Security is tight at Missoula International Airport.
There was a way-taller-than-me taxidermy bear standing guard behind glass. In retrospect, that was the first warning. Everything started off normal as I entered the security line, I greeted each TSA agent with a smile and eye contact to emphasize my lack of terror. I placed my socks firmly on the yellow painted shoe prints, and with my arms up I passed the full body scan. I placed my Ziploc on the conveyor belt packed full of all the necessary 3fl oz liquids required to prevent my full blown junior high school hair.
Everything changed quickly when my luggage entered the X-ray machine.
The conveyor belt came to a dead stop.
There was a long pause.
Two agents pointed to the screen and side glanced in my direction.
I smiled even bigger.
TSA: “Ma’m is this your bag?”
TSA: “Did you pack this yourself?”
Me: “Of course.”
TSA: “We are going to need to search it. Is that ok with you?”
After some vaguely professional shifting of clothes the agent grabbed the box of fudge I had just bought for my hosts awaiting my arrival in Oakland.
My only thought was Nooooo, don’t take the fudge!!
TSA: “Ma’m what’s in this box?”
Me: “Fudge. Huckleberry fudge.”
TSA: “I’m gonna to need to run this through the machine again.”
My 5 am brain could not conceive what about my huckleberry fudge would require DOUBLE X-ray exposure. I actually said the next thing, out loud, in complete seriousness.
Me: “Is fudge considered a liquid?”
There was a smirk on the agents face when she put the box back in my suitcase and said, “Ma’m were gonna let it through this time.”
As I rolled my bag to one of the three gates in the tiny ski-lodge of an airport I felt lucky, extremely lucky. Huckleberry fudge is really serious business around here.
When I arrived in California I eagerly presented my best-friend and her husband the nearly confiscated box of fudge. A rarity that apparently was allowed out of Montana just this once. Brittany opened the box and I stared in awe as she pulled out a impressively articulated and seriously serrated white plastic knife. I laughed as I enjoyed a perfectly cut piece of Montana’s finest huckleberry fudge.
We fill in the smallest details everyday, without even realizing it. It’s part of how we survive, we move forward by lifting our feet just high enough to meet the next stair. Some of it’s unconscious, we bridge the gaps of the unknown by creating and trusting a logical(ish) known. But sometimes our minds get carried away and these assumptions don’t actually match reality. Like, for example, how it was more conceivable to me that fudge was considered a liquid than the possibility the girl at the candy shop had slipped a “weapon” in the box. If we repeat any assumption long enough, we begin to believe it’s a fact. For years I believed I was meant to be overweight, that that’s just who I would always be. I assumed that I would be the heaviest most awkward person at any exercise class ever, so I wouldn’t sign up. I just knew that people would gawk and laugh when they saw me sweating through my sweatshirt from just walking down the sidewalk.
None of it was true. What my mind had created did not match reality. Repeating those assumptions only kept me from finding out the truth. Open the box. The bear can’t hurt you, it’s already dead. Start walking.
Full Disclosure: This is not an image of the taxidermy bear that guards the Missoula International Airport. The one in Missoula is brown but equally terrifying and behind similar glass. This image is of a stuffed polar bear from the Juneau airport. Image by hfabulous via flickr used and remixed under a creative commons license.