First things first: my child is not going to jail. She walked out of the video store with two disks; when she realized her error she was certain she faced a stretch in stir. Good to know she has a conscience – and amusing to note that she acted on the same instincts you see on “Cops,” and hid under the dining room table. No, they’d never look there.

So I went back to the video store, stood in a long line behind a woman holding a small, vibrating dog. She was vibrating, too; her leg was jumping up and down with nervous energy, as if they dog was sending off waves she had to bleed off through her own extremities. I explained to the clerk what had happened; he didn’t care, as you might expect. At the end of the transaction he told me to walk around the security alarms, as they always do, and he handed me the movies.

Wait a minute, I said. Shouldn’t these have set off the alarms in the first place?

He grinned, shrugged. “Some of them do, some of them don’t.”

You know what? I’ll bet none of them do. Too bad. It would be clever if the could fix the movies so an exploding dye pack went of in the film, and ruined everything. People’s faces were blue, or the dye went all over the camera lens.

The flight home was not without complications. The plane came down in the location promised, so I can’t complain. Or rather shouldn’t. One can always complain. The valet was supposed to pick up our bag at 9:20. The valet arrived at 9:20: that renowned Disney punctuality. We were deposited at the human-processing center at 9:30, and I wondered aloud why they’d asked the valet to come at 9:20, since our bus wouldn’t arrive until 10:30. The valet said we could take the earlier bus, if we chose. Whoa, whoa: he was rewriting the Disney rules right there for all to hear and he didn’t care who knew it. I expected him to clutch his Collar of Obedience and stagger back, eyes wide with blinding silent pain, but no. So we got on the 9:30 bus. This meant we’d arrive at the airport about three hours early.

Perfect!

But we didn’t leave right away. I gave the driver our bags, and he stowed them in the hold. We took our seats. After a while the driver got on the bus intercom and asked if the bags on the curb belonged to anyone. Obviously they did, unless they’d been beamed into our dimension by a species of robots who believed in communal property. Even then you could make the case they belonged to someone, inasmuch as a hive-mind collective has a unitary consciousness. Everyone looked out the window, someone said they were indeed their bags, and accompanied the driver to supervise their disposition. We waited a few minutes. Then the driver said there were two more bags on the curb, and wondered if they belonged to anyone. I looked: those were our bags. The bags I’d seen the driver put away. So he’d taken them out to make room for the other bags, then found himself staring at the bags he’d just removed, wondering: now where the hell did these come from.

Good thing I checked. I said they were our bags, and he nodded and put them away. I had the feeling we would end up in Key West 27 hours hence.

But he found the airport. We checked our bags; the fellow in line ahead of us had three suit bags of a cheap shiny material, and he appeared to have compounded his problem by spraying the bags with silicon – every time he draped them over his luggage, they slid bonelessly to the floor. I checked my locks before I turned the bag over – I had decided to take a chance and put my videocamera in the checked bag, because my carry-on was bursting. (With things I could have put in the luggage, come to think of it.) It was well-padded, and I had foil-proof TSA locks. Still, it felt like the first day you drop your kid off from school. See you in a few hours, I thought, ripped apart and emptied of value.

We had a few hours to explore the Wonders of the Orlando Airport. Looks like a 90s mall. Huge. Many stores. I enjoyed the NASA store, and bought a few items. They had a sliver of a Martian meteorite on display. You could touch it. I explained what it was to Gnat, and she took it in stride. Kids today: touching material from another planet is no big deal. I was hesitant to touch it, having seen any number of movies in which long-dormant entities are awakened in this fashion.

I touched it, or course. So far, so good. No triple-jointed neoplasms bursting from my torso, at least at press time.

We passed the Seaworld gift shop, where you could relive the magic of the original Seaworld gift shop. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, and I’m sure there are the famous Budweiser Dolphins at Horseworld, but it’s still odd.

(Note: perfectly reasonable explanation here.)

Then we hit the arcade. Pinball! I’d never seen this table:

You almost don’t want to win a free game, because you wonder how you’ll be obligated. Then it was lunch time. Off to the food court, which has a tall cylindrical aquarium. It also had a man inside. In a wetsuit. He was cleaning the interior, and everyone was fascinated: dozens of people with a burger in one hand and a drink in the other, watching a fellow scour off fish shite from leathery plants. I considered the food options, and was dismayed: McDonalds. Advantage: fries can be good. Disadvantage: not really food in the technical sense. Sbarro’s. Advantage: is pizza. Disadvantage: is bad. And so on. And so on.

And then I spied it.

Chick-fil-A.

