Fireside Chats with Julia are stories I share that are unrelated to my regular recipe posts. This is where I let it all hang out. Spoiler alert: There’s lots of profanity in this post.
Hiya! Welcome to the third episode of Fireside Chats with Julia! This one’s a long one, so I recommend you pour yourself a big ol’ bevvie. Like one of these, for instance:
Fireside Chat beer. It ACTUALLY exists! It’s brewed by 21st Amendment Brewery. I spied it in the grocery store the other day and couldn’t believe my eyes. While I have yet to try the beer myself, I’m of the opinion that anything named Fireside Chat must be gravy.
So from now on, you can enjoy these Fireside Chats with a signature brew! Bottoms up!
Onto Episiode 3! Phew! It’s been a while since we’ve FC-ed, but I recently had a travel experience that necessitated a good cozy-up. Here goes –
As you know, I recently took a trip to Chicago to visit my friend, Stephie from Stephie Cooks. I met Stephie several years ago through blogging. We had been talking about visiting each other for a good long while, and it wasn’t until this trip that we finally met in person. You know what they say: it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination. Let me tell you, folks, getting to Stephie was a journey.
The story starts the morning I leave for Chicago.
My girl friend drops me off at the Reno Tahoe International Airport approximately 45 minutes before my flight, because that’s how awesome of an airport RNO is. You can mosey up any ol’ time and feel confident you will get through security and walk two steps to your gate (which is one of like 4 gates in the whole airport) in less than half a second.
Normally I like checking in for my flights online, but I was just soooooooooooo busy that I couldn’t poooooooooossibly find the foooooooour seconds necessary to do so this time around. So I mosey up to the counter, and I hand the lady my passport so that she can print my boarding pass. She takes my passport, and immediately offers me a condom. Trojan. Thintensity. Grey packet. Slaps it down on the eye-level counter in front of me, like here ya are. Go forth and be merry. Enjoy.
“Thaaaaank –“ I begin, thinking the airlines have now decided to start promoting safe sex and I’ve been given a party favor…and then I realize the condom is actually mine. It must have gotten stuck in the passport and this sweet lady is simply returning the condom to its rightful owner because as it turns out, you don’t need a Trojan Thintensity Grey Packet condom to check people in. Not at RNO.
Note to self: condoms and passports should be stored in separate purse compartments.
“Oh. Sorry!” I say, looking around to see if anyone else witnessed this delicious event. No one had. Drat.
The ticketing agent gives me zero response (or eye contact), and hands me my boarding pass and passport. I walk the two steps to security, followed by the two steps to my gate, feverishly texting all my friends about the condom.
Side note: Before you judge me for having a condom in my purse, don’t. End side note.
During the flight from RNO to ORD, I luck out and get an ENTIRE row to myself. SUH-weet. I will unbutton my pants, let it all hang out, and do the open-mouth ugly snooze to my heart’s delight without worrying about drooling on another passenger. The plane takes off. Life’s jelly.
For my in-flight entertainment, I get a combination of screaming toddler and the movie, Maleficent. Have you seen this movie? Meh, don’t. The 3.5 hours fuh-ly by, and before you know it, I’m safe at Chicago O’Hare. Now all’s I’ve got to do is collect my shiz, take a pit stop, and go find me some Stephie Swope. There are smiles all up on my grill.
I go to the nearest bathroom, hang my purse on the hook on the side of the stall, which is clearly meant for giants, because it’s approximately 15 feet above my head. My phone is in my hand, and it starts ringing with Stephie’s name all up on it. I answer mid-squat, and here are the first words I ever hear out of Stephie’s mouth:
“So this bitch of an airport attendant told me I can’t wait at the curbside, so I don’t know what to do. Where are you?”
Thank GOD Stephie swears! I don’t have to clean up my language for this trip, I think to myself.
“Peeing. But no worries, I still need to walk through the airport, so you can circle around and I’ll let you know when I’m outside”
We hang up, and I briskly walk the mile out of the airport, so excited to finally meet my friend. I wait at curbside for a couple of minutes, and Stephie pulls up. We both squeal, hug, shove my duffle bag in her back seat, and I hop in her car. All of a sudden, I feel naked. Because all I’m holding is my phone. I look in Stephie’s back seat and my travel bag is there, but my purse isn’t.
