Story last updated at 3:34 p.m. Thursday, November 21, 2002

Airport security, tiny rental car enliven Outside trip
Nick C. Varney
My wife and I recently returned from Washington state, where we had a great, but strange, visit with my mother and sister. The trip went quite smoothly except for a couple of minor glitches that began at the Anchorage International Airport.

I thought that I'd be cool and do a pre-emptive strike on the security crews and made sure that I wasn't packing anything that was remotely threatening. I even filed down one of my incisors just because it looked a little sharp.

Well that idea sucked! I set off all of the bells and whistles at the first screening point. Before I could check to see if I had a diminutive al-Qaida stuck to the bottom of my sneakers, I was whisked into a special area where a team descended on my butt like ravenous locusts on a grain field.

One guy scanned my personal orifices so closely and repeatedly that I thought we were engaged when he finally let me go. I still don't know what set things off, but I mumbled, "The next time I do this, I'll be wearing nothing but a jock strap." Revenge was sweet. The guy paled at the mental picture of my hulk in a thong and was granted immediate leave for a stress-related disorder.

The next little bump in our trip was the rental car. We had received a great weekly rate, but I never expected that I would end up driving something that made me look like a mutant gorilla piloting a tricycle. The car was so small that the only thing that fit into the trunk was my wife's manicure kit, and I had to spray myself with Pam just to slide through the driver's door. On the plus side, its mileage was excellent. I've never refueled a vehicle with a turkey baster before.

My sister had recently moved to a tiny town called Elma. I had no idea that it was dead in the middle of the Twilight Zone. The whole ville resembled the early 40s in architecture and layout.

The police station, mortuary, liquor store, theater, two taverns and a plethora of churches, were centrally located so that you could see a movie, have a couple of adult beverages, get in trouble at a wake, be let out on bail and repent all within a five-minute walking distance. The township was so quiet that its only police dog was a laid back lab passed out in a back yard while the village's one-kid gang hung out near a stop sign waiting for his mom to call him in for dinner.

Sis had another "new" surprise for us -- a 6-month-old, miniature poodle called Jake. The wee cur's call sign was a serious misnomer. "Popcorn" would have been a better handle. The beastie bounced around the house like its tail was on fire. It moved so fast that it left patches of fur behind when it blasted from one room to another trying to keep an eye on the visiting outsiders.

It was also a sneak thief. Every time I turned my back, it would break the sound barrier just to relieve me of one of my hiking shoe's inner soles (he was too small to snarf up the boot, so he just climbed inside and nefariously absconded with my arch supports. This entertained everyone except moi. The problem was solved when I threatened to buy him a furry sweater and a large piece of Velcro. Then I was going to glue the Velcro halfway up a room divider and "hang him up" like a wall phone until he needed a pottie break. My sister was not amused and placed the mutt under house arrest in the utility room until it settled down enough that its feet touched the ground when it shot through the house.

Commuting to visit my mom each day at the skilled nursing center was an 80-mile round trip through yet another time and dimension. We passed through burgs such as Rochester with a self proclaimed, world renowned, "Cram A Lot" personal storage unit yard, and Oakville, which sported a 30-mile-an-hour speed limit so zealously enforced by a fanatic distaff police officer that burly truck drivers slowed down so much, they were nearly backing up. Her reputation made the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow seem like a Ken Doll riding a pink pony.

The weather remained beautiful until the day we left. Then, Mother Nature went mental. It rained so hard on I-5 that our mini car acted more like a surfboard than a rented roller skate with a roof. If some late-spawning salmon had smacked into our windshield, I wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.

Sea-Tac security provided our last entertainment when they treated my tobacco pipe like it might be part of a nuclear device during our initial screening. And then, after a dinner break, the same guy thought it was some sort of bizarrely shaped knife when we had to check back through again. Hey, no problem: I'm glad they are there. My pipe's rather embarrassed though.

Man, I hope that there are no hidden metal threads in jockstraps.

When he's not terrorizing airport security forces, Nick C. Varney can be found in this spot every three weeks or so. He can be reached via