Wilderness Mary (no relation but a very dear friend) lives in the Mountains South of Denver above the 'Wally can still breathe' line. Even Mrs Wilderness has trouble breathing at the altitude where Mary lives. The last time we stayed at her home I remember we had to stop twice and catch our breath just trying to climb the steps from the first to the second floor.
That was the reason we jumped at the chance (well, Mrs Wilderness jumped, I got up to my toes) when Mary offered to take us down to the thick air of Denver. You know, the 'Mile High City.' I was ready to go, I hadn't taken a breath in two days!
So the three of us jump into Mary's SUV and head for the big city. After walking around for a little while and taking in the sights, we found ourselves in front of the US Mint in downtown Denver. There was a crowd outside but I soon noticed it was mainly guards and security people. When we inquired we were told we had just missed the day's last tour through the facility.
After he had seen how poorly we took the news, you know, pouting and saying; "Oh, gee whiz" and things like that, one of the guards told us that the gift shop was still open if we were interested. Of course we were interested, "How do we get there?" That's when he informed us the gift shop was on the other side of the Mint at the end of the tour! He went on to whisper: "If you go in now, they will give you an escort through the Mint, to gift shop. You will see the Mint but it won't be a guided tour." That worked for us so we walked past the gray, impregnable walls into the US Mint.
I went in first and was ordered to take everything out of my pockets and put all of it on the conveyor belt passing through the x-ray machine. All of this with three or four guards standing there with their arms crossed, giving me the evil eye. I did as I was told and then walked over behind the operator to look into his little viewer with him.
It was at this point that I remembered that Wilderness Mary was usually armed! You see W-M is a registered nurse and works nights much of the time. In California she had worked the night shift at a twenty-four-hour clinic. She learned to carry a weapon there and kept doing so, having to drive alone in the mountains at night in Colorado. At the time I believe she had a small caliber revolver. She has since graduated to a 9mm S&W semi-automatic or possibly a rocket launcher; I'm not sure. Anyway, I knew she usually carried the gun in her purse but as I looked back I noticed neither her nor Mrs Wilderness had purses, they were wearing small travel packs and had just put them on the conveyor belt.
I thought everything was okay so I resumed looking over the shoulder of the x-ray machine operator. Well, this guy apparently had a complex of some sort or thought I was trying to steal his job. He gets all upset, turns and starts staring at me. If looks could kill I'd have been seriously wounded. After a pregnant pause, I finally got the message and took a few steps back. Mr Operator and his four armed linebackers were watching every step. In the meantime, Mrs W and W-M pick up their packs and join me. One of the guards walks over and says; "Wait here for an escort through the Mint."
So we are standing there and I look over at Wilderness Mary and she has this nervous grin on her face. She's clenching her teeth and her brow is furrowed. Mrs Wilderness notices the problem and whispers; "What's the matter?" Mary whispers back; "I've got my gun in my bag and he missed it!" We just look at her, sort of frozen; she looks back, all three of us afraid to move a muscle! Our eyes are moving all over the room though, trying to see if anyone overheard Mary. Finally whispering through clenched teeth so the guards couldn't read my lips I said; "Well it's too late now, we're in. If you say something they will jump us like vultures on a dead camel." Mary says "I know, what should we do?" Once again, we just look at her, afraid to move a muscle.
At this point, as if on cue, our escort shows up. This guy was probably ready to go home after a long day when his supervisor tells him to go get these three clowns, that arrived late but wanted to buy a trinket at the gift shop, and escort them there. We can tell he isn't that happy with the assignment but is pleasant enough. There is no doubt though, if he finds out we just smuggled a gun into the US Mint, he will make hamburger out of us.
That trip though the maze of corridors is the longest I have ever walked. All of us expected alarms to go off any minute. Of course they must have metal detectors secretly hidden in the next doorway and when it goes off, there must be a SWAT team not far away ready to jump all over us… assuming they have decided not to shoot first and ask questions later.
At long last the corridor we are in opens into the crowded gift shop. I'll never forget that sight…the sun I never thought I would see again streaming in through the windows. Mary and Mrs Wilderness have arrived at Nirvana, the trial is over and they can once again shop. Me, I'm not so sure, there is still the exit out of the gift shop. It only seems logical to me they would have some kind of alarm there. I'll only be happy when we are out on the sidewalk.
I looked at the girls and they were giggling like a couple of teenagers. They thought it was quite funny they had foiled the high tech security system of the US Mint. I wondered if they could see the concern on my face because for the first time in recorded history they didn't buy anything, we all just walked out.
As we finally made our getaway and I breathed the air of freedom, I looked back at the high walls and razor wire and swore I would go straight from now on. Of course I hadn't done anything but that didn't matter and wouldn't have if we had been caught!
So that was our day out in the big city, we never went back to take the tour, and never will if I have anything to say about it. Our pictures are probably on the wall!
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