The cheese bomb stands alone

GateHhouse  In visiting my usual news and political Web sites last week, which is something I like to do while I’m playing online poker in the other, larger browser window, I came across a rather unsettling story regarding suspicious-looking packages that had been confiscated at a number of American airports.

One package was made up of two ice packs that had been oddly duct-taped together, and another was made of two blocks of pepperjack cheese, also taped together, which was confiscated from a couple in Baltimore. The ice packs were sent to the lab for investigation, while the cheese, one can only surmise, was cut.

The Transportation Security Administration, at the time, had no explanation for the bizarre items — two others were bags filled with clay — so they did the only rational thing they could, given the evidence: They told police that terrorists were on their way RIGHT NOW, and to please alert as many media outlets as possible, which is, of course, exceedingly hard to do.

I sort of held off writing about this, because although there’s certainly great comic potential to be found in the phrase “cheese bombs,” I am trying to write funny things, and when it comes down to it, there’s nothing funny about airline bombs, unless you’re talking about the 1993 Wesley Snipes thriller “Passenger 57,” which is the one where Snipes gets ready to beat the hell out of the sniveling, and, I think, mustachioed bad guy by announcing, “Always bet on black,” before letting fly with his furious fists of justice. Excruciating.

So imagine my joy when, a few days ago, I found myself back on those same sites — because I was getting absolutely slaughtered by some hustler from Topeka, and it beat watching my dream of eventual retirement evaporate — and I stumbled upon something crazy.

Turns out that story was sort of — how do you say it? — made up.

Last Sunday, CNN anchor T.J. Holmes, gamely joking about a story that only days before insinuated that thousands of Americans would be bombed in the skies, said his network was — and I am quoting here — “just kidding.” He added shortly after: “It turns out it was all one big false alarm.”

It turns out the cheese was cheese, the clay was clay, the ice packs were ice packs and Bruce Willis had been dead the whole time.

If you didn’t hear about this correction, don’t worry, because, like Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, Conrad Black, Alberto Gonzales and what’shisname, the president of the United States, CNN and the televised media is blessed with the gift of being able, when confronted with nearly insurmountable evidence of obscene amounts of wrongdoing, to grumble an off-handed joke and go about its day, whereas when the story broke, for instance, cable TV outlets more or less made it seem like a terrifying dairy-related apocalypse was bearing down upon us and there was nothing we could do to stop it, save for the speedy construction and implementation of a giant grater, or, possibly, baked potato. The “just kidding” bit was run Sunday morning; the cheese bomb story was run by everyone, all day long, for like two days, at least until Lindsay Lohan saved the day by wearing cocaine pants.

Part of the problem involved Sara Weiss, a 66-year-old woman who had a leaky ice pack in her luggage and was detained by officials, sent briefly to Guantanamo and was visited at her bedside by Alberto Gonzales, who wanted to make her corpse into a horcrux. OK, that didn’t happen. But she was asked by a federal agent: “Do you know Osama Bin Laden?” Sure, it sounds horrible, but on the other hand, someone in the government is still looking for him, so that’s good.

My point is that this frees me up to revisit the Cheese Bomb well, so I’ll start with this one: Shortly after discovering the packages, the terror threat level was increased to Sharp. Yeah, that’s about all I’ve got. Sorry. The story’s less funny than I thought.

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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