed a photo ID in another handbag." I pointed at my carry-on, trying to give the impression that I wasn't excited. Calm, Jenn, calm. These dudes were nervous. How did I know? Each one had their hand on their belt. Yup. Nervous. "In there. Can I open it?"

"Unzip it slowly."

Sure, anything you say, sir. I unzipped it as slowly as I could and lifted the flap with my forefingers.

"What's that?" one of them barked.

"A laptop," I replied helpfully. "It's been through the security machine at least twice that I know of already.

"Has she been checked?" another of the Homeland dudes asked.

"Yes. She was screened." (I should put that in a book somewhere--"She was screened. Several times." The real experience sure wasn't as erotic as it sounded. Now if one of these Big Security Dudes looked more like George Clooney, I'd...hmm, better take that dopey smile off my face so I don't get screened again.)

After thinking about it, one of them nodded to me to continue. I pulled out my Back Up purse and started to dig out an inordinate amount of things that I'd stuffed in there. You know...things that spies needed. Make-up. Change. Hairpins. Receipts. Gum. Gum wrappers. Pens. Tons of pens. Oh, so there was where the other earring went. Oh, wow, here was that tube of lipstick I've been missing. Umm...women's emergency thingies. Okay, better dig harder because the guys were getting restless here. FOUND IT! I squealed again and then made a face and apologized.

"Sorry," I said, "I didn't mean to scare you again." I looked down at the ID and then flinched. I added, "Looks like you're going to be scared again, though."

I handed over the horrible, horrible ID. Trust me, you don't want anyone to look at a pic like that. Those WANTED BY the FBI photos in the post office? Those women looked like beauty queens compared to this one.

The Homeland Security Guy looked at it. Studied it. Looked at me. I just knew what he was thinking. Someone issued a weapon's license after looking at this picture? I just smiled.

"Do you own a weapon?" he asked.

Hello? I got a concealed weapons ID just in case I lost my driver's license, of course.

"Not in Atlanta," I replied.

He studied the picture again. I know, dude, okay? It's a really UGLY PICTURE.

"It'll do," he finally said.

Whew. I was allowed to repack everything. This time I left without an escort (having an ID proved that I...had an ID...I guess?) and went to the ticket counter to get standby tickets. I was on standby for...oh...half a day. I learned many things while running from concourse to concourse, looking for the next plane to stand in line for.

First, Delta Puddlejumper concourse is Concourse C and I swear I'll try never to ride any of those planes. If you want a taste of the C for Circus of Fear, just sit at Gates 33-36 and watch the human zoo being shepherded from plane to plane as their flights get changed for maintenance reasons. Or, that the flight crew couldn't be located. Yup. No one knew where the flight crew for one plane was. Or, well, the destination of one plane was changed and so everyone did musical planes. I saw all this as I sat there...and I wondered, how would these people's luggage know which plane they were on?

Wondering (and wandering) aside, I did get home, finally, at 8pm and it was so, so wonderful to have my DOGS KNOW IT'S ME! I don't need no stinking ID to get dog kisses!

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Mich "-) said...

Oh girl you have my eyes leaking as I sit her drinking my cuppa this morn! I'm sooo sorry you went thru hell but what a FAB story to read this morn! I think you are going to go and have about 12 ID's made and have them stuck in various pocket on your person and in your bags whenever you travel from now on! Oh yeah and NOT fly Delta!

Leiha said...

OMG, that is awful yet the way you told it was hilarious! I can totally picture you at the airport squealing and jumping up and town. I'm glad that now that you have something with your face on it you are no longer a threat, LOL.

OK chick, thanks for the heads up, I will never fly with you in the future but I still love you, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Shudder what a mess! LOL yeah Jenn you look real fearsome! Good thing they had all those guards on top of things or you'd surely karate chop all their balls into a grinding dust. looked at your other posts and pics and they are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

P.S. surely it couldn't be that bad a pic. My mother once took an id pic and it was prob the worst in North America. Her eyes were popping out, hand standing up with a tenderil flying across her face like a mustache!

Mirmie said...

Jenn...just when I think you're travel adventures can't get any more weird, you go and amp it up to a WHOLE 'nother level, doncha? As much as I lub you, honey...please remind me never to travel on the same AIRLINE (much less plane) as you...I'd like to get home with a little less excitement than you!!


casee said...

Good Lord, Jenn. That is a horrific story that someday you'll laugh about...I hope. Hehe. I love the "Do you own a weapon?" question. That is hysterical. Sounds like that guy had more brawn than brain.

Airport Security is so inconsistent. I flew out in and out of Sacramento in the same day a few months ago. When I went through the other airport to go BACK to Sacramento, they found a pocket knife in my purse. I tried to explain to the guy that I just cleaned out my desk at work, but I had to go through much of what you did. The scary thing was that the Sacramento Airport didn't catch it.

SQ said...

snicker. Geez Jenn. You're like one of the toddlers I used to babysit--have to pin EVERYTHING to you. Including laminated card reading, "if found, please return to..."

RB should get an emergency cell just for you. Think of the stories he can tell, like how he had to bail you out of Gitmo.

Gennita Low said...

Ah, yes, so now you're ALL afraid to go on a plane with me, huh? COWARDS!!! ;-D


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