Friday, June 23, 2006

More Adventures in Albuquerque

"I knew I should have taken that left turn in Albuquerque!" - Bugs Bunny

"Wait! I did that around the middle of May! - Jill Nelson

As promised, this week we visit the FBI building in Albuquerque. But let's back up a little and start with the conversation I had with the cabby on the way over.

The morning of my Big Day in the Southwestern city with the outlandish name, the hotel van took me to the New Mexico Museum of Anthropology on the university campus. After I finished touring the museum, I called a cab and gave the driver the address. He shot me a puzzled stare, studied a city map, and leveled another stare. Finally, I fessed up and told him it was the FBI headquarters. The light came on in his face.

"Are you with the FBI?" His grin was eager.

Yeah, right. Moi? I should have told him I was a criminal profiler on the trail of a serial killer and step on it. But my innate honesty kicked in before I could think of something that entertaining.

"No," I said. "I'm too plump and laid back for that job."

At least he thought my answer rated a chuckle. And not shy one bit, he wanted to know why I was going to the FBI building. So I got to tell him about my books and give him my card. His reading tastes indicated a nonChristian, but someone interested in spiritual things. Good deal. Hope he reads my series and gains new light. The cabbie (and others who wondered what I was doing all alone in Albuquerque) was fascinated to hear I was writing a novel set in their city.

Back to the events at hand: We arrived at the FBI headquarters without incident--well, okay, he made a wrong turn once, but who's counting? Just goes to show the place isn't along the beaten path.

I'm a little nervous, of course. Here I am about to waltz into an office where they deal with national security issues as a way of life. For little old me from deep rural Minnesota, a speeding ticket is a big deal. Here, they want "a brief message or a detailed confession." I had no confession they cared to hear, so I was left with the brief message option.

We got to the building and immediately manifested ourselves as clueless civilians by driving up to the guardhouse. The nice uniformed gentleman with the burly muscles patiently directed us to park in the visitor lot. I was to leave my camera and cell phone in the cab, then step up to his window on foot. Once I proved myself a genuine Jane Citizen with proper photo ID that matched my matcheless mug, he'd let me in.

All well and good, but about now I'm wondering if they'll let me back out again. That soaring structure is one intimidating stone fortress, and they wouldn't let me take a picture, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Obviously, I did get out again, and they didn't even interrogate me. Nuts! But I got my share of assessing looks. First of all from the uniformed guard that stood up from his desk as soon as I walked through those darkened glass doors. He was the first thing I noticed, and then the full body metal detector similar to those at the airport.

The vestibule was completely walled in and very small. If I wanted to venture further inside, I would need to get past the guard and the metal detector. Cool! But rats! Since I'd taken care of my business with the agent on the phone the day before, I didn't have any excuse to press onward and upward. But one of these days, I'll get that opportunity. I'm awaiting the engraved invitation . . . any day now . . .

I left my card with a brief note of thanks to the media liason with the receptionist behind the bullet-proof glass. She, too, gave me an assessing look. I imagine I was a true oddity in their world. Ah, well, maybe I gave them something different to talk about. Maybe not, but I can dream.

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