GOES, TSA Pre-Check, and the Crazy Lesbian: Part 1

As readers of my little stories know, I’ve been travelling a lot to Mexico and back for the past couple of months — so, I decided in a moment of travel genius, it was time to join GOES and TSA Pre-Check.

In case you don’t know the program, for $100 you get a 5 year membership.  They do a background check, finger prints, grab up the money, interview you at one of your local international airports, give you a membership card, and send you packing.  Once approved, you use a special kiosk when entering the country, scan your finger prints, grab up a receipt, present it to the guard gate, they eyeball you, and out you go.  For Pre-Check, you get a special line for TSA screening where you don’t even take off your shoes.

Soooooo simple.  Anything to avoid the 1.5 hour line at Houston International Airport.

So, I filled out the (not so) simple online application.


“No problem, I thought, I’ve never been convicted of a crime.”

A few days after submitting the payment, and the application, I received a “tentative approval” letter asking me to schedule an interview with a Custom’s Officer at BWI.  I scheduled the interview.

I drove the 2.5 hours to the appointment, found the office tucked away, back in the bowels of the airport, and sat down.  As I waited, I flipped open my passport.

Matthew’s handsome face stared back at me.


I told the Custom’s Officer I’d grabbed the wrong passport, kinda sheepishly, and asked what to do.  I would be in Philadelphia in two days for the Eagle’s shoot, could I do the interview there?

“Of course,” he said patiently, “just walk in.”

I drove home, kicking myself the entire trip.  Five hours wasted.  I thought, “I better call Philly and make sure I can just walk in on Friday.”

I called Customs at Philadelphia International Airport, and listened to the recording.

“YOU MUST SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT VIA THE GOES WEBSITE, WALK IN APPOINTMENTS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED,” said the machine.  I went to the web site to see if I could schedule an appointment.  They system, of course, wouldn’t let me — since I had my appointment in Baltimore.

I decided to play it safe. I’d drive back to Baltimore the very next day, walk in (since they said I could), and go through the whole process again.

And that’s what I did.  I arrived 1 hour before opening so I could talk to the Custom’s Officer before everyone came in.  He said no problem.  About 20 minutes after opening, I sat for the interview.

“So, Mr. Gatty, tell me about your arrest in 1998?”

Screeching halt in my brain.  Arrest in 1998?  WTF?

Then I remembered.  Like a flood of three week old Chinese food hitting your stomach, it hit me:


In 1998 I owned a small aquarium store on Maryland’s eastern shore called “Cool World”.  I wasn’t that far out of college, and HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED had landed a “good” state job in Salisbury.  We moved to (what former Maryland Governor William Donald Shaffer called) “the shit house of the eastern shore” soon after he landed the job.  (The shit house refers to the plethora of chicken houses in the area. Gov. Shaffer got into big trouble for his remark.  He didn’t care.  Salisbury is 100% REPUBLICAN and Shaffer was a liberal DEMOCRAT.  He wasn’t getting the chicken house vote anyway).

I decided to follow my dream.  I opened a small, high end tropical fish store right next to the town’s university.  And, for about 8 years, I made it work.

It was hell.

At first it was cool.  I bought fish, shipped them in from all over the world, expanded the store, worked like a dog.  I built shelving, painted a mo-hawked, sunglasses wearing fish on one of the walls, ordered neon signage for the window. Enya played endlessly on a stereo system, lighting was turned down in the store, and it was a cross between Zen and 80’s neon.  I loved it.

But the coup de ‘tat was the 250 gallon tank parked in the front window, with “Bubba” swimming lazily under blue lights.

Bubba was a huge Pacu, a vegetarian tropical fish that looks like a giant piranha.  Let me tell you, he stopped people in their tracks.  He weighed about 25 lbs.

Opening the store was great.  I had about $10,000 to work with, and I made it work.  That covered EVERYTHING.  Opening rent.  Utility deposit.  Inventory.  Tanks.  Shelving.  Advertising.  EVERYTHING.  For the first 3 years, I put every dime of profit back into the business.  I worked 7 days a week, 10 am – 9 pm.  I worked holidays.  To make sales, you have to be open.

To this day I don’t know how I did it.  But I did.  And, on about the third year of owning the store, I decided to hire an employee.

Enter Crazy Lesbian.  Of course, at the time I didn’t KNOW she was a crazy lesbian.  Now, don’t send me hate mail.  She was not crazy because she was a lesbian.  Why, I have many lesbian friends!  She was crazy, and happened to be a lesbian, and — to be honest —  one reason I hired her was because she could beat the crap out of anyone who might bother or threaten her when she was alone in the store.   Yes, yes, I know:  enough with the stereotypes.  But in this case it was TRUE.  She was 6′ of solid muscle.  She worked out, and was Ms. Something or Other in a body building contest.  She could move Bubba’s tank with one hand tied behind her back.  No one screwed with her.  And, when you’re open late at night, and you have only one employee, frankly, you don’t want  a wilting flower.

Besides, I liked her.  I like people who take no crap. People who march to their own drum.  Plus, she was a hard worker.  The tanks were spotless.  She was good with customers.  She was fun to be around.  She knew fish. (Shhhh!  Gay friends that was not a joke.)

She was a klepto.

She stole about $3,000 worth of stuff, including a 30 gallon tank.  ALLEGEDLY.  Of course, I saw the tank in the back of her car, covered up with an old blanket.  I asked her what happened to the 30 gallon tank from the front of the store, the one for sale?  “OH MY GOD IT’S NOT THERE? WHERE DID IT GO?  DID SOMEONE STEAL IT?”  I didn’t have the …cajones…then to ask her about the identical tank covered up in the back of her car.  I just did a little research, and realized, ooops, I made a hiring mistake.  Lots of missing stuff during the times she worked.  LOTS. Crap.

Of course, I couldn’t PROVE this — at least not in a court of law, so I just let her go.  No drama, I simply said I couldn’t afford a staff person any more because profits were running so tight.

She was pissed.

As she left the store, she screamed, “I’ll get you, you son of a bitch.  You’ll be sorry you ever met me.”

And, 15 years later, I can say:

She got that right.


A further thought about my “Crazy Lesbian” designation.  You see, I tend to remember people by nick names. I couldn’t tell you her legal name if you held me over hot coals and threatened to feed me my own roasted intestines.  OHHH, CRAP, I just remembered it.  WTF is that!  Still…

Usually I remember people by my little pigeon hole.  HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED is a good example.  I have to stop and think to remember his real name; I was with him for 15 (long) years.  Some of my mental re-names are good — Cute Boy, Handsome Man, Brilliant Girl.  Some not so good, and a little embarrassing.  Crazy Lesbian, Hurler, Skinny Dude, Snaggle Teeth.  So if I offend you with my Crazy Lesbian designation, I am sorry.  It could have just as easily been Crazy Breeder if that makes you feel any better.  

I better shut up.  I’ve gotten a little too far out on a limb for my corporate blog than I feel comfy with and THAT says something.  Where is Handsome Man?  It’s time to eat.