Where’s my purse? My heart starts pounding, and my ass drops to my feet.
“Oh shit, Stephie. Where’s my fucking purse? I. Shit. I don’t have my purse. Oh my God, I left my purse in the airport, and holy shit, I’m so sorry. Shit-fuck!”
Nice to meet you, Steph. I am a train wreck. Welcome to me.
Stephie laughs and calmly says, “Okay, I’m gonna go park. I’ll meet you inside.”
Okay. I jump out, rush back into the airport with nothing but my phone, and immediately begin…
Uhhh…where do I go? I can’t stand still, so I pace while alllllll the thoughts come into my head.
Where did I leave my purse? Think, think, think. What do you do when you lose a passport? Should I start calling credit card companies RIGHT NOW and cancel my cards? Thank GOD I never carry cash. The sunglasses? Meh, I can replace those. Phew, okay, no big deal, I can replace this shit. Oh, but I reaaaally like the pair of earrings that are in my purse.
What’s the person who finds my purse going to think when they see the condoms? Oh God, I need to get to my purse NOW. There are condoms in my purse. Trojan. Thintensity. Grey Packet.
I keep pacing for a hot minute, because I’m still unclear about what to do. More thoughts:
Oh shit. How am I going to pay for the tattoo I’m supposed to get in a couple of days? Oh shit! I’m not going to get a tattoo?? I need this tattoo. I’ll just stay. I’m just going to stay here until this purse is located.
All of a sudden, I’m met with a bout of clarity and I realize I left my purse in the bathroom, hanging on the hook meant for giants. Okay. I’ve got this. My purse is in one of the millions of bathrooms. I’ll just go to all of them. This’ll be great.
Step one: Get through airport security.
How do you get through airport security without a boarding pass or an ID? You…don’t… ? Just as I begin envisioning myself as Tom Hanks in The Terminal, my phone buzzes in my hand with an Illinois phone number. Puh-raaaaaaise the law gah alllllmighty let freedom reeeeeeign. I sing in my head.
“Is this Julia Mueller?” a lady on the other end inquires.
“Are you missing a purse?”
“YES!” YES, I’m missing a purse! Where is it?!”
“Come back to gate K20, we’ll have it waiting for you here.”
“Great! Oh that’s such great news! How do I get to you? I have no ID.”
“Go to one of our ticketing agents and tell them what happened. They’ll print you a fake boarding pass. Bring that through security. The TSA will ask you a lot of questions, but then they’ll eventually let you through.”
“Okay, gate K20. How do I get through security?”
You’ve gotta be shitting me, Julia…she just told you.
The kind lady at gate K20 repeats herself.
I promptly go to a ticketing agent with the most epic Bitchy Resting Face (BRF) I’ve ever seen. I’m told via BRF in her real thick Chicago accent that I’m gonna have a real difficult time getting through security. Duh.
“Ohhhhh, you don’t worry about thaaaat,” I tell her, waving my hand at her Bitchy Resting Face, “you just leave security to meee.”
… and print me a goddamn boarding pass, if you please.
Bitchy Resting Face stares me straight in the eyes as she tip types away at her computer, which leads me to believe she has stellar peripheral vision, slash hand-eye coordination. She prints the pass, and never breaking eye contact, hands me the fake boarding pass.
I wait in line at security and text Stephie some updates. She informs me she has parked and is waiting for me at baggage claim. The way Stephie’s handling this hiccup is making me love her more and more. She’s one of the good ones.
When I get to the front of the security line and explain my situation to TSA agent #1 (TSA1), the woman yells so that all of the airports across the world can hear, “CSS #2! Eh! Ovah eeeya!” < – she has a real thick Chicago accent, too.
Everyone’s looking at me and I love it.
