I'm not quite sure how he finagled it, but The Skipster arranged through "a very generous UNCLE" to get the "SnL One" (our customized Boeing 777-232ER) back safe and sound... and with two new Rolls-Royce engines! So The Skipster, Kato, and myself showed up early in the morning at Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama and there she was, right outside the window.
Of course, my primary concern was locating the full case of Jack Daniel's No. 7 (with the green label -- and forget what you may have read, I think it's better!) which I had carefully hidden a few months ago... for medicinal purposes only, of course.
We explained to two TSA people that we were here to pick up "our plane," which caused one of them to look at us like we were crazy and ask, "Oh, yeah? And just what plane might that be?"
The Skipster, in his beatnik persona, wasn't helping matters any. "C'mon, cat! Keep it cool, daddy-o! We're here for the wings, man! Like, it's got the pink slips, and the good hands of Allstate all over it, dig?"
Two more TSA guys came over, eying Kato suspiciously. One of them, the only one of the four wearing a mustache, finally spoke to him, asking "What are you? Japanese?"
"Chinese," Kato patiently corrected him.
"What's your name?"
"That's a Japanese name. Show me your birth certificate." My eyebrows rose at that one. Like I always carry my birth certificate with me!
"Look," I butted in, pointing out the window. "We own that plane, parked right outside. And we can prove it!"
"How?" asked one of the more helpful TSA fellows.
"Well..." I began, hesitantly, "It's got the registration in the glove compartment?""
The Skipster shook his head. "Close, but no Tiparillo, Daddy-O. It's not, like, a Ford Pinto."
Kato spoke up. "The registration number is on the aft fuselage section. Just enter it in the computer, and 'Simpson/Lynch Studios' will pop up."
"Pretty smart for a little Japanese fella, ain'tcha?" the mustached TSA guy said mockingly.
"Chinese," Kato corrected him, a little less patiently this time.
One of the first two TSA men we'd talked to sat down at a desk computer and typed in the registration number, which he could read through the window. Within seconds, the screen displayed the information. "Okay, which one of you is Simpson?"
The Skipster raised his hand. "On the spot, Daddy-O."
"And which one is Lynch?"
I muttered, "That would be me."
All four of them actually looked very displeased that we had been telling the truth. "Okay... So you want to do what, again?"
The Skipster opened his mouth to speak, but Kato jumped in first. "We just want to check it out to make sure it's okay. Maybe start up the engines and get some readings on the gauges. Then we'll be on our way."
"Nope. No can do." The four TSA men chuckled.
"No can do... what?" I asked.
"We can't let the three of you on that plane at once," one of them said. "Homeland security rules."
The four of them were really starting to annoy me. Exasperated, I asked, "What 'rule' is that?"
The one with the mustache looked at me right in the eye and grinned. "Any rule we wanna make up!" The three others laughed. "Look, buddy, we're TSA, and you're not! We got our jobs courtesy of President George W. 'Two-Terms' Bush! Can you poor saps make the same claim?"
"No," I admitted, "thankfully not!"
Kato looked at The Skipster and me. "Gentlemen," he murmured, "this is getting us nowhere."
"I dig it, cat. These suits are, like, denseville!" said The Skipster, who turned to make his way toward the jetway connecting our plane to the terminal.
One of the TSA guys yelled, "Hey, you! Stop!" as he started to draw his freakin' gun! Suddenly, it seemed like everyone was yelling for one reason or another.
Hey, I'm no coward, but when guns are involved...! "Skip! Do what he says!" I yelled, even as I myself dropped to the floor and covered my head. Only three or four seconds passed... then suddenly, everything was quiet. I looked up and saw Kato standing with his arms crossed, four automatic pistols neatly arranged at his feet. I stood, looking around me to see that all four burly TSA guys were lying unconscious on the floor!
Meanwhile, The Skipster had swiftly made his way onto our beloved plane. He quickly located my case of Jack Daniel's "green label" in an overhead compartment above seat 47, and was exiting the plane with it. However, quite unexpectedly and coincidentally -- as so often happens in the Simpson/Lynch world -- a new employee at the airport decided to push a red button... "just to see what it would do," as he was later quoted as saying.
Unfortunately for The Skipster, this innocuous-looking red button retracted the jetway!
Kato and I watched, horrified, as The Skipster fell twenty feet to the hard concrete, still clutching the case of booze!
We both ran outside as fast as we could. Thank goodness The Skipster was still alive! (And thank goodness not a bottle was broken... but I digress.)
The Skipster slowly opened his eyes. "Gretchen...?" he whispered. I looked at Kato, who was smiling. Kato looked back at me, and actually winked! Anyway, Kato helped The Skipster get to his feet. "Foxster...? Kato...? What...? Where...? Who...?" The Skipster mumbled "Vootie..." as his gaze shifted from Kato and myself to slightly upward. "Whoah! We got the plane back? Fantastic!"
Kato and I looked at each other, wide-eyed. For the first time in weeks, Skip wasn't talking like Maynard G. freakin' Krebs! "Good Lord... He's got his mind back!" I said.
During the next minute or so, Kato and I hurriedly filled The Skipster in on the "Kewl Beanz!" project, and various other things that had gone on during the past month.
Finally, indicating the plane, The Skipster said, "Well, if we're going to host a party, at least we can pick up some of the guests in style!"
And so, to sum up... If anyone is planning to arrive at our Grand Opening early, we can provide your transportation on Sunday, January 24th. Just let us know!
Thanks for your time.
P.S. ~~ I was a bit concerned that our little skirmish with the TSA foursome would come back to bite us on the butt, but The Skipster said, "Not to worry! I called my oh-so-generous UNCLE, and those four dimwits have been transferred to San Francisco International Airport, where they can reflect upon the error of their ways... while learning the difference between Chinese and Japanese!" (Note to self: Someday soon, I'll have to ask Skip why, whenever I refer to his "uncle," he edits my draft to say "UNCLE." I never complain -- after all, I constantly edit his SnL posts to take out 47 or so extra commas, and such -- but still...)