Gnomes in my Underwear

The Surrey International Writers Conference has been the gathering spot for members and former member of an internet writing forum for years. And, if Diana Gabaldon is the reigning queen of the event, then Jack Whyte must surely be the king. They are gracious, entertaining and willing to share their vast knowledge of the craft of writing with students who gather eagerly to soak this up in the hopes they too will one day be published.

So, it was with some amazement that the Gnomies, as our writing group is known, decided, almost on a spur of the moment thing to go to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. I brought it up because Janet Reid was going to be there this year as opposed to SIWC. It was also more attractive price wise on several levels. My grand plans of doing fund raisers through the year disappeared with unexpected trips, car repairs and medical bills. RMFW was a viable option for me that I didn’t mind because it was on my top three list of conferences I wanted to attend.

I was surprised that so many Gnomies decided to try RMFW. I think we wound up with fifteen from our group there. I wish they had left their schedule up so I could link to it, but they didn’t.

I’ll try to find the list and add it later.

I had some serious misgivings about going, but I decided to bite the bullet and go.

A few things I’ve learned.

1. Double check the dates before you click submit on your plane ticket. The calendar apparently rolled while I was trying to compare prices and I wound up with a ticket a week after the conference. The insurance you buy in case you have to change your schedule is only good if you die or are mortally ill and can prove it with medical records.

1. All luggage should be wheeled. No exceptions. Purses might even need wheels. I thought I would make one more trip with the garment bag since, you know, I had to spend $200 for another plane ticket. Buying new luggage was not an option. Eating might not be an option. No problem. I will park in covered parking, which is more expensive, but I won’t have to walk as far.

A truck whipped around in front of me as I am driving slowly to make sure I pull into the correct lane for covered parking. I wait patiently and pull up, but it won’t dispense a ticket. After several attempts, I looked up and see the “Parking Lot Full” sign flashing.

This means I have to back the car quite a ways down this narrow lane, into traffic and get into the lane behind me.

After much finagling. I am in the correct lane and only moderately later than I wanted to be. However, I still had the laptop case, carryon and the 199-pound garment bag to get inside. The carryon has about made its last roundup, but it’s going to have to struggle through one more trip, crooked wheel and all.

I arrived at the ticket counter with my handy-dandy pre-printed boarding pass and I have to stand in line anyway to check the garment bag. The gentleman prints me a new boarding pass since the one in my hot, sweaty little hand is rather crumpled from trudging across half the parking lot and the length of the airport with it firmly gripped.

1. Security. I love security. At least in Texas, most of them understand not to toss a bunch of crap on top of that rather expensive hat. Usually. Screaming as if you’ve just been shot is enough to get their attention when they decide to condense tubs and put your laptop on top of the hat.

1. The man behind you is very appreciative when you tell him to go ahead because it’s going to take a while to get undressed. The belt and buckle, boots, change, liquids, laptop, hat, jacket and sundry other items are finally loaded into the tubs and you’re ready to sail through security.

Not quite. You have a garden gnome reading a book under a mushroom in your carryon. The x-ray technician is trying to figure out what the heck you have in there and calls over another office. A scene from Eight Heads In A Dufflebag goes through my mind. I’m just glad the gnome doesn’t sing. It just glows at night via the nifty solar panel.

They decide my bag needs to be checked closer. By this time there are five antsy men lined up behind me who would really like to get on their way.

Security is still discussing the head looking thing in my bag. One of them decides they need to open the bag. In addition to the reading gnome, I also have eighteen little gnome pothangers, which look really cool on the monitor. In order to save space and be frugal, I wrapped those in my socks and underwear. I can just imagine them lifting things out of the suitcase and little gnomes scattering everywhere like roaches at midnight.

“I have gnomes in my underwear,” I say. “Please be careful.”

All conversation in the line stops. The man directly behind me dropped his folded up magazine…and his jaw. Two of the men at the end of the line backup. Who knows what happens if security isn’t careful with the gnomes in this woman’s underwear. The second man in line is looking frantically for more security. He gets his wish. A third security officer approaches.

“Please be careful of the gnomes in my underwear,” I repeat, knowing they are about to open that carryon that is stuffed to the hilt.

“I beg your pardon?”

“She has gnomes in her underwear,” says the first security office.

