09 June 2012

you're in business?

A little story for you from my business trip to Philadelphia:

As I was going through security today at O'Hare, I got pulled out of the line for extra screening on my bag. The TSA lady told me they had "seen something flashing orange" when it went through the scanner.

And seeing as that made no sense to me (flashing orange? Did I leave a strobe light of some sort in my bag?), I asked what exactly that could mean. It seems that on their scanners, things glow a variety of colors for various reasons and orange could indicate a powder of some sort.

I assume they aren't concerned about baby powder so much as the explosive kind of powder, and that's what they were potentially, maybe, it's-glowing-orange, seeing in my bag.

Now, I am the kind of person who assumes every alarm, car horn, and buzzer is meant for me: I have done something wrong, and I will now get in trouble.

Driving to the gym the other morning, I made a full stop at a four-way intersection, made eye contact with another driver, who waved me through. As I gently accelerated, someone honked loudly and ferociously; in an instant, my face turned red, my heart raced as if I'd already finished my workout, and I instinctively—and simultaneously—hit the brake and apologized. Out loud. To no one.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw that another driver had seen a friend biking and so he'd honked to say hello. They were chatting through the car's open window and there was even laughter involved.

No one was in trouble, least of all me, and it must be some detail of my personality that relates to the goody-two-shoes, perfectionist thing, but that gut-dropping feeling of "being in trouble" overtakes me more than I should admit.

Of course when the TSA agent pulled me out of line, I assumed I was going to jail. I had an urge to recite the preamble to the Constitution or sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee"—anything to prove that I'm a good, law-abiding citizen.

The TSA lady unzipped my bag and went straight for my box of business cards. "Ma'am, I need you to tell me truthfully what's in here," she told me, looking and sounding very, very serious.

"Um, business cards. I just picked them up last night from my friend Katie, who works at a company that makes all sorts of things, including magnets, but in this case, they made me business cards. I'm taking them to a meeting in Philadelphia for the weekend. That's why I'm flying today. For business. With my business cards. In that box."

When I get nervous, I tend to babble, speak in fragments, and provide too many details.

I got the idea that she didn't believe me, especially when she asked, "You're in business? Is this your first job out of college?"

As a life-lesson note: babbling rarely makes you look older and more mature.

"Oh, no! I'm 30! No, I am, really!" (Should I show her my driver's license? Conveniently enough, it's still in my back pocket, where I put it after showing it to the security guy.) "And this is not my first job; I'm the Editorial Director of a medical media company. It says so on my card. Which is in that box. In your hand."

I gestured helpfully at her hand, and then smiled hopefully.

Please stop looking at me like I'm in trouble, TSA Lady. Please please please please.

She opened the box and pulled out a card. "Kamiah A. Walker. Editorial Director. Well, look at that. You really are a grown-up. I have to run this back through the scanner to make sure it's all right, but it seems like you're fine."

I repeated to myself: I am fine. I am fine. I am fine. My government isn't mad at me. My government isn't mad at me.

"But honey," she said as she turned away towards the scanner, "if you're the Editorial Director, does that mean that you're in charge of things—and people?" Her face suggested that she thought maybe I should only be in charge of Playskool people—and even in that case, perhaps just drawings of Playskool people.

"Yep, sure does! Hey, do you want a card? I would totally give you one. I love handing these things out." My enthusiasm made her smile.

"Well, thank you, honey. You seem to have a knack for enjoying the little things, and I guess that's a good trait to have. Certainly keeps you from getting too bored, huh?" She handed back my box of cards—it having been approved to fly by the TSA—and chuckled as I handed a card back to her.

"Miss Editorial Director, you have a good day, and just keep handing out those cards, ok?"

And that is why I love flying, my business cards, and not getting in trouble with the TSA.

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