The TSA New Author Program

Like many fine Americans, I tend to think the rigmarole in place at our airports is an offense to the human spirit. I’m not going to belabor its effectiveness but Vanity Fair did a great eye-opening piece on it for those still in the camp of ‘TSA as necessary annoyance for our protection.’ Recently, on a trip to LA, they added the act of dipping some sort of chemical detecting stick of paper into my already opened Diet Coke that I had purchased within the airport, right as I walked down the gate ramp just a few feet from the plane itself. So, they are thorough, I’ll guess you could give them that.

Yesterday, on our way back from Mexico, our layover in Miami found us right back in that all too familiar line, shoes in hand, laptops out, jackets off, nothing in our pockets. My wife and I did what we were told, as did hundreds of others, amid the thick air of animosity and frustration that tends to hover amongst the guiding ropes that pre-lead us to all of our favorite destinations. I’ll admit, back in my drinking days I found all of this much less of a hassle, you could have stuck me with a cattle prod and I’d have thought very little of it, but with a sober brain I am able to see the whole experience for what it is: a major pain in the ass.

We made it through, with just enough time to spare to execute a little plan we’d hatched earlier in the week for My Dead Friend Sarah. We thought it would be fun to leave a couple of copies in various places – some hotels in Mexico, and one or two at different gates, with an inscription in the back that simply suggested that if the finder of the purposely-left-behind book read it and enjoyed it, that they pass it along to a friend. The cynic in me was certain nothing would come of this infinitesimal amount of guerilla marketing, but I was happy to drop off a few novels along our way to lighten our load.

Watching Ariele attempt to leave the book behind, in a most nonchalant manner, on one of the few seats available in the clustered pod of gates D-7 to D-1 was at first quite humorous. She is gorgeous, and from afar I looked on as many a lonely male traveller gazed upon her, a delectable mirage amongst the barren wasteland of broken spirits that tend to collect at our nation’s numerous gate waiting areas. It made the accidental act of leaving my to-be-discovered prose that much more difficult. But true to her skills of chicanery, after a few aborted attempts, she left the book alone on an empty seat and mere seconds later we were strutting down the ramp to the mechanical bird that would take us back to home.

I thanked her for her efforts, beaming triumphantly – allowing myself to think of all the wonderfully optimistic possibilites our ruse might invoke for just a millisecond, until the following thought snuck in through the backdoor of my brain and began savagely beating all that head-sunshine with a crowbar: Surely some goon manning one of the many airport cameras had also been drooling over my wife, and had witnessed the entire supposedly accidental book drop. No doubt he was making a mad dash, solo or with friends, possibly on Segways, to inspect the book immediately. Upon reaching the book they’d immediately see my name as author, and then through a walkie shout, “Code red, code red! I need you to check the AA travel manifest for one Peter Rosch! Pronto!”

As I crossed the threshold between ramp and plane, I readied myself for the inevitable outcome of our sinister doings. I was sure that within moments of cracking open American Way Magazine, I’d hear the pilot come on the PA and announce, “Folks, I’m sorry, we’re gonna have to head back to the gate momentarily – apparently some jack-ass on this flight thought it’d be cute to leave one copy of his precious first novel back in the terminal, in the hopes that what? Someone would give a damn? Anyway, TSA is waiting for this guy back at D-5, and we’ve most likely lost our place in the line-up out there, so I’d prepare to get comfortable with the idea of a long stay out on the tarmac. Perhaps you can rest easy once we’re out there, comfy in the knowledge that TSA will most likely put a full arm up this budding young author’s posterior. He is sitting in 16-A if you feel like taking a few swings at him while the air marshall escorts him and his cohort off the plane. Thanks Rosch, thanks a lot. We’ll be sure to tell people all about your book.”

With that very last thought, all the building panic inside me left my body instantaneously – I couldn’t hope to buy this kind of publicity for my novel. I buckled myself in, peering out the little oval window back towards the terminal – wondering if, possibly even wishing desperately, that maybe this time my level 9 paranoia might turn out to be bonafide fact. It wasn’t until we were zipping amongst the clouds at around 26,000 feet that I finally gave up on the idea altogether and moved my train of thought back to the all important task of evaluating strange noises being made by that damned flying machine.