Some dude on the other side of allll the plastic body scanners pokes his head up and walks over. The situation is explained again to TSA agent #2 (TSA2). TSA2’s response to my dilemma: “mmmm…yeah, that’s a problem because X airline doesn’t cooperate with security to pass off lost baggage.” Meaning X airline isn’t going to walk my shit over to me. Which I’m totes fine with, but home boy is not.
Me, super nice: “Thaaaat’s okay! We can go get it together!!”
Him, panties all in a twist: “Well, let me just explain how frustrating this is for us in security, because X airline never sends their people over to help. They’re very uncooperative, which is unfortunate for people like you who lose their belongings.”
My heart’s pounding again like I’m Tom Hanks in The Terminal and I may as well start forwarding my mail to the Chicago O’Hare airport because I’m never gonna get out of here and I haven’t eaten a thing since 6:30am PST and my blood sugar’s real freaking low, and all I want is a kombucha. Sombodygetmeakombucha, damnit!
Me, all Rainbow Fucking Bright-like: “Can one of your guys go get it? It’s at K20…? OH HEY! Do you want to come WITH me??!” wink wink, smile, smile, bright doe eyes + hair flip < – I’m so deliciously manipulative.
TSA2 disappears for 8 or so minutes, and returns with more of this: “Yeaah, it’s just so frustrating that X airline can’t spare one of their personnel to bring your purse to security. This is a real problem.”
I want to knee this man in the ball sack.
Me, kind of confused: “So…wait. What do I need to do?”
He disappears again for another few minutes. This whole time, I’m standing in front of TSA1, who is looking at me like I’m a television set. At some point, I turn to her and as sweetly as I can, I say, “So…do you want to help these other people get through security? Don’t feel like you have to take care of me…I’ve got this. And thank you for all your help.”
TSA1: ::sigh:: “Whaaaateverrrrr…doesn’t matter to meeee….yeah, I guess I can help these other people.”
Is this what real life is like?
TSA2 returns, real serious-like. He stands in front of me for a few seconds, and then begins to speak, like he’s holding surgical instruments over an open brain: “Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to put all your items in this bin.
I’ve got nothing, son. Just this cell phone.
“You’re going to put all your items in this bin. You’re going to walk through the body scanner. You’re going to step off to the side. You’re going to be pat down. You’re going to be escorted to the gate where your bag is at. You’re then going to be escorted out of the airport.”
You’re going to be abducted by aliens. They will steal your skin and use it as a cape. Don’t think for one second this will be painless. You will never be the same. Say your goodbyes now.
Me: “Okay, sounds great!”
I walk with TSA2 through security, get my body all scanned up, then step to the side where three other TSA agents are waiting for me. One of them (TSA3) wipes my flip flops (Thanks, friend…my flips were needing a good wipe down) and inspects the crap out of my phone. Because these are my only belongings…they may as well try to find something wrong with them. TSA3 out of the blue is all, “Oh, IIIIII’m not giving you the pat down…don’t worry…someone eeeeeeelse is giving you the pat down.”
I couldn’t care less, buddy. You…that guy standing over there holding his belt like he’s lost his puppy…that lady with the scone and the Bitchy Resting Face…Channing Tatum…whomever. Just pat me down so I can be on my way.
Me + hair flip: “Oh, ha ha.”
At this point, TSA2 gets a little jelly, pipes up and says, “I’ll be the one to escort her.”
Of course you will. Thanks for planning ahead.
TSA Agent #4 (TSA4), who is a comfortingly large woman, walks over and mumbles all hushed and secretively to TSA2, “what kind of pat down? Modified? Mmmhmm..mkay.”
Will I be probed?
She stretches her neck and arms for a few seconds then says, “Miss, hi. I will be giving you a pat down today. I need to tell you everything I will be doing and you need to consent before I can start. I will start from behind. I will start at your head and run my hands over your neck, down your spine and arms. I will sweep your breasts with the backs of my hands,
My breasts are going to be swept?! Glorious day! It’s been HOURS since I’ve gotten this much action!
“I will run my hands along your buttocks and down your inseam. That will complete our modified pat down. Do I have your consent?”
Me, with a big ass smile on my face: “Absolutely!”
TSA4: “Do you want a private room for the pat down?”
