Why did I have a bullet? And a missing one, at that? Well, it’s not that bizarre of a story. No, I don’t typically carry bullets around with me but this is a very special bullet. Well, not that kind of special bullet, haha, it’s a REAL bullet, the kind made for guns and death. And it was a gift, an award that I received from my Director after I returned from the military exercise I was on for a month this fall. So we’re in this meeting one day at work, the whole team, and he’s thanking us for our efforts and then he starts in with, “I’d like to especially thank the person…” and he carries on with a few nice things that translate into this person did a pretty fantastic job blabbity blah and then he says, Heather, I’d like to thank you. Well, for the first part of the announcement I figured he was talking about someone else so I was paying half the attention I maybe should have been paying and then all of a sudden he’s standing up and I’m all hot and red in the face because that’s what I do when I am surprised and awkward, which is somewhat often. I realize this is the part of the meeting where I too stand up and shake his hand and thank him for the recognition, and as I shake his hand, he slips me a bullet. Hmm, I feel like that phrase could mean so much more than it actually does in this case. Anyway, mindoutofgutter.
In the military world, when someone wants to thank you, they slip you something in a handshake. (Not to be confused with slipping something say in a drink. Very different) Typically it’s a coin that represents their branch or office, but this boss is pretty bad ass and so he gifts bullets, and not that often, from what I’ve heard. Did I mention that the bullets are homemade? He actually makes them. Anyway, he slipped me a bullet. I was pumped. I walked around with it all day, rubbing it in my pocket like a weirdo with a tick. Anyway. I liked the damned bullet.
I showed Chris said bullet on the car ride home that day, bragging about my award, always so modest and humble. “Don’t be jealous that you don’t have a bullet.” I tell him this and think about setting up an award wall in my office, knowing full well I only have about three things to put on it.
He seems unimpressed. “That goddamned bullet better not be in that purse when we go home in a few days, ” he says as I toss it in my purse next to my orange chapstick in the special, secret pocket, because orange chapstick and bullets are both very valuable items in my world. I make a face at him. Obviously the damned bullet was going to be displayed on a shelf immediately, not in my purse. His jealousy was outrageous and I had to sympathize. Not everyone had a fancy bullet.
Three days later, Stuttgart airport. We are standing in line, waiting to go through the metal detectors and Chris smirks. “Don’t hold up the line, rookie,” he says as he takes off his belt and slips through the detector. I am a world traveler. I am not a rookie and I do not appreciate his taunts. I will skip through faster and I don’t even wear belts so it should be no problem. And then it happened.
They let my purse go through and then they pulled it back. Then it went through again and as the picture came up on the screen, my heart stopped and just as they pulled it from the line, I saw it. The bullet. That motherfuckingbullet. I looked for it for a day and didn’t find it in the purse and so I convinced myself I had put it up in my office but was too lazy to climb 12 stairs one night to double-check. And now it was very clear that the bullet was not in my office but there on the screen, for all of Germany to see. I glanced at Chris, who was leaning against the duty-free shop, making a face because I was holding us up. My knees started to shake as I mouthed, “BULLET.” He shook his head and glared at me while I pretended I didn’t see the bullet on the screen. Eh, I suppose he had some reason to be mad. There was a huge terror alert going on due to some crazy terrorists taking over Hamburg, a few hours north. But fuckmeunlucky. I didn’t MEAN to bring a bullet to the airport during a terror alert. A terror alert specifically for Americans.
The emotionless German woman screening bags, hair pulled tight into a bun, pale and plump and lips pursed, dug and dug through tunnels of junk. Eight chapsticks (two oranges, grape, mint, plain, kiwi, raspberry tart, and something shiney which I think was bubblegum), three packs of half eaten gum, honeysuckle salve in a pot, four hair ties, random notes on pieces of paper, a new, crisp journal, two iPods, two sedatives, a lighter with a pretty bird in a tree, four pens, twelve euro in random change and three piles of dirt, all dumped onto the metal. She couldn’t find it and I pretended I had no idea what she was looking for, only it was clearly pointy, sharp looking, bullet like and very obviously the only thing left in the purse. And then she found it, tucked in the side little pocket, way down at the bottom. She pulled it out and started to twist it, like lipstick. Idiot. It was obviously not lipstick. She asked if I spoke German. When I said no, she seemed annoyed/delighted but then proceeded to carry on the world’s worst interrogation.
