Stan, the traveler
"...you ever had any trouble with the law?"
It was probably good that the Lord steered me away from riffing on Acts 4:19 in that moment. My "buddy" was almost certainly not in a receptive mood. Not that he was showing signs of ill temper. No, he seemed like a really good guy, taking things in stride. In fact, I was amazed by his composure and good humor. Under the circumstances.
After all, his 7:00 am appointment had actually shown up. (I have to believe the no-show rate for those "first appointment of the day" slots is pretty high. I mean, when both the reception guy and the tech guy act surprised to see you, even the slow-witted among us... with our brains still struggling to emerge from early-morning fog... even in such circumstances, we begin to detect a pattern.)
Worse yet, my "buddy" had a setup that was much less ready to go than he was. Not the place to proudly display a large "your tax dollars at work" banner.
The guy had a crummy desk, in a crummy little cramped office, just off the small waiting area with the chairs my local Goodwill Industries branch would never have been willing to receive as a donation. The photographic apparatus with which he would take my picture (for official use!) looked, for all the world, like a webcam that had been rescued from a flea market, connected to his computer (of which, more in a moment) and then perched on top of a plastic doughnut sitting on top of a hot/cold drink foam sleeve. When he asked me to look into the eyeball camera, I (with great difficulty!) summoned the inner strength needed to resisted the urge to reach out and twist the doughnut. But I could not resist the impulse to ask whether the eyeball was actually able to see me. I mean, it was pointed at the other side of the room, and clearly casting only a furtive glance at me through the corner of its little plastic lens. He assured me that the little eyeball could see me just fine, so I complied and, after a few takes, he pronounced our photo effort "good."
The extra takes were not, I swear, my fault. I patiently looked the little eyeball right in the corner of its cornea, just as instructed. The issue was not me, but the computer to which the eyeball was connected.
By the time we got to the picture-taking part of things, Buddy had already grumbled half a dozen times about the silicon fossil. He had apologized. More than once. He had explained that it was "touchy" some mornings. (I maintained discreet silence.) He seemed to have re-started the application we were using at least twice, though I may have lost count. He had even gotten up from his desk, walked around to the Jurassic CPU sitting under the shelf next to me and performed what astute anthropological observer and commentator Dave Barry would call a "guy inspection": he bent down, pulled the unit toward him, rotated it this way and that, and verified that it was both plugged in and composed of... "parts." Well. After assuring himself that it did, indeed, have wires sticking out the back, he gave it a whack, returned to his chair, clicked a few more times, and explained that it was now time to place my fingers on the only piece of equipment in the office that looked like it had actually been acquired for this purpose, the fingerprint scanner.
You have to feel for a guy who is expected to Defend The Free World at such an early hour, with such a digital menagerie.
Buddy apologized profusely. No need. I was actually comforted by the sight of this guy trying to do his best for the country under such daunting conditions.
So, I left Biblical exegesis out of it and assured Buddy that no, I was on the up & up, aside from the occasional involuntary contribution to the maintenance of our nation's highways (or at least, to the provision of security for them). Fortunately, he seemed to take my word for it. Not that I have a rap sheet to hide, mind you. But Lord knows, if he had tried to use that computer to run a background check, I'd be writing this from a chair under the watchful, if skewed, surveillance of the plastic eyeball.
I was grateful when Buddy pronounced us a success. We'll see. (Though we may have to look out of the corner of our eyes??) The claim, at least, is that TSA has now outfitted me with a "global entry" permit, so I can zip past the long lines at the immigration windows when I come back from international travels.
I'm eager to give it a whirl. If it works, I can tell you right where to find me: I'll be the first guy standing at the carousel, wondering why the baggage guys can't do as well with their equipment as Buddy did with his!
May the Lord sprinkle joy into your day, too, whether or not you get to spend time with Buddy!