Fatima Center Vignettes: The Statue-Friendly Agent
Looking at me with suspicion, while checking in at the airport, the agent at the check-in counter asked me, “What’s in that box?”
He was referring to the big blue metal box on wheels that we use to transport our apostolate’s National Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima statue.
It’s a definite attention grabber and no sneaking around with it is possible.
I explained to him the contents and showed him the prayer card with the statue’s picture, taped to the front of the box.
He asked a number of other questions: “What are you going to do with the statue?” and “Why are you taking it with you?”. I explained to him about the work of The Fatima Center, how special the statue is, etc. and his attitude changed from suspicious to friendly.
In an apologetic tone of voice he said, “The box is oversize and unfortunately I am going to have to charge you $50.00.” I gave him the money.
Then I explained to him: “There is a heavy-duty lock on the box, not TSA accessible. The box can’t be transported without a lock. Please allow me to open the box for inspection by airport security, so it can be securely locked again before being loaded on the plane.”
The agent kindly agreed to my request and took me to a secure area where luggage is x-rayed and inspected. To get there required taking a special elevator and after the doors to the elevator closed, he handed back to me the $50.00.
He explained: “I had to charge you because my boss was standing right there, but I don’t agree with you having to pay extra to transport a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. He allayed concerns I expressed about not wanting him to get in trouble for not charging us.
The box was x-rayed, opened for inspection and then securely re-locked for transport.
A few years later, traveling through the same airport with the statue, my prayers – asking for the same check-in agent (and that he would remember the statue) – were answered. This time, the process was much less complicated and again, there was no charge.
A few years later, at the same airport – there was a different agent at the check-in desk, and the suspicious look on his face when he looked at the blue box far exceeded past experience.
Of course, he asked, “What’s in the box?”
It wasn’t long before Heaven intervened. While explaining about the statue (and there was no relaxation of the suspicious look on that agent’s face) suddenly at my side, someone said: “Oh, I see the statue’s back!” “Where are you taking her today?”
There he was, the statue-friendly agent.
The suspicious look on the face of the agent at the counter, immediately changed to incredulous, matching his tone of voice as he asked with surprise: “You know about this??”
To which he responded, “Sure I do; I know all about this statue. We’re old friends.” And the statue-friendly agent took over at the check-in desk, and once again there was no extra charge for the Pilgrim Virgin statue traveling in the oversized luggage.
It’s always an adventure traveling with the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima Statue.