So I married an Australian. I didn’t plan to but you can’t fight these things and apart from a propensity to turn any word with the letter ‘I’ in it into an ‘O’ (can you turn the loyt out honey?) I must say she’s been a rather sporting addition to my life. Anyway apparently I complain about things far too much and so she suggested, possibly a little unkindly, that I bother some others with my incessant bleating. Well misery loves company so here is the first of a few short (ish) ramblings each week about some things that some of you might nod your head in familiarity at. For the rest of you I apologise but why should my wife be the only one to suffer? Let’s start with Airports-
I think they’re terrific which is hardly in keeping with the spirit of this blog but you see I was relatively late to the whole travel thing. Yes I appreciate some of you were born clutching a passport (being antipodean my wife’s first act as she entered this world was probably to offer it to the midwife as proof of identity) but for those of us born into more modest means an Aeroplane was something whose sleek confines I didn’t experience until the advanced age of twenty four. The up side is that for me flying is still a relative novelty and that even now I step onto the plane with a feeling of privilege and ‘elan- or at least I do until I’m given my meal. But airline food is not my target, lets face facts- too easy; a bit like kicking a bag of kittens (tastes pretty similar too).
No, todays topic is security. Now for obvious reasons I’m all for it but I do feel a little more could be done to make the process more efficient. I haven’t had an experience yet that’s not had me craning my neck wondering if at any point I’m going to see Richard Hammond commentating on my progress through the Airport in the vein of some painfully misguided contestant in Total Wipout.
Firstly there’s the luggage drop. Fraught with tension because you know that the suitcase you so carefully stood on the scales with that morning will have inexplicably gained at least three pounds by the time you plonk it on the conveyor belt. I’m at a loss as to how the gravity in airports, particularly around the check in desk, seems to act so much more vociferously around your luggage than it did at home but there you go. Oh and whilst we’re on that point never argue with the staff over any discrepancy in weight or joke with them as to why. A pithy suggestion of ‘water retention?’ doesn’t go down well. Anyway once you’ve negotiated the scolding from the check in clerk about how your bag will no doubt handicap a baggage handler and orphan his children you move onto the security check at departures. Once somebody from customs has pretended to check your passport by staring flintily eyed at you whilst barely glancing at your picture, you are presented, rather gamely, with a scene from the crystal maze.
The challenge- find your way by the quickest possible means to the x-ray machines at the other side- is an engaging quest; but be warned the guardians of the maze are bound to block and redirect your passage by roping off your route just as you think you’re getting somewhere. Never mind either if there is no one else there, you are still forced to walk from left to right, making painfully slow progress toward your destination as if the only participant in the worlds shittest conga.
Anyway I digress. Just to make it even more challenging, at some point you’re going to have to take your shoes and, if wearing one, belt off. This will inevitably happen at the precise moment another x-ray station is opened or the guardian of the maze allows approximately three hundred people through a new gap ahead of you. Reluctant to become the pariah of the Airport responsible for holding everybody up, and the star of some reality program entitled Airline doofus’s, you are forced to immediately hop along wearing one shoe, holding your jeans up and in the manner of some dispossessed refugee, clutching the rest of your meager belongings in an ill assorted jumble in front of you. When you reach the front you are presented with what can only be described as a prison canteen tray. Ribbed along the surface (for whose pleasure I have no idea) it will be laughingly too small for everything you planned to take on board. The padded jacket you thought would be necessary, just in case you have to embark on that arduously long journey from terminal to plane in the open air, hangs over the side like some lop sided meringue, and for those men who find a wallet one step too organised, spare change will, in a variety of currencies, suddenly mix into a completely unusable combination that will have shop assistants sighing as they wait for you to sort your life out at the till, for weeks to come. Then as you wave your belongings goodbye you must pass through the portal of truth. Never mind that you have, as far as you are aware, diligently removed any metal item you can possibly imagine from your possession. You know with a crushing inevitability that somewhere on your person is the smallest fleck of metallic substance just waiting to activate the arch’s screaming alarms and send you back through to whence you came, smothered in shame. But finally you’re through and it’s all worth it.
It’s over, except you must repeat the process in reverse only now it’s under a time limit. As you wait for your tray to reappear, you limber up. You’ll have only seconds to gather your belongings and replace your clothing before the next tray smashes yours into oblivion. You eye the competition. So far there’s no one who can withstand a crushing elbow strike should anyone try to claim your prime position (it’s a technique you’ve perfected over the years when waiting for your luggage at the baggage carousel as well) and you smile internally. Then more people are fed through the arch and you begin to sweat. In spite of the fact your trays went through in order they appear to have spontaneously rearranged themselves whilst passing through their subterranean tunnel, and yours is now no longer a part of time or space. More trays arrive until you are forced to peer suspiciously at the X-ray supervisor in case he has been replaced by the magician Dynamo, willfully engaged in a case of hand luggage misdirection. Eventually it appears and quickly you prioritise what needs to be taken first. Your partner is doing the same and between you, you salvage as much as you can. Monopolising your spot you determinedly defend what is yours until finally the weight of numbers is too much. ‘Leave it’ your partner cries. ‘Never!’ you reply and make a pathetic grab for the last discarded euro’s at the bottom of the tray before its’ whisked away to tray heaven.
In spite of this I truly enjoy going to the Airport. My wife thinks I’m beyond help and treats the whole process as contemptuously as she does when commuting to work. I enjoy the fact that for a few blissful hours, depending on your flight time you are categorically unavailable to the rest of the world. Some airlines, incredibly, offer (at a cost) wifi on their flights now and I think that’s a shame as in such a modern world there are increasingly few times when you are not at the demand of others via technology. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time however before that becomes a thing of the past. At least then, however I’ll have something else to whinge about but that, alas, is another blog.