Pepper and the Friendly Skies
Anyone who’s known me more than a week knows that I am a wanna-be pepper spray aficionado. I don’t leaf through magazines or think about entering contests or anything. I just like it the way some people like leafing through cookbooks.
It’s become so that I’ve been thinking of collecting those little cans, the way some people collect mugs or saltshakers when they go on vacation, then building a shelf in my house so I can put them on display for when company comes.
But one night, it nearly got me in trouble. It started with a 5:00 a.m. shuttle ride to the airport for a trip to see my mother. Because I was afraid of oversleeping and having that shuttle take off without me, I had trouble falling asleep and wound up staying up all night.
So I used the time to try squeezing my things for the weeklong trip into a tony red faux croc carry-on case I’d bought on sale but turned out the be useless as a suitcase. The same for another bag I planned on using to avoid luggage fees. No matter what, I couldn’t close either even after sitting on both. So I opted for wearing several outfits at once. I was a little warm, but at least the suitcases closed.
Then, and this where the argument for getting a good night’s sleep comes in, I put the spray in my pocket and went to the garage to check on my car. The security guard with the low forehead was there, but in case he or someone else got funny, I was prepared.
He smiled, waved, and I went back upstairs and continued working on the suitcases until the shuttle arrived. The driver, a tight-lipped man, barely made eye contact with me as he hoisted my bags and computer case into the rear of the van before darting back into traffic.
I leaned my head against the cool glass and shut my eyes. Moments later, I suspected something was not right and reached into the pocket of one of my sweaters and found the canister.
“Sir?” I said to the driver.
His eyes appeared in the rearview mirror like small brown slits.
“Can we go back to my house? I think I accidentally brought something with me that I’m not supposed to have.”
“No,” he said. “Another passenger has a seven o’clock flight, and we’re going to be late.”
I slumped into my seat. I didn’t want to throw it away because I’d just bought it and I didn’t want anyone else coming across it, either. “It’s getting hot in here,” I said. “Can you turn on the air? Is anyone else in here hot?”
Everyone else felt fine, but he turned a dial anyway. The next fare was a woman and child headed for Hawaii. They shared their plans with me while I tried closing my eyes and thinking of ways to get rid of the canister before being questioned by airport security. I grunted in return. Didn’t they realize that the woman next to them wearing all those outfits was in a potential jam?
We stopped at a terminal and he let me out while I paid, though it was my first time ever stiffing someone.
I asked a baggage handler if the airport had a Post Office. He said that they took them out after 9/11, which only shows how detail oriented I sometimes can be. Searching around, I spotted a garbage can and realized that it was about the only way out, other than a possible meeting with airport security, was to part ways with Pepper.
The moral of the story is always get a good night’s sleep, empty your pockets upon returning home and choose a more kind and compassionate driver so this sort of thing won’t happen again.