A few months ago, I tried to board a train with a bomb.
Or that’s what some people at Penn Station thought. I was heading to Baltimore via Amtrak to deliver the last Silo table. After careful packing and a miserable, rush-hour car trip to Manhattan, the baggage counter informed me Amtrak would not check furniture. No matter how safely it was packed.
I was ready to panic. My customer had bought a (very expensive) train ticket to have his (very expensive) table delivered by hand. I begged the station manager to let me bring it on board. “It can sit in my lap! I’ll stand! I’ll ride between cars!” Anything to get there. Fortunately, the station manager was game. If I could carry it over my shoulder, and was really willing to keep it in my lap if the seats were full, it could ride. But I’d have to take it out of the box.
Apart from the annoyance of dismantling my carefully-constructed packaging with a set of keys in the middle of a crowded train station, I didn’t think there would be a problem. The table is TECHNICALLY made with a giant bullet, but between the wooden shaft and the table frame bolted to it, it’s pretty obviously furniture. On the other hand, people in NYC are justifiably paranoid about weapons in public, but surely nobody would be so jumpy as to –
“Excuse me sir, could you tell me what that is?” asked the police officer.
To her credit the officer was responding to a tip, and figured it was furniture before she even asked. Unfortunately, whenever someone reports a “suspicious package or activity,” there’s a mandatory procedure the NYPD has to follow before they’ll let you move along. So the cop and I were stuck making awkward small talk while we waited for her backup and a bomb-sniffing dog.
A small crowd of policemen formed nearby. I think a few weren’t actually backup, but taking advantage of a rare non-confrontational break in their routine. All were very polite and professional, and a few chatted about my work and the wisdom of travelling with such a threatening-looking design.
“They made me take it out of the box,” I offered weakly.
As the cops milled about, several travelers crept up and pointed at the table. They apparently assumed the officers were gathered for an unrelated reason. Maybe to discuss a collective loss of peripheral vision. None rolled their eyes, but I could tell they wanted to.
Finally the bomb dog breezed through, showing less interest in the table than the nearby trash can, and I was free to go. But before I headed to the line for my train, the responding officer had an idea. To minimize the superfluous tips about my “suspicious” table, she grabbed a large bag from a nearby shop and pulled it over the steel cap of the bullet.
“There,” she said, “now it looks safer. Just keep that on.”
“So… it’s kind of like a table condom, right?” I said cheerfully.
She gave me a stern look, and went back to work.
I made it to my train, and the customer was delighted with his table. But I learned a couple things from this ordeal. First, always get to the station early – you never know what might hold you up. And second, when the baggage check agent asks what’s in your box, just tell him “books.”