The woman I work for is a badass. She is diminutive in stature with a presence that is anything but “little girl.” She thinks like an intelligence operative, and is more Pink than Taylor Swift. The office betting pool is sure she was the technical advisor on three Angelina Jolie spy movies, but we are all afraid to ask. Don’t hug her, don’t flatter her, and don’t ever underestimate her ability to get things done. We call her “Number One” behind her back because of her unique abilities as rainmaker. In short, she makes the cave of doom we call our office a great place to work because she ups the cool factor exponentially. Not many women can touch up their manicure while flipping through the Magpul catalog of rifle accessories.
So when I heard that Peyton Manning Pass was being officially dedicated, I knew it was time to seek the talents of Number One. Arguably she is Number 16’s biggest fan. I know this because the day the Indianapolis Colts betrayed the Volunteer Nation, Number One kept asking for the keys to the weapons vault. We kept sharp objects away from her until the Broncos thumbed their nose at the nonbelievers.
And so Operation Scribble was born to procure a photo, an autograph, or anything legitimately Peyton. Phase one entailed securing time away from the office without raising suspicion. How I took care of that chore is classified. Phase two began at 14:40 on October 19 when I walked under the shadow of Neyland Stadium in time to see seven people loitering in those goofy checkerboard overalls.
Number One arrived wearing a camouflage skirt, leggings, too cute track shoes, and a coveted limited edition Number 16 Halloween jersey. The group of seven swelled to 50 and a few hundred. By 16:30 the crowd was loud and claustrophobic. We had already discussed that if Peyton were to move towards the crowd, we would do everything possible to get his attention. The pressure of the crowd knocked an 8-year-old boy into the chaos of feet and pavement. I reached down and threw him up on my hip. I told his Dad, who was trapped 10 feet away, “If I can hold your kid, you can take a photo of my friend getting Peyton’s signature.” Roger that. Obviously, I have no qualms about faking motherhood in order to complete a mission.
Peyton never saw my new faux son or me. The mob got more obnoxious, and he wisely started to back up toward the escape route through the Hearing and Speech Center. Number One signaled to drop junior: Time to move to where we had gambled that the getaway car was parked. Number One deftly scampered through the crowd, up an embankment, and into a parking lot. I followed suit with less elegance. A man took pity and offered a hand to help me navigate the steep jump from the hill to the blacktop. I rounded the corner of the Speech and Hearing Center winded and mildly humiliated.
Ten fans armed with tiny footballs and Sharpie markers stood in bilateral lines ready to salute our quarterback. On the left side was Number One. I stood behind her with my picture phone at the ready. When the doors swung open for Peyton, 30 more fans tumbled up. The crowd buzzed with early tailgaters shoving and shouting. I backed away, hopeful to get a photo of Volunteers Number One and 16. He was easily a foot taller than my boss and the crowd kept lurching. I snapped a dozen candids of Knoxville’s favorite son; but where was Number One? Did she fall in that throng of paparazzi, rowdy undergrads, and autograph hounds? Was she hurt?
You know, this is exactly why the CIA microchips their workforce.
Out of the chaos, a giddy woman emerged clutching in her right hand an autographed Halloween jersey. For a brief moment, Number One giggled like a sixth-grader with a new Lip Smacker. Her radiant glee would have melted the heart of Jason Statham himself. Of course if I told her, she’d have to kill me because that information is classified.