The Great Seattle Cheese Tragedy

The mind is an awesome thing. An organ. A body part, to be sure. But also, it allows us to move about on this planet and interact with our surroundings in strange and wonderful ways. I don’t take it for granted.

But sometimes, sometimes — I really just want to throw the darn thing across the room and stomp on it.

This was one of those times…

Ira and I got to the Seattle airport almost 4 hours early. It had started to snow, so we decided to get a a head start on our trip back to San Jose.  We could hang out in one of those nice little (overpriced) wine bars until our flight. Easy peasy.

Of course you can’t check your bags more than 3 hours before your flight, so we had lunch first (at the wine bar) leisurely recounting our most favorite parts of our trip over a salad and a glass of fine Washington Chardonnay. My favorites were the wine tasting followed by our romantic dinner at The Pink Door.

After lunch I was truly content. My belly was full, and all was well with the world.

So I never saw it coming.

We got to the security line and I had just watched my shoes, coat, scarf, purse, cell phone and carry-on bag shuffle through the x-ray machine when a TSA agent calmly asked me what kind of liquid I was carrying.

“Three bottles of wine,” I said cheerfully.

“You can’t do that, ma’am. We’ll have to inspect this.” And with that, I was escorted off to the side by another uniformed man who asked me to unwrap everything so he could take a look-see.

I’m not sure what I was thinking. I know my brain went somewhere else, because OF COURSE I know the damn rules about carrying on more than 3 ounces of any sort of liquid.  All I can say in my defense is that Randy (the winemaker who sold us the wine) recommended that we carry on the reds rather than pack them as they might break inside our luggage and then all our clothes would stain. Seemed perfectly logical to me at the time.

(Ira later said that he told me we couldn’t do this, but my brain again didn’t register that as ever happening.)

Alright. So now I had to check the wine with our bags. “I’ll wait for you right here, babe,” said Ira. And off I went back to the airline counter.

Thankfully, there was no line, and I was able to have a short conversation with the Southwest agent about whether or not they had any sort of special handling available. “Well, we can mark it ‘Fragile’ for you, but other than that, no.” Okaaay. Um. “Is there any sort of Fed Ex place in this airport where I could get some packing material?”  The friendly guy behind the counter directs me downstairs and points to the left.  No problem.

Once I’m down there and wandering in that direction, I realize that I see nothing but car rental counters and baggage turnstiles. There is nothing like a Fed Ex anywhere. I ask for directions and am pointed again in that general direction. I keep walking.

When I’ve reached the end of the wing without finding the place, I walk back around and ask someone else. “Sure there’s a shipping place just up there past the escalators.”   Apparently I’d walked right past it. A few minutes later and I find myself in front of: Ken’s Baggage Storage & Rentals (they also offer packing and shipping services). It’s a hole in the wall place tucked up under the escalator, so you wouldn’t see it unless you were standing right in front of it. Thankfully, I was.

Ken was a friendly guy. Middle-aged and little on the round side. But very, very helpful. “Sure, I’ve got just the thing.” And so $16 and 15 minutes later, I had two medium boxes taped together with special egg crates inside holding not just my 3 bottles of wine, but also my raspberry honey, my feta-stuffed olives, my rose petal jelly, and my white truffle-infused olive oil. Whew.

Then it was back upstairs where I happily checked the box (marked ‘fragile’ just in case) and was off to snake my way around through security once again.

This time, I was lucky to be randomly chosen for the new back scatter x-ray.

I politely refused.

It was my first-ever pat down, and I have to say that if it hadn’t been me, the whole thing was really quite hilarious. The TSA woman assigned to the job was about 4 ft tall and when she saw me (I’m just about 6′) I think she got a little scared. She kept telling me she was going to have to put her hands in places I might object to. Like, “Are you really sure you want me to do this to you?”

I told her to just get on with it.

And there was Ira, a safe distance away, laughing as he watched the little Asian woman feel me up. I told you it was hilarious.

When I was done and back at his side, he gave me a hug and asked me what took so long. So of course, I recounted the whole sordid story for him and then he said, “Well, at least we still have the cheese.”

There was a sharp inhale of breath (mine) and then I stopped and let out a horrible moan. “Oh my god! The CHEESE!”

No we most certainly did not have the cheese. It was back in the hotel room mini-fridge where we’d left it all alone like Macaulay Culkin on Christmas Eve.

