Everything has changed, nothing has changed. Masked, I advance to the reception area for Terminal G at Nashville International Harbor, dressed in a replica of the Bryan Ferry chauffeur costume from the back cover of Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure album. Here I stand holding a large piece of cardboard over my head upon which shiny silver electrical tape crudely spells out “DRLNG NICKY.”

Standing along with others, an entirely equidistantly spaced human herd, each of us centered on our own this-is-my-personal-space™ tile (violators lose personal wi-fi for an interminable five minutes), I bide my time watching as tiny automated turrets of disinfectant pop in and out of the ceiling to target passersby, a reverse whack-a-mole game delivering micro-doses of gaseous, germ-nullifying goodness to those who set off the sterility scanners.

The great sliding glass doors eventually slide apart, revealing and expelling a cadre of rumpled but relieved travelers from places far away from this one. Resplendent in hot pink vinyl culottes, a gabardine ladies wrap in Pride of Cockbridge tartan, a “Death is the Preserver” t-shirt, and a digital paper eyepatch displaying a crudely animated, blinking nazar, it is Monsieur M.

He is here. It is he.

Two slender young blonde women dressed in nearly matching rockabilly getups stride alongside him, trailed by a pack of semi-sentient small bright purple cases, scooting along the crackling, gray corporate carpet, ostensibly containing various carry-on items also from places far away from this one.

It was while pitching replacement shows for CBS-TV’s failing 1993 Fall programming schedule that my father had an incredible realization that helped him unlock the ultimate secrets of effective cardboard presentation and persuasion. Fortunately, before his untimely Knoxville Sunsphere-related death, those deep mysteries were passed on to me, his only heir. And so it is that, without even looking at me, the trio of visitors fall into my orbit, my mystic magnetic sign having accomplished its purpose with effortless aplomb.

“I asked for the Cottonelle Nescafe Classico decontam. They gave me the Andrex Fab Lolly. Now I smell like a fucking Fab Lolly,” says Monsieur M in a brisk monotone, only now noticing my outfit.

The blondes break into some sort of Welsh-Icelandic-chirping-through-the-nose sounds that pass as communication, seemingly excited by something I cannot see. Suddenly turning his back to me while addressing the two, and flourishing his words with an almost Louis-de-Funes-level of gesturing, he then completes the directive by momentarily lifting his eyepatch for impact. I can determine neither what is said, nor what is understood, but the two depart quickly with animated bright red smiles, trailed by their animated bright purple cases, full of various things from various places that are far away from this one.

“Now,” says Monsieur M, turning again toward me, “we piggly.”

>> part 2