“What is this?” She kept twisting the damned bullet like a lipstick was going to pop out any time now. It was pissing me off. I wanted her hands off my bullet.
“Mmm, it’s a bullet. Well, it’s a bullet but it’s not REAL bullet. Well, it’s a real bullet but it’s actually a gift. An award. Harmless. See, I was at this conference two weeks ago and I did a great job and so instead of a paper award, I got this award and….” She looked unimpressed and was waving her hand around to catch the eyes of a very serious and very German group of police officers and suits. Oh good god, this wasn’t looking good. I had no idea what the rule was about bullets in airports but I felt like whatever the rule was, it was not going to be in my favor.
“English?” The German police officer dressed in blah olive with the serious hat asked as he approached me.
“Yes.” Captain obvious.
“Can you explain why you have this in your purse?”
“Well, like I was telling her, I was just at this conference in Grafenwoehr.” I felt like if I tossed in the name of a German city and peppered it with some emphasis, he’d think I knew my way around Germany and therefore was harmless and hopefully just stupid. “So I was there, and I got this award,” I explained, as I pointed to the bullet. “And I was showing my husband and then I put it in my purse and I swear to God I thought I put it away and now I’m going home to get married and I’m stupid.” I just stopped explaining. The serious German was stroking my bullet like a pervert and his buddies, another cop and the head of airport security, were staring at it and almost drooling. “I’m just stupid. Really stupid. I swear to God I’ll never bring a bullet in the airport again. I didn’t mean to.” And then I thought I’d prove to him that I’m harmless.
“I don’t even have what goes with it.” I didn’t think saying the word gun was going to help my situation. Instead, I pulled my pockets inside out like a beggar but then remembered I had on military issued army pants from a neighboring country that I bartered for at the Exercise. Fucking christ. Don’t ask me why I was wearing military pants. Ok fine. They are comfortable as shit and I feel like I can stretch it out easily in them and potentially do some sprinting or squatting or leg crossing in them effortlessly if need be. Not that I ever sprint anywhere. Anyway. That is why I was wearing them at the airport. They are very nice military issued cargo pants.
The serious German sighed and passed around my bullet like it was show and tell. The head of security almost messed himself which led me to now be both petrified and bullshit.
“Well, you can keep it. Obviously. I don’t want it back. I have no need for it, actually.” He smiled like a creep and didn’t say anything, which was making me nervous. I didn’t even dare look at Chris. I was really in for it.
“You’re lucky its Wednesday,” creepy German cop declared.
“Why Wednesday?” I knew he was making me ask and I wanted my bullet back so I could stab him in the neck with it.
“We don’t put Americans in German jail on Wednesdays.” Well that’s a lie if I ever heard one. Then he laughed and tossed his head back like we were all going to have a good giggle about it. I pretended to belly laugh it out with him but I was not amused on the inside.
“Thank you so much. I’ll never do it again.” What I would do, I thought, though, is get a new goddamned bullet when I return. This story should surely make the boss give me another one, I thought as I dumped my junk back in my purse.
I waltzed over to Chris like nothing had just happened.
“Are you happy, Heather? You almost got us both arrested. You’re lucky your ass didn’t just get tossed on the floor in cuffs. What in the hell were you thinking, bringing that bullet in your purse? I TOLD YOU TO LOOK FOR IT.”
Oh, well I’ll be damned. He was SCOLDING ME LIKE A CHILD. Not.the.boss.of.me, my brain screamed as it flashed red and I lost my shit again, this time not afraid to go to German jail/waterless shower. I started shrieking.
“LIKE I DID IT ON PURPOSE?? LIKE I MEANT TO BRING THE BULLET HERE?” My pitch was doing that escalating to white noise thing again. “Oh, I hope you’re happy that you just made me feel more awful when I ALREADY FELT AWFUL AND NOW YOU HAVE.PISSED.ME.OFF.” White noise, white noise. Then I tossed in, “on the way home TO.OUR.WEDDING.” Because now this bullet incident was all his fault and so was upsetting me and this is how I make sure I never feel bad or guilty in life because I table turn. I am a master turner of tables.
He rolled his eyes. I crossed my arms and huffed loudly.
I wanted a new bullet.
***Picture of bullet is my new bullet, given to me today as a replacement. I am back in action.