I think that was the last straw, because that’s when my brain really started its meltdown. Ira could see it coming. And I could see that he knew he was helpless to stop it. But he tried to anyway. He looked me in the eye and apologized like it was his fault.

But of course, it was really MY cheese. I had been the one who insisted on standing in the long line at Beecher’s waiting to taste the locally made, but world famous cheese. I had been the one who dragged him to the French market where we spent 30 minutes tasting (and buying) even more delicious cheese. And I had been the one to say to myself, “Now, don’t forget these are in here” as I placed them in the small refrigerator later that evening in our hotel room. Clearly, I had a relationship with those cheeses.

I told Ira it wasn’t his fault and he said, “Come on Momma. I’ll buy you a drink.”

Two minutes later we were sitting at the nearest airport pub waiting for the cocktail waitress to take our orders. I decided to call the hotel and see if they would ship it to us.

They would. If it was still in the room. But it wouldn’t go out until Thursday. Did I still want them to try? I don’t remember what I said, but I know I’m not proud of it. I think I also hung up on the lady.

I started to cry. I really honestly did. And then, because I was embarrassed and in a public place, I absolutely couldn’t stop.

Ira was good. “Honey. It’s just cheese. Really. Don’t cry. We’ll get more, I promise.”

But I couldn’t stop the f**ing tears. I pulled my hair like that would somehow magically make me quit bawling. Like it would tell my brain that it was time to stop.  “I know. But the money…There was probably $100 worth of cheese, babe!”

So that’s what happened. The Great Seattle Cheese Tragedy.

And in the 7 days that we’ve been back, I’ve become fixated on all-things fromage. My brain won’t let it go.

So I’ve decided to learn how to make my own. Thankfully, the local library had several books I think will help me in my self-education. Among them:  Cheese making at home: the complete illustrated guideGoat song : a seasonal life, a short history of herding, and the art of making cheese; and the classic (published in 1909), The science and practice of cheese-making; a treatise on the manufacture of American Cheddar cheese.

And in the meantime, I’ve started exploring my own backyard a bit more. On Friday, I was lucky enough to find The Los Gatos Gourmet, a tiny little cheese and wine shop with some really great local, national and international cheeses. And a friendly young man behind the counter who was more than happy to tell me which were his favorites and why.

That night Ira and I had fruit, olives and cheese for dinner. With a little side of walnuts and honey. Oh and wine. And yes, we went back for seconds and thirds.

Oh. Life is good.



Filed under Cheese, Food & Drink, Origins, Travel, Wine

10 responses to “The Great Seattle Cheese Tragedy

  1. So did the hotel send you your cheese? or did I miss that part? what a wild ride! Tell Ira he’s my hero for hanging in there.

    • No – I figured the cheese would’ve gone bad or been eaten by then. Maybe housekeeping enjoyed it?

      Yes – Ira is my hero, too. I will certainly pass that on.

      Thanks for reading Gwendolyn!

  2. Have you read Goat Song yet? What an astonishing little book. So much packed between its covers. Never mind making cheese, I want to raise goats.

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  5. Lindsay

    Thanks for the re-telling your adventure. The dinner sounded so simple
    and delicious. WIne cheese and olives. Lindsay

  6. This took me back to Barcelona airport several years ago. My husband and I had taken a Mediterranean cruise for our 40th anniversary. It was wonderful.
    We found several Christmas gifts on our journey that were perfect. Grappa for our Italian friend, truffle oil for a foodie, Amarone (for me) and a box with 2 bottles of Kettle One for the price of one (for hubby).

    As we were packing the night before departure I suggested we put these breakables in with the ‘dirty’ clothes and they would probably be fine. My husband didn’t think so. He packed them into his carry-on! Yes, we had just gone through the ‘3 oz.’ rule on our way over, yet neither of us gave it a thought.

    We had just enough time to make the plane when we got to the airport. I think they plan it that way. Of course we get searched and they found our goodies. Rather than hand them over to the smart ass punk who searched everything (quite openly and rigorously I might add) my husband decided to walk over to the trash receptacle and make a point of tossing ALL of it!

    I didn’t know who I wanted to kill more, the guard or my husband. I stomped off in the direction of the gate and don’t think I spoke to him until we landed in the States. Later we had to laugh at the thought of the cleaning crew in Barcelona airport having a hell of a party on us!

    • OMG! I’m with you — killing would’ve ensued. Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s forgotten about that dang rule. Is there a business idea here, do you think? A cart that sits just outside the entrance to security line reminding you about your fluids and then ships them home for you lickety split?

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