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Lisa Molinari signs books at a recent author appearance in Virginia.
Lisa Molinari signs books at a recent author appearance in Virginia. (Lisa Molinari)

Last week, while trying to catch a flight to Virginia for an author event, I experienced some unprecedented run-around at the airport. My husband, Francis, and I brought one checked bag, which was five pounds too heavy. Unwilling to pay the $100 overweight bag fee, I frantically unloaded books I’d packed for my event, but it was still over by a half pound. I grabbed the large bottle of Miralax laxative powder that I take every night, and plopped it into my carry-on bag.

“That needs to be tested,” a TSA agent said, pointing to the Miralax in my carry on.

“How embarrassing,” I thought, unaware that my circumstance would get worse. After submitting to the machine that blows a puff while you stand with arms overhead, I was told that the bottle’s contents had been flagged as “suspicious.”

“Female,” an agent said into a walkie-talkie. I was directed to wait in a secure area.

Francis looked irritated, which irritated me. “They’re just doing their jobs,” I mouthed to him. If anyone should understand why security procedures are important, it should be Francis, who spent 28 years as a naval intelligence officer, and since retiring four years ago, now works in cyber security for a global bank.

A petite female agent with security gadgets neatly strapped to her uniform appeared minutes later. “Ma’am, this security procedure will require me to touch you,” she began. “Do you have any conditions that cause you pain in any areas of your body?” She thoroughly explained every step while patting down my nooks and crevices three times over.

She signaled to the male agents that I was cleared, but we still had to wait, while they leafed through the pages of every book that was in my carry-on, twice over. Are humor books and powdered stool softener a security risk?

Somehow, we made it to my author event at Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. By the time we arrived, the Fort Richardson Room was filled with 50 members and guests, sipping drinks and loudly chatting in small groups. The coordinator tapped the podium microphone, “Please take a seat. Let me introduce tonight’s speaker ...”

I adjusted the folder containing eight stories I’d planned to read, most from past columns I’d written. For some reason, I wasn’t nervous looking out at 50 unfamiliar faces with high expectations to be entertained. Unusually comfortable and confident, I began.

Two paragraphs into my first reading, giggling erupted, washing over me like an invigorating shower. With each story, the crowd laughed more and I mirrored their energy, until I had to pause to let hoots and cackles die down before continuing. In between stories, I freestyled, engaging with the women like old friends.

Francis, seated in the first row, saw opportunities to inject himself and took them, reaching over chairs to high five attendees and shouting additional details like, “Of course we had a tinkle jar in our station wagon — I have three brothers!” By the final reading, women were shouting out, “So true!” and “Been there, done that!” between guffaws, and I laughed at their outbursts.

“My sides hurt,” one hysterical chuckler cried. I joked that I’d pay her to attend all my reading events.

Though I thought the night couldn’t get better, I raced from the podium to the book signing table, where a long, noisy line was forming. Francis was supposed to handle sales while I autographed books, but he abandoned his post immediately, too busy joking with attendees. In the jovial mayhem, I fumbled to autograph each book with personal details.

“Are you a military spouse?” I’d ask, and found that most were either “retired” military spouses like me, or men and women who had served many years on active duty. “From one milspouse to another … keep laughing!” I scribbled inside many books that night.

Before going to bed, I mixed a glassful of the Miralax that nearly sabotaged my event. Gulping it down, I realized that those fun-loving strangers were my people. We share a common life story, we speak the same language, and no matter how old we get, we are part of a community that will never retire.

Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com

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