Ah hell no! I want everyone to see this! Can I get a witneeeeeess?! < – Sang like Marvin Gaye
Me: “No, no, right here is fine!”
TSA4 does exactly as she had promised. When she gets to my ass, I begin laughing uncontrollably. I’m laughing because I’m watching the whole spectacle from a bird’s-eye view: 3 TSA agents plus all the surrounding passengers witnessing a 5’3” 120-pound (on a good day) 28-year-old woman wearing a baby blue Old Navy V-neck getting her breasts swept and her ass felt up because she left her purse in a bathroom. Note: I’m not complaining on account of the fact that TSA4 has a real good breast-sweeping and ass-cupping skills. Had I not enjoyed the experience as much, this maybe potentially would be an actual complaint.
I’m also laughing because I flash back to the last trip I took to Denver, CO. I had forgotten to take my pocket knife (which is this exact knife…except my handle is black rubber) out of my purse, and made it through Reno’s security on the way to Denver and Denver’s security on the way back to Reno, only to figure out 3 days after my trip had ended that my knife (which gave me the only stitches I’ve ever gotten in my life) had been in my purse the whole time. I had, indeed, made it through two airports with a deadly weapon in my bag and no one noticed.
But, this. . .
TSA4 finishes the modified pat down (after which there is a brief moment of awkward eye contact, but no “I’ll call you’s.” What a hussy.), and TSA2 and I embark on our journey to Gate K20.
TSA2: Which gate is your purse at again? K TWENTY? Ugggggh, that’s like the farthest gate away. No, that actually is the farthest gate away.”
Me + hair flip: “Oh, ha ha.”
Because TSA2 is, indeed, correct, and the gate is roughly a mile away, we enjoy some quality chit chat and get to know each other really well. He tells me about his parents, who live in Vegas. He tells me he’s worked at the airport for TEN YEARS, and that every winter, he wonders why he still lives in Chicago. I learn that Illinois has its own set of terminology for weather phenomena. Thunder snows and polar vortexes and blah blah blah. Buck up or change your life, son! I tell him to transfer to LAX because I hear they give real good pat downs there. He says, “hhhhrmph,” and looks as though he’s considering it.
We arrive at Gate K20, and as I walk up, huge grin on my face, the attendant has pursed lips, and phenomenal scowl. I don’t even have to say a word before she pulls out my bag and says, “So we’re just supposed to beeeelieve that you left your purse in the bathroom and you weren’t travelling with annnny other baggage…”
Me: “Oh no, I have a bag. It’s just in my friend’s car. She’s waiting for me right now.”
Lady with my Bag (LWMB): “And you have nothing to identify yourself with? Why should I believe this is your purse?”
Me: “I can tell you every single thing that’s in that purse.” Please don’t make me describe the condoms (which are located inside my passport – apparently – in the the outside zippered pocket).
LWMB cracks a smile, a nod, and says, “Go ahead.”
Me: “In the main part of my purse, I have a Smart water bottle, sunglasses, a blue clutch wallet, a checkbook…”
LWMB: “Aaaaaand? There’s one more thing.”
Shit. I don’t remember. Please don’t make me describe the condoms.
Me: “In the INSIDE zippered pocked, I have vanilla-scented lotion, hand sanitizer, and…”
Please don’t make me move to the outside zippered pocket. Please don’t make me describe the condoms.
LWMB nods and says: “Aaaaaand??…”
Me: “Lip gloss and CHAPSTICK!”
LWMB cracks a huge smile, nods, buttons my purse up and hands it to me. I snag it, say “THANK YOU! THANK YOU SO MUCH!” I raise my purse in the air for everyone at all the surrounding gates to see and shout, “WOO! Got my purse!”
On the way out of the airport, TSA2 and I enjoy an additional mile’s-worth of chit chat. He asks me what I do for a living, and I give him my go-to response when I don’t feel like explaining myself, “I’m a food photographer.”
TSA2: “Oh okay, so you take pictures of…”
Me: “Of food.”