“I packed them in my socks and underwear so they wouldn’t break.”


They finally wave me through. I’m quite sure some of the men behind me are trying to find out which flight I’m on so they can book a different one.

At long last, I am on the plane to Denver. One little stop and transfer in Dallas and I’m home free.

I plan to stop at the Starbucks in Dallas and get some coffee and a muffin. On the trip back from Myrtle Beach, they came to my rescue and I am going to patronize them as much as possible even though I don’t care much for Starbucks.

While coming back from Myrtle Beach, I noticed a large group of soldiers getting ready to board a flight. I had passed the Starbucks minutes before, so I raced back down there and asked them how many muffins they had. They started counting and I said, “Never mind. I want them all, Just bag them as quickly as you can. I need to catch those soldiers and give them some muffins.”

The manager told me to go tell one of the soldiers to hold back from boarding while they finished getting the muffins ready and they would bring them to me. I caught the last two in the line and asked them to wait. I assured them I wouldn’t let them miss their plane. They are still wrapping muffins so I raced back to Starbucks, threw some twenties at them and said I would be back for my change. Then I raced back to the soldiers who were obviously wondering what this crazy woman is doing. When I arrived with two big bags of muffins, they grinned from ear to ear and couldn’t stop thanking me. I thanked them for what they were doing and wished them a very sincere safe journey and God bless.

When I returned to Starbucks, completely out of breath from the running, the manager handed me back my change. It was a lot more than it should have been so I asked him to refigure the bill. He said they were going to go in with me on the muffins and my change was correct.

So, yes, Starbucks at the Dallas airport has a special place in my heart. I get off the plane and head to the new one, which is just a few slots over. I can check the schedule and make sure it’s still on time. Wander down to Starbucks, get some coffee and a muffin, and roam back in plenty of time.

I had the injections in my knees about a week before the trip, and was totally and completely pain free. When I saw how far away Starbucks was, I had second thoughts about doing that much walking. It was so nice being without pain I decided not to press my luck. I would catch them on my way back.

We boarded our plane and waited for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes turned into forty-five minutes and they announced we needed to de-plane. There was a mechanical problem that couldn’t be fixed. The new plane was at the D concourse and we were on the A concourse.

Well, that is completely at the other end of the airport, but they have the skylink so no big problem. We all scurry to the skylink terminals and wait. We wait while several trains go by, but none stop. A sign flashes saying the port isn’t operational. A valet tells me the one on the other side is working and it will get us to D, it will just take longer.

We all scurry over to the other side…and watch several more trains go by.

Finally, a security officer shows up and gets mobbed. It reminded me of a scene out of a zombie movie with people moaning, “Trains, trains.”

He told us all there was a security breach on the skylink and it would be hours before it was operational. We could go down to this place, take a right, go downstairs and shuttles would take us across the airport where we would have to go back through security.

I thought about the gnomes in my underwear thing and decided my luck wasn’t running well enough to chance that.

Off we go to hike the length of DFW and catch our plane. I don’t think any of us realized how long that place is. About half way there I realized my knees were no longer pain free. They felt just like the crooked-wheeled carryon that was squeaking behind me. Of course, there’s a good chance it was actually the knees squeaking, but something was squeaking.

By the time I reached the plane, the knees were about gone. I thought about slumping down to the ground and telling my companions to save themselves, but I had a vision in my head of waited for me in Denver.

I can now tell you with all certainty, when faced with insurmountable hurdles, debilitating pain, and the specter of defeat, the promise of gourmet cupcakes conquers all.


  1. Julie–I laughed my butt off reading this. You have a terrific voice! “Gnomes in the underwear” is hysterically funny. Yes, I’m sure people did give you a wide berth after security.

    You made tears come into my eyes regarding the muffins. Random acts of kindness from strangers renew my faith in humanity. You are a great gal, but we knew that already.

  2. Oh, golly. I had comments.

    Love the soldiers. I need to get back to cookie baking for them.

    Gnomes in undies was fun until I thought they were going to unpack that suitcase.

  3. Stephanie,

    I always seem to have adventures at the airports. I am curious about how many adventures we could have together. I mean, I think you would attract bizarre circumstances also. A double dose of bizarre?

    Well, considering what those young men are giving, what is a muffin? I love our soldiers.

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