He came up behind me, put his hands on my shoulders, leaned in, took a long sniff of my hair and planted a slow, wet … whoa! Wait a minute that was just a dream. Something I’m trying to forget.

I did have intimate contact with a TSA agent on Monday at the Reno airport. I was visiting my 86-year-old mom for the weekend. I may have been a bit haggard from four days at the senior facility and may have looked like I was either terrorized or a terrorist.

I had a bag of ground coffee in my guitar bag. I walked through the scanner with a clean scan and went to pick up my axe after it passed through the X-ray. The agent pulled me aside and explained that he was going to have to examine the contents of my bag. Apparently any ground substance like coffee or salt will kick off the next level of security.


My guitar soft case had my acoustic Martin guitar in it along with a couple of sets of undies, some socks, a few shirts, a pair of shorts and some pants. That’s what I do. I pack it all in my guitar bag and make it work. Mom and her friends like my songs so I’m always packing six string heat.

The agent put on the gloves and rifled through my stuff, gazing deeply into the sound hole of the guitar and pressing his hands into my unlaundered unmentionables. He wiped down the bag of coffee and determined what it was and I thought that would be that.

Next I was informed by a different, bigger agent that I needed to be “patted down.” I did just go through the machine that sees all so I was inwardly skeptical about the need to pat down a coffee packer.


The big cornfed agent pulled on some rubber gloves with a pronounced “snap” as he stretch them up over his ham fists. He offered to go to a more private space but I wanted witnesses at this point. He explained the touching, then did the touching and I tried to hold very still and cooperate. I’d been patted down at the airport before but this was up a notch.


After what seemed like a mighty long time I was slipping back into my shoes, putting on my belt and repacking the intimate clothing back around the acoustic guitar. It was at that point that I was relieved that I had packed the red underwear with the blue stripes.


When I got to the gate I noticed that I did not have a seat assignment. Even though I was plenty early the United agent told me to sit down and wait. They had oversold the flight and since I was in basic economy I was low turtle on the stack.


“Sit down, please and we will call your name.”

This provided me with a chance to practice patience and control. I sat down and stared at my smartphone. Looking around I saw that the gate was chaotic. People were all over the kiosk and there was detritus everywhere. The agent did eventually call my name and I was issued a boarding pass on that mighty full plane.

I sat down in that middle seat between two dudes and said hello. I said something to the guy on my left but he just mumbled incoherently. I would have asked him to repeat what he said but it was obvious we were not going to be conversing.

No problem.

I had just come from a weekend of challenging conversing. My mom is like my dog in a way. She can hear but she doesn’t always listen.

More often than not she says, “what?” before I even finish my sentence. Doesn’t matter how loud. Rather than repeat my every utterance I took to waiting a few seconds for the words to sink in and lo and behold, she sometimes heard me.


Being stuck in Denver traffic on the way home further tested my breathing. I was running on fumes in stop and go.

It all worked out and I got back to Tabernash a little after 7:00 p.m. I called home and the voice on the other end couldn’t hear my words. Turns out theres only one bar of service with Verizon in Tabernash. We can send orders to a rover on mars but I can’t make an in-state call from Tabernash.


Steve Skinner wants to take a staycation. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.