Those who know me will not be surprised — I got rousted earlier this week for trying to smuggle a bag of M&Ms into the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C.

It was before the center opened to the public at 8:30 a.m., and I was headed to a constituent coffee with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and his staff. The chocolate contraband was for two young friends who work in U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s D.C. office. We were visiting the Congressman at 10 a.m., so I had shoved the M&Ms into my briefcase earlier that morning.

OK, so I clearly heard the security guard tell Gwen Wolford, governmental relations director for Ohio State’s ag college, that no liquids or food were permitted in the building. And I clearly chose to ignore said instructions. (I mean, aren’t M&Ms an elevated food category above the law? Kind of like manna or something?)

I removed my metal bracelet and coat, and shoved everything on the conveyor belt that ran it through the scanner, skipped through the metal detector and started to grab my briefcase to make my get-away.

“Ma’am,” came the voice of the steely-eyed security guard, who also had a rather steely grip on my briefcase. “Do you have any food in this bag?”


I don’t know which was worse. His stare or the glare of Dr. Bruce McPheron, the new dean of Ohio State’s Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Or the frown of Dr. Steve Slack, the director of Ohio’s Agricultural Research and Development Center, right behind McPheron. I was, after all, in D.C. on their nickel, to advocate for federal funding for the land grant university system, and its related ag research and Extension’s educational outreach. My voice would not be very effective if I showed up in handcuffs.

I don’t think this was what the conference planners had in mind when they picked the theme: “May you live in interesting times; may the government be aware of you; and, may your wishes be granted.” The government was aware of me today, all right.

I swallowed, trying to force words to come out of my mouth that was as dry as the Sahara.

“Oh,” I nodded, as nonchalantly as a kid caught skipping school. “Why, yes, I have a bag of M&Ms in there.” (As if I had just remembered! It was, in my mind, an Oscar-worthy performance.)

I slowly reached into my briefcase and pulled out the offending bag of pastel-colored, limited edition coconut M&Ms.

“You’ll have to go outside and throw them away,” the guard said.

I about had a heart attack. And I actually wondered if I had one and they had to use the AED on me, could I first drop the M&Ms back into my briefcase unnoticed, and eventually go on my merry way?

I saw a wastepaper basket just to the left of the nemesis imaging machine. “Can’t I just throw them away over there?” I asked.

McPheron and Slack were now turning scarlet. As in Scarlet and Gray. As in Ohio State and something I would never again be asked to represent.

“No,” the guard said in a terrifying voice that now reminded me of the wizard in the Wizard of Oz when he bellows “Silence!”

“You have to go outside and throw it away. Leave the briefcase here.”

I opened my mouth again, and then it closed of its own volition. (It was like Dean McPheron-Spock was using a Vulcan mind meld to control me, or something.) I grabbed the M&Ms, fled outside and tossed them in the garbage can. A part of me died.

Back inside, I ran through the metal detector, which started beeping because I had returned my huge silver bracelet to my wrist, avoided any eye contact with Igor, saw Gwen with the briefcase, grabbed it out of her hands and ran around the corner.

After all, Igor didn’t need to know about the bag of Whiskey Stix.

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.
Susan Crowell
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