Friday, December 02, 2005

Stupid &#$@* No-Fly List!

There’s always a wrinkle, Brother/Sister. I breathed a sigh of relief when I arrived in Bolivia (in part because that refrigerator was a tight fit and my oxygen tank was running on empty). I thanked my lucky stars when PePe and I got to the airport in La Paz, cleared security, and boarded the plane. Everything seemed to be going without a hitch; the Master’s plan to get me out of harm’s way was airtight.

Then our inbound flight to Houston was diverted to Laughlin Air Force Base (I wonder what third-grader designs these military websites). FBI agents boarded the plane while we were on the tarmac; they reviewed the passenger manifest and took PePe and me into custody. It appears that Your Favorite Internet Personality was on the Department of Homeland Security’s “No-Fly List.”

What a crock.

They separated us, and two agents sat me down in a room and did the Good Cop/Bad Cop bit, e.g., one of them brings me coffee, and the other one says I have to take it black. Recognizing this dynamic for what it was, I demanded an attorney. The Good Cop told me a guy was coming from the Public Defender’s Office. The Bad Cop told me the guy was a drunk and an evangelical Christian, and he wouldn’t arrive for another six hours.

“Screw it,” I said. “I’ll waive my right to an attorney. This is just a big misunderstanding, anyway. Let's clear it up and get on with our lives.”

They told me I was on the No-Fly List because they had intelligence that I was training at a leftist terror camp in the Andes mountains.

“Oh, no,” I said. “You’ve got it all wrong. That’s not it at all. I was learning the Ancient and Very Very Lethal Art of Incan Dance-Fighting at my Master Trainer’s Secret Mountain Redoubt. It’s like a martial arts thing.”

“But we’d never heard of it.”

“That’s because the techniques are for secret assassins.”

Bad Cop stepped in, at this point, to zip-cuff my hands behind my back. It occurred to me that I was not making a very strong case for my release.

“All right, all right," I said. "That doesn’t sound good, I agree. But I assure you, the Elite Incan Dance-Fighters are not terrorists. They don’t really do much of anything, in fact, except fight each other about their club by-laws. And sometimes when the ninjas get uppity, they fight them.”

"But we're not worried about the Dance-Fighters. We're worried about you."

"Me?" I said. "You've got to be kidding. I'm not a terrorist. I just went down there to get that training because I'm on a mission to take over the world."

Bad Cop stepped in again, this time to put me in leg irons. Should have waited for the lawyer, I was thinking.

"No no no," I said. "I was just kidding about that 'taking over the world' stuff. I didn't really mean it."

"But it's consistent with our intelligence."

"Your intelligence?" I asked (not that I would ever call these bozos' intelligence into question).

"We've read your weblog."

Shit. Think fast think fast think fast think fast —

"Oh, that," I said. "That's just fiction. That's just something I made up for fun. Silly old me, always telling stories, you know —"

At this point the Good Cop (inexplicably) gave me a Koran, and the Bad Cop gave me a form to sign, certifying that the Koran I had just received was in pristine condition and had not been defiled in any way by the United States government. As I had no pen or pencil to apply to this document — and my hands were cuffed behind me, in any event — I stared blankly at the form for a short period of time.

During this period, the agents just stood there quietly, with hands folded. The silence was long and awkward, so I started talking again.

"I mean, really, if I did have designs on taking over the world, and I went to Peru to get assassination training that I truly planned to use to gain political power by force — if all that were true, would I write a weblog about it? I mean, that sort of thing could get me in all sorts of trouble. It's fiction, Mr. and Mrs. Cop. Fiction, and nothing more."

Good and Bad Cop walked over to the corner of the room and whispered to one another. They left me alone in the room for 5.5 hours. Then the Bad Cop came in and freed me from my restraints.

"You make a good case," he said. "You'd have to be an absolute idiot — I mean, really . . ." and he trailed off, mumbling to himself.

I assumed I was free to go.

Fifteen minutes later I was reunited with PePe. By this time, though, our plane was long gone on its happy way to Houston with the other passengers, and we were stranded at this Air Force Base, six miles from Del Rio (the nearest town), without transportation in the sweltering ninety-degree South Texas heat.

The two of us were worn-out, sleep-deprived, and emotionally spent. I don't know where we would be if that lawyer hadn't pulled up and offered us a ride. The situation was not ideal — the guy lectured us about Jesus Christ and kept veering off the road toward gigantic saguaro cacti — but PePe and I are now comfortably ensconced at a Motel 6, and when I finish writing this "fictional" (heh-heh) post, I'm going to crash for the next sixteen hours — at least.

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