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The Thief From Tocumen

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Written by Matt   
Friday, 31 August 2007 01:00
Sure I was standing in line at the check-in area, stuff but my mind was somewhere else. I was staring off into space, stuff wondering what it might be like to have a real-sized baggage carousel in my apartment when the compact woman in front of me turned around and stared me down the way you might upon someone calling you a racial slur.
What? I thought to myself. What did I do?

The woman was of the older variety, maybe somewhere around sixty or seventy, and the permanently enraged look on her face told me she didn't get that old without significant tribulations. She wore a flipped-up bucket hat which covered a handful of hair, the strands thinning like the silk on the inside of a corn husk. Her eyes were encircled by large dark rings, and the horrendous mascara trying to disguise it all came off looking more like a saddened raccoon.

"You man! You take-ah my pen" she said looking at me, clearly sounding not like a question but rather an accusation. Her words came out like short barks and they were startling.

"What man?" I said, looking behind me expecting to find some sort of small pen-stealing gnome. "Not this man. This man no take-ah your pen."

"That's the one" she pointed me out to the airport personnel. "This one take-ah my pen. He keep it in pocket now so you not see it. You bad man, you are."

I chuckled at first because of all the things I've been accused of taking in my life without asking, a pen was by far the least impressive. "I didn't take her pen" I said to the man who wore a clip-on badge. "Look at me" I suggested. "Do I look like someone who'd steal a pen?"

I realized that was probably not a question that would help my cause as I was wearing the equivalent of a smart hobo ensemble. The man, Alvaro he was called, attempted to calm the woman down but she was relentless. "He took-ah my pen for...I no know what for...for to sell it maybe."

It was as if we had some long-standing beef and she was waiting ‘til now to really stick it to me. As if this was the last straw! To accuse me not only in front of Alvaro the airport security but also in front of all my soon-to-be fellow travelers. The situation eventually resolved itself with Alvaro escorting her to another area of the terminal and pointing out that perhaps the "pen in question" was the one hanging from the collar of her Winnie the Pooh muumuu.

Upon receiving my boarding pass I moved on to security where I was delayed for several minutes at the Migracion booth where an inquisitive little man in a sporty vest produced a number of analytical questions designed to make the covert criminal give himself away. "Where do you stay in Panama?" he asked me. Why? I thought to myself. Do you want to come and bake cookies? It'll be great. We can talk about duty free shops...and stuff.

His additional questions though, were so well-crafted and probing that I started to think, at one point, he was actually referring to the incident that just supposedly occurred. Sure I was reading between the lines, but the pen references were hard to miss. "So you're a journalist?" he said. And what do you use to do your writing? A stolen pen?

It was an eventful start to my trip, but he stamped my passport and I eventually made myself comfortable in the terminal-Gate 28-to wait for boarding, where I observed a hippie-looking family enjoy an industrial-sized bag of granola. They were eating out of it like hippie squirrels at a birdfeeder and it was a reminder that I needed something to eat.

But wait, there she was again! The pen woman from check-in hobbling down the hallway headed towards my gate! At this point, I was frightened. What was she going to accuse me of this time? Arson? Maybe dealing drugs?

I could already see the newspaper headlines. They would read ASPIRING JOURNALIST ARRESTED IN TOCUMEN ON MULTIPLE CHARGES. The article would go on to explain how one brave woman was somehow, was able to identify a crook, even without any evidence or proof.

She still looked really peeved so I tried to hide behind a fat man reading the newspaper, but as fate would have it, she made herself at home directly in front of me. I tried not to look, but her aura was too strong and as soon as we made eye contact, it was all over. She was carrying a small portable radio, the type with a large extendable antenna, and she lowered the volume before casually tapping the hippie mother beside her. "This man here. He steal-ah my pen in check-in area. Bad man is he." The hippies looked over disapprovingly.

It was like in that first few minutes of us knowing each other, the woman had developed the kind of hatred characterized in Hollywood movies by the word vendetta. And now, she was making it a point to advise everyone she could about me as a threat to society. At this point, all I could do was pray, and pray to every god out there (including that chubby elephant one) that we were not seated anywhere near each other on the plane.

Boarding came, and luckily, the pen woman got on far before me, but not without complaining to the airline representative that soup was categorically not an explosive liquid. The woman would have none of it and confiscated the soup without reservation, and with that I learned how you handle people like this. You simply don't give them the time of day. You treat them like they are invisible. What's that? Is someone talking about a pen? Because I can't see anyone here.

So when I made my way to my seat up front, and saw her way in the back pointing me out to her neighbor, I just ignored it. She was probably explaining the day's event in detail but I really didn't care. I had writing and crosswords to do, which is when I realized I had nothing to write with.
Comments (2)Add Comment
written by billie surmick , September 07, 2007
Hmmm, do you travel often out of Panama? If so, I now have a suspect for missing items from my checked luggage. And here I thought it was Homeland...Clothing, a Swatch watch, a special shell (not from Panama), etc. Would like to know if others are experiencing this insult as they fly to and from Panama to U.S.
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written by penless , September 20, 2007
ahh so dis is where dat bad man who is serial pen stealer hangs out.

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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 21:47