Never had one. I’d heard good things. Well, let’s try one, then. I should note that I never get pickles on anything, because I still have the ancient childhood prejudice against pickles. I’ve been working my way through the adult condiment group gradually; had the big mustard revelation when I was in my early 20s, got deeply into mayo a few years back, made a fool of myself over onions in my early 30s, but pickles – well, there didn’t seem to be a need for them, and they seemed like they’d run the show. But the Chick-Fil-A Story, as described in the store’s mission statement, said that the pickles were an integral part of the experience, and I’d never heard anyone make that claim. It wasn’t just the presence of pickles; it was the number, and the number shall be two. One shall be not enough, and three is right off. Two is the number of the pickles. Amen.

So I had it with pickles.

I took my seat by the shite-scraper show and removed the sandwich from its foil. It felt warm and gentle. It was like holding a lamb’s soul in your hands. I took a bite.

I’ve never quite had this experience before. On one side of the brain, total pleasure. On the other side of the brain, a simultaneous desire to become a franchisee. It was the most delicious piece of fast-food I’d ever had, and I say that knowing well that 67% of my email headers tomorrow will read “Chick-Fil-A” and everyone will agree. No, I didn’t have the waffle fries. A man has to have something to live for.

While waiting for the plane a nice lady, also waiting to go back to Minneapolis, asked if I was me. I said that I was, and she told me how much she enjoyed the column. She’d been out of town for a while, so I had to break the news. It was a good way to remind myself what I was going to back to, I suppose.

Up the air. I finished the book, slept for a while, then listened to Johnny Dollar radio mysteries on the XM channel. Fifty-two year-old dramas piped from a hole in the armrest: what a wonderful world. The plane landed before I could hear the conclusion, but I figured I’d find it online. (I did. What a wonderful world.) We landed and took our places at the baggage carousel.

Fifteen minutes later everyone had left and all the bags were taken. I was still waiting for mine. Then the belt shut down. There were no more bags. My bag was gone.

And with it, of course, my camera.

I filed some paperwork and slunk out, feeling stupid beyond compare. But hours later the airline (Air Tran, which was otherwise impressive; I’d fly them again, if only for the XM) called to say the bag would be delivered before one AM. At 12:37 AM, it was. I was in my evening wear, and didn’t have my wallet – I felt obligated to tip the guy, but on the other hand, they lost the bag. On the other hand, he didn’t. I thanked him and dragged it inside and tried the lock.

My combination didn’t work. So now I believed that the TSA employees had X-rayed it, seen the camera, stolen the camera, and reset the lock to give them a few hours’ time to run for the border.

The next day I tried again. No luck. I ended up popping the rings that held the lock in place. I pawed through the clothes. There was the camera. I fired it up to see if the bag screeners had filmed a taunting video full of pants-down shennanigans . . . before they put it back in the bag and changed the lock. Right. No, everything was fine.

Everything had worked out. Everything! Even the mug I’d bought was intact. Odd: for some reason I had bought that mug to go in my new office . . . wherever that was. I had the idea I’d end up in the online division across the street, and the mug would be an emblem of the New Job, however long that lasted.

But of course I don’t have the new job yet, and I might not get it. I am in the running for a job in online. Can’t say more, but it’s a blogging job. There are other candidates. Whether ten years experience counts, I don’t know. It would be perfect, if I got it; I’d be able to keep my life. No office ties, no pounding the sewer-board beat. Give me a wireless card and let me write from the food court at the new Target. Roving Reporter At Large, and all that. I’ll know by the end of the week. All fingers are crossed. Which makes it hard to type.

AUUUGGGH

JEEEBUS criminey, my lip is bleeding.

I’m sitting outside in the gazebo, and a large bug the size of a fargin’ Cinnabon just flew down my shirt. One of those big buzzy bastards, too. I flailed at my shirt, brought my knees up, and pitched my lip into the edge of the laptop. Ow. Ow.

Gah! He’s still buzzing me.

 

This fly will not leave me be. Inside.

LATER

Much later – I wrote that Friday night, when it was warm. Sunday the temps dropped 36 degrees.  Monday should be up to 80 again. I had intended to post a long segment I wrote this afternoon on the Minneapolis Public Library finances – seriously, I was going to do that to you – but maybe tomorrow. I was halfway through it when I realized it was the sort of thing I’d post if I got the blogging job. It’s not the sort of thing I could put in the paper, because it’s opinion reporting, full of loaded language and Cruel, Mocking Hypothetical Scenarios. But it is interesting stuff – no, come back, really it is. Every big city has stories like these, and they tend to reveal the writhing pot of eels you confront when you start looking at all the various agencies responsible for Doing Things.

This will not be a spinach week. It will be somewhat . . . distracted, since my livelihood is on the line at week’s end. But I’m still in a ridiculously good mood and have no intention of changing that. Life’s too short to act like life’s long enough to waste moping about how life’s too short, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure I do. There’s probably an aphorism in there if I got to whittlin’, but it’s time to watch the Sopranos. See you tomorrow!

 

 

 

 
   
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