|Deb at TIA about to leave for Barcelona|
So there we were, Spouse and I, at the airport in Venice, Italy a few weeks ago, waiting in the massive security que to board our plane.
Our long anticipated 35th wedding anniversary Mediterranean Cruise had been great fun, but we were exhausted after five countries in 15 days and anxious to get this last leg of our journey back home over.
A long line of suitcases, backpacks, purses, and totes rested at the feet of their weary owners, all travelers waiting with different degrees of impatience to partially disrobe in front of prying eyes and pass before the large screening device as their belongings rode the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine. It looked to be at least 15 more minutes before it would be our turn.
I took one last swig of my water before seeking a nearby trash can in which to toss the half-filled bottle. It was then I saw her.
Making her way boldly down the snaking procession of stalled plane-boarders was a medium-sized dog that appeared to be a beagle-bloodhound mix, dragging in her wake a uniformed security guard at the end of a short leash. I had heard about these airport sniffer dogs, trained to detect a number of illegal substances being smuggled out of the country.
This one was a proud little canine, sniffing her way confidently along, weaving through thousands of human legs while doing her job well, inspecting each bag, carry-on and tote with her large, moist, undulating black nose and then moving on to the next.
Moving along, that is, until she reached my bags.
She passed my suitcase with no fanfare, but I’d made the mistake of sliding my 40-lb mega-mama purse off my shoulder, as always laden with everything a person could possibly need to live on a deserted island for a week, and placing it beside my carry-on to give my lopsided body a little rest before heaving it upward again when the line began moving.
The busy working dog cast a casual glance toward my purse as her furry pumping legs aimed toward Spouse’s backpack. Suddenly, she halted in mid-stride. Her head literally snapped backward in a double take as her black nostrils flared and her head flew up in excitement.
Miss B (I shall call her Miss B for Beagle/Bloodhound) made a B-line right toward my purse.
Miss B became visibly more excited as she sniffed all around the exterior of my purse. Heaven help me! I thought I would puddle up right then and there like the Wicked Witch of the West in a downpour. Everyone within a quarter-mile vicinity obviously thought I was the WW of the W or at least her wayward niece as they eyed me with alarm.
I could read their minds. What kind of brazen, horrible drug-smuggling woman would pose as a regular tourist and have the audacity to STAND IN LINE BESIDE ME???
Then Miss B stuck her snout down into the interior of my purse and stood there wagging her tail as her head nearly disappeared completely into the depths of my mammoth handbag.
I noticed Miss B’s handler quietly move his right hand toward the rather large handgun prominently displayed on his belt and keep it there as he asked me in heavily accented English to empty out the contents of my purse on the ground.
It was then I started to sweat. I could barely breathe. I’d read frightening stories about foreign prisons and Americans who mistakenly ended up in them. What were Italian prisons like? Were they crawling with roaches and vermin? Did they still have firing squads?
The silent crowd around us parted like the tremulous waters of the Red Sea.
I had a hard time wrestling my purse away from Miss B, who was reluctant to disengage her finely tuned sniffing apparatus from my bag, but after a little ado, I was finally was able to display the embarrassing contents for all to enjoy. And by the laughter that ensued, I’m quite sure my impromptu fellow-traveler audience enjoyed themselves immensely at my expense.
It was hard to discern which item had interested Miss B most. It could have been the remains of a ham and cheese sandwich consumed the day before. Or the baggie of chocolate candies I’d collected from our cruise cabin pillows each night. It might have been the three granola bars, or the blueberrry muffin, or the crumbling chunk of leftover cheese pastry from breakfast.
But I’m pretty sure it was the half-eaten Snickers, because when Miss B’s vacuum-cleaner nose assaulted the gooey, caramelly, chocolaty bar, her tail began beating back and forth like a clock pendulum in hyperdrive.
When the obviously irritated handler had finally managed to reinstate a little space between the quivering Miss B and the dastardly stash she had unearthed, he turned a glare on me that could melt butter.
Unlike the tittering onlookers, he was not amused. Not one smidgen.
I turned to Spouse for guidance but he was white-faced and speechlessly mortified. I mean, honestly, you’d think after being married to me for 35 years, nothing would rattle the man.
So I turned back to the nice security guard and smiled my brightest smile, shrugged my shoulders, and offered in my least criminal-like voice, “I’m sorry. I like to be prepared.”
Then would you believe it? He actually rolled his eyes. I didn’t think professional security people were supposed to do that. After all the crazy things they find in people’s luggage? Humph. One minute I’m an international crime suspect and the next I get an insulting eye roll? Please.
So feeling properly rebuffed and humiliated, I scooped the contents of my purse back inside as the guard barked some incoherent gruff command to the canine, who instantly looked chastised and remorseful for her little faux pas. My heart went out to the poor little dog as he whisked her away. I know sniffer dogs are supposed to ignore all other smells in their quest to locate only the hidden illegal substances they’ve been trained to find. But who could NOT get tail-wagging excited about all that chocolate?
Miss B’s handler might not get it, but I understand completely. She’s a girl dog.