This, of course, launches us into a discussion about food. Because as it turns out, everyone loves the stuff. TSA2 tells me in detail about all the fast food he enjoys. I don’t have it in me to educate him about the health benefits of root vegetables on account of the fact that my blood sugar level is still low and all I want is a kombucha (slash whisky), so I just agree with him like I invented fast food even though I hate the stuff. We finally make it back to Stephie, where she’s been patiently waiting at baggage claim.
TSA2: “Does this belong to you?”
Stephie: “Yes! Yes, she’s one of ours!”
TSA2 proceeds to ask Stephie questions, and is finally satisfied with the afternoon’s events after he’s 1000% certain we’re harmless. He bids us adieu, with no, “I’ll call you’s.” What a hussy.
Stephie and I power walk our asses out of the airport, laughing as we’re walking toward her car, and she says, “I think this is going to be the next Fireside Chat.”
This woman knows me.
“It’s like you’re in my head!” I say.
As we drive away from Chicago, I now feel like Tom Hanks when he’s released into the wild at the end of The Terminal.
The next day, while Stephie and I are making pumpkin pancakes with apple topping, chit chatting about how it’s as though we’ve known each other a million years, tra la la la, when we learn a disgruntled Chicago O’Hare employee had set fire to the air traffic control tower (because he was about to be transferred to Hawaii. . . Hawaii!!), effectively shutting down the entire airport for a day and causing thousands of flight cancellations and delays for the next four days.
Dear Chicago O’Hare, you’re an even a hotter mess than I am.
But I’m lucky I made it to Chicago just in time. And let’s face it: condoms and breast sweeping always make for a great story.
Because this chat is already far too long, I’m going to bullet point out highlights from the rest of the trip.
- Stephie and I go to the museum of Science and Industry, and we see the Walt Disney exhibit as well as all sorts of cool science-y things.
- Stephie, her boyfriend, Alex, and I take the train to Millennium Park and downtown Chicago, which is gorgeous.
- The Bean is an epic mind blow.
- Stephie, Alex, and I meet up with the darling Stef, from Sarcastic Cooking, and her darling husband for dinner at Little Goat, at which point, we all decided we would start the hashtag #otherpeoplesfood. This involves taking photographs of, and describing, other people’s food. Wanna join in? Show us #otherpeoplesfood on InstaG. To my knowledge, none of us have actually used the hashtag yet.
- Stephie and I drive to Peoria to visit her parents, Jerry and Julie (who are also my buds), and their two dogs. I thoroughly enjoy the drive from Chicago to Peoria because the corn fields and wind turbines are picturesque. I like seeing where our nation’s crops are grown.
- When meeting Stephie’s parents, after all the hugs, Julie starts telling us a story (she has lots and lots of great stories, and I’m ALLABOUT a great story, can you tell?), and she uses the f-word. I love this woman.
- Julie, Stephie and I get tattooed together, which is an epic bonding experience. The way I see it, those who tat together stay together. We go to the farmer’s market and get some fresh squarsh, and Jerry grills up a fan-freaking-tastic steak. The next say, we brunch at a cool café called One World and go to a kick ass fine art fair.
- The Swopes are my fave. They’re tons of fun, have great stories, are super thoughtful and caring, and I just love them to pieces.
- Addendum to this bullet point list (in response to Julie’s comment below): Steinbeck and Emmy, the Swope’s beagles, are the cutest beagles I’ve ever seen. I wanted to take them both home with me.
One last note before I let you go…
The way back to Reno? My flight gets delayed for two hours and the gate changes three times on account of the fact that the butterfly effect from the fire hasn’t un-fucked itself yet. AND get this: When we all finally board the Reno-bound plane, we sit on the run way for another 30 minutes, because a plane hit a bird while it was landing and the airport authorities had to remove the carcass and clear the runway before any planes could land or take off.
I give ORD the benefit of the doubt and conclude the bird must have been a pterodactyl. Because what other type of bird requires an entire 30 minutes for carcass removal?
Lesson we can all learn from this Fireside Chat:
Don’t forget your purse on the wrong side of security. In fact, don’t even bring your purse when you’re travelling. Leave that shit at home.
Want more? Well then! Read these: