It's 5:25 a.m. and I'm at Tampa International Airport. I've already had a scare.
I was about the 4th person in line at baggage check-in when a man stepped into the line behind me with a suitcase and a laptop, set them down and promptly sauntered away.
Let me just set the scene for you here: I've flown exactly one time since 9/11, and I've not flown at all since the TSA determined that shampoo and conditioner are lethal weapons when placed in carry-on luggage.
I'm a bit jumpy.
I hear the loud speaker instruct travelers to report suspicious activity and not to leave luggage unattended. "Unattended items will be impounded," the voice clearly states.
I watch this guy- who appears to be of Arab decent, as my paranoid luck would have it- walk away from his luggage while he talks on the cell phone. Holy Lord, please don't let that cell phone be a detonator, I think to myself. He walks into the restroom.
As soon as he's out of sight, an official-looking woman walks by.
"Ma'am?" I call out. "This is unattended luggage," I tattle to her as I point at the man's belongings.
She furrows her brow.
"Where did he go?" she asks.
I tell her he's in the restroom and she says, "Oh, if he's in the restroom, he'll be back. No one listens about leaving your luggage unattended."
I guess she is aware of some code of ethics among terrorists. Allah must require that when going to the restroom, thou shalt return to thy C4 explosives upon completion.
As she walks away, I see the embroidered initials on the back of her jacket: TSA.
I think to myself, "Are you freaking kidding me?!"
The guy does return to his luggage, thankfully.
Apparently my "appropriate morning conversation" filter was turned off this morning because involuntarily, I shoot my mouth off when he gets back.
"Dude, are you trying to freak everyone out this early in the morning, walking off from your luggage like that?"
He looks at me, smiles and says, "I was just in the restroom. No worries."
No worries my ---. It's 2007. We live in a different world these days.
Just know this: as I fly to Nashville and then Los Angeles this morning, my eye will be on this guy. And if he even blinks funny, he's gonna get a country butt-kickin.'