Dateline -- Atlanta Airport, September 2
Sunday. Cherokee, North Carolina.
The last stop on the Power Tour before I get to go home.
After driving for three hours and getting a speeding ticket in rural North Carolina, I was hoping it would be worth it.
Actually, it was. It was a terrific event, run by a couple of really smart events people, Sharon Montague and Sandy Sauer. A VIP brunch for the high-rollers (one of whom handed me an unpolished ruby from the local ruby mine — who knew they had ruby mines down here?). Followed by a tour of the casino, which is one of the most profitable Harrah’s properties in the country — and they don’t serve any alcohol (the Cherokees, who own the casino, which is on their land, forbid it). The poker tables don’t even have cards (because of some obscure North Carolina law about games of chance vs. games of skill) — the “cards” are digital touch screens.
Driving back to Atlanta, and the airport — to go home — I was extra-careful to stay within the speed limit. Not only did I not want to get a second speeding ticket, but my time was tight — I couldn’t afford a long stop.
One of the annoying things about Highway 85, which runs through northern Georgia, is that the speed limit changes fairly drastically (from 35 m.p.h. to 70), but they’re not posted regularly. So there I was, about 20 miles outside of Atlanta, making good time but staying just a few miles an hour over the speed limit of 65 (the last sign posted).
And suddenly a cop pulled out of his hiding place and started tailing me. Oh, crap
, I thought, as I noticed a 55 m.p.h. sign.
The Georgia Highway Patrol car stayed right behind me for about a mile, clearly trying to intimidate me (effectively, too). Then it switched on its blue lights, and I pulled over.
“Driver’s license, please,” said the good-ol’-boy state trooper.
I handed it to him. He took it and went back to his cruiser and sat there for a good five minutes.
When he returned, he said, “Your tags are expired.”
“But — it’s not my car,” I said. “It’s a rental.” I showed him the Avis rental agreement, mentally cursing Avis for renting me a car with expired plates.
He took the rental agreement back to the cruiser with him, this time for ten minutes.
He returned and started to hand me a piece of paper, then stopped. He looked over at the passenger’s seat, saw several packs of Trident sour-apple gum scattered on the seat (my favorite: keeps me from going too stir-crazy on long car trips), then leaned in.
“Sir, have you been drinking?”
“Drinking? No, sir.” What the hell was he talking about?
“Not even one drink?”
“No, not at all.”
“You haven’t had a drink today, not even one?”
“No, Officer. What makes you—?”
“Because you’re certainly packing the gum.”
Suddenly I got it. When drunk-drivers are stopped by cops, sometimes they pop gum into their mouths to disguise the smell of booze. Now what was he going to arrest me for, gum-chewing without a license in the state of Georgia?
“You be careful,” he warned.
A fitting end to my book tour, I decided.
But not quite the end.
I walked went through the metal detector at the Atlanta airport, smiling to myself, delighted to be going home, finally. So maybe I did look a little demented.
The TSA guy on the other side said, “You win the lottery or something?”
“Me? Yeah. No. No, I didn’t win the lottery.”
“You won something, man,” he said. “I can tell. You got the vibe.”
“I just finished a book tour,” I told him. A friendly airport security employee: now that was a novelty.
“You wrote a book, huh?”
“You got a best-seller?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Actually, I do.”
“What’s the name of your book?”
“It’s called Power Play
. It’s a novel.”
“You hear that?” he said to the man behind me in the security line, just passing through the metal detector. He’d been standing there, waiting impatiently, while the TSA guy and I talked. He reminded me of Stanley in “The Office.”
He gave me a baleful glance. “Hear what?” he said without interest.
“This man here wrote a book called Power Play
, and it’s a best-seller.”
Stanley, who wanted to retrieve his bags from the conveyor bag but couldn’t move because I was in his way, gassing on about some book, flashed me a look of disgust and elbowed me aside.
“You gotta buy this man’s book,” said the TSA guy. “It’s called Power Play
. It’s a bestseller, the man says. You gotta buy a copy.”
“Yeah?” said Stanley coldly. “If it’s a bestseller, then he don’t need us to buy his book, isn’t that right?”A note from Webmistress Clair: If you live in the Boston area, you still have one more chance to see Joe; he'll be at Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport on Friday, September 7. Click here for details.
And if you got a chance to see Joe on tour, stop by Joe's discussion forum and tell us about it!