They've all gone over the edge. Via Tom Tomorrow we have this horror story of post 9/11 life.
"You Marc Schultz?" asks the tall one. He shows me his badge, introduces himself as Special Agent Clay Trippi. After assuring me that I'm not in trouble, he asks if there is someplace we can sit down and talk. We head back to Reference, where a table and chairs are set up. We sit down, and I'm again informed that I am not in trouble.
Then, Agent Trippi asks, "Do you drive a black Nissan Altima?" And I realize this meeting is not about a friend. Despite their reassurances, and despite the fact that I haven't committed any federal offenses (that I know of), I'm starting to feel a bit like I'm in trouble.
They ask me if I was driving my car on Saturday, and I say, reasonably sure, that I was. They ask me where I went, and I struggle for a moment to remember Saturday. I make a lame joke about how the days run together when you're underemployed. They smile politely. Was I at work on Saturday? I think so.
"Were you at the Caribou Coffee on Powers Ferry?" asks Agent Trippi. That's where I get my coffee before work, and so I tell him yes, probably, just before remembering Saturday: Harry Potter day, opening early, in at 8:30.
So I would have been at Caribou Coffee that Saturday, getting my small coffee, room for cream. This information seems to please the agents.
"Did you notice anything unusual, anyone worth commenting on?" OK, I think. It's the unusual guy they want, not me. I think hard, wondering if it was Saturday I saw the guy in the really cool reclining wheelchair, the guy who struck me as a potential James Bondian supervillain, but no: That was Monday.
Then they ask if I carried anything into the shop -- and we're back to me.
My mind races. I think: a bomb? A knife? A balloon filled with narcotics? But no. I don't own any of those things. "Sunglasses," I say. "Maybe my cell phone?"
Not the right answer. I'm nervous now, wondering how I must look: average, mid-20s, unassuming retail employee. What could I have possibly been carrying?
Trippi's partner speaks up: "Any reading material? Papers?" I don't think so. Then Trippi decides to level with me: "I'll tell you what, Marc. Someone in the shop that day saw you reading something, and thought it looked suspicious enough to call us about. So that's why we're here, just checking it out. Like I said, there's no problem. We'd just like to get to the bottom of this. Now if we can't, then you may have a problem. And you don't want that."
You don't want that? Have I just been threatened by the FBI? Confusion and a light dusting of panic conspire to keep me speechless. Was I reading something that morning? Something that would constitute a problem?
The partner speaks up again: "Maybe a printout of some kind?"
Then it occurs to me: I was reading. It was an article my dad had printed off the Web. I remember carrying it into Caribou with me, reading it in line, and then while stirring cream into my coffee. I remember bringing it with me to the store, finishing it before we opened. I can't remember what the article was about, but I'm sure it was some kind of left-wing editorial, the kind that never fails to incite me to anger and despair over the state of the country.
I tell them all this, but they want specifics: the title of the article, the author, some kind of synopsis, but I can't help them -- I read so much of this stuff.
Oh there's more ... they aren't quite finished with this desperado who reads in public. And
wait 'til you see what he was reading.