And What Does That Entail?

 It’s that time. A time when even the most experienced of travellers get nervous and those that rarely fly have no real idea of the importance of the next few seconds. 

I was at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal and my luggage had successfully made it through the X-ray machine and I awaited the decision. A decision that was out of my hands. Would my case come straight down towards me or would it move slightly to the left and make its way down behind that fake glass screen? The wait was only a couple of seconds however it felt so much longer. It’s almost like my case were making this choice by itself but if that were  the case it would surely come straight to me. I have loved and cherished this case all over the world, why on earth would it turn against me now?

Pause.

Tease.

I must fly over 100 times a year and, although I type the next bit against my better judgment, I rarely get pulled over for a search. I rarely lose a bag and I can’t remember the last time I had to deal with a Q&A from security. Oh, what a fool I am. Today, as I write, it is June 6th 2024. I promise you my next flight it will all go wrong. 

Left. My case headed left, slowly making its way down to the officer in charge who was already scouting the crowd to see who might be the owner of this IT carry-on bag. I was nervous but with no reason to feel the jitters. It’s a bag that has been around the world and within its confines contained nothing that could land me in any trouble. It is full of essentials, a suit, toiletries, books, snacks, more books, my camera and some emergency books. I had nothing to fear.

“Can I open your bag, sir?”

“Of course.”

After a quick swab and a quick glance at me, I am asked:

“Did you pack this bag yourself?”

I tell the officer I had packed it myself and foolishly assumed I had been pulled over just so the security team can congratulate me on a job well done.

Not a chance! My toiletry bag is removed and taken away for further swabbing. On its return I was informed that:

“Explosive residue has been found on these items.”

I did what any normal person would do: while looking dead into her eyes I giggle.

“You find this funny?”

“Erm, yes, I do. I have never been close to explosive residue.”

The next thirty minutes were spent with me standing there remarkably calm answering the questions I was posed with my pure intension  to be honest, helpful and trying so hard to not be facetious. 

I was doing so well until I was asked what I did for a living. Usually, in answer to this I would meander around the houses because the answer always results in more questions or worse, JOKES!

I answered:

“I am a stand up comedian!”

“And what does that entail?”

“Sometimes I stand up and try and make people laugh?”

In this instance I failed again. No laugh from Mrs Security.  Just a sneer and an accusation that I was not taking this seriously. I thought about professing my innocence again. I thought about congratulating her and her team on being so conscientious and thorough and how safe they made me feel. Instead, somehow I stayed calm, quiet and surprisingly sweat free. For the moment. 

All was about to change.

I was relieved of my passport and flanked by two security officers who both towered above me.  Now I felt a little intimidated. I started to doubt myself. I had packed this bag myself and I swear I hadn’t  packed any explosive residue. I hadn’t handled bullets, TNT or a grenade thinking I should add this to my luggage only to decide against it at the last minute and instead use the same hands to add my toothpaste and beard oil. Nope, I was innocent but beads of sweat started making their way over my brow and, in the process, making a liar out of me.

The questions came thick and fast and my answers were coherent but overly wordy. 

Until finally I snapped. I didn’t  shout. I didn’t swear. I was once again calm and reasoned as I told them:

“I travel a lot. I must have enjoyed a half dozen flights in the last month alone and this case holds everything I need to have with me to work. From landing last Wednesday to leaving today this bag hasn’t even been opened let alone repacked with the aim of hiding explosives from you. No one has touched the contents of this bag. No one, Ma’am, aside from your good self and if you’ll forgive me my bluntness would you mind me pointing out that you are not wearing gloves.”

A pause as she looked down to her gloveless hands.  Another pause while the two burly security guys audibly tutted and moved away.

An apology wasn’t coming my way but my passport was, around head height as it was tossed towards me as she too turned and walked away.

I’m afraid that was when I became very petty and as I turned to leave I saw the little machine with the emojis ranging from angry to happy allowing us, the traveller, a chance to let the big bosses know how our security experience was. I pressed the big red angry face. 

Twice.

Comments

4 responses to “And What Does That Entail?”

  1. Ann Smith Avatar
    Ann Smith

    Quite right Paul! Meantime the real culprits have successfully passed through security!

    1. Paul Avatar

      Thanks for reading, I hope you’re both well.

  2. Kevin Avatar
    Kevin

    Good man,never let them get away with that sort of nonsense

    1. Paul Avatar

      Thanks Kev. Enjoy your trip, I am loving the updates.

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