Why are people who work in airport security so weird? Perhaps they’re not weird; perhaps they have to follow guidelines devised by weird airport security managers?
Either way, they seem to continue with very perverse practices which clearly bear no-o-o relation to airport or airline security.
My 80-year-old mother got the ‘security’ treatment recently at a UK airport. Attempting to board a plane to visit me in France, she showed her passport to an officious little airport security person at Southampton. It so happened that before the last flight she’d taken she’d put a ticket for her luggage into her passport and when she’d removed it it had taken a tiny bit of text off the page showing her photo. The photo was undamaged.
Tsk tsk, went the security female. This passport is invalid.
My mother pointed out that it was her passport, bearing her photo and her details and that she was fairly clearly the 80-year-old holder of the passport.
No madam. You can’t fly with this travel document. This travel document is invalid.
What really annoyed my mother as she reluctantly forfeited the flight she’d paid for and went home was the evident pleasure this creepy,petty-minded little official took in refusing to let an 80-year-old woman board a plane to go and spend a few days with her daughter. “It wasn’t as if she reluctantly had to abide by an irrational protocol” mum told me. “It was clear she was absoutely crowing because she could exercise a bit of power over someone.”
Yuk yuk yuk. But that’s increasingly the way at airport security.
How many of us have had mascara, water, perfume, lipstick, shampoo, conditioner and foundation confiscated over the years when it’s perfectly obvious to a trained eye that we’re not islamic fundamentalist terrorists?
The last time I travelled to the US on business, to Boston, I was pulled aside from the queue in London and given the third degree.
Why are you going to the US?
For a conference.
OK, here are the documents.
Who d’you work for?
Such-and-such a company.
Prove it. OK, here, look.
What’s your line of business?
Name three Chinese philosophers.
What the hell is this all about? The “security” people giving me the third degree pretty much knew, unless they were certifiably insane, that a 53-year-old white English female manager working for a US book company did not match the profile of yer average islamic terrorist. So what are they wasting their time for?
When I returned and was taking a connecting flight I watched security personnel force a young mother to drink the milk in her baby’s bottle, presumably to prove it wasn’t explosive. She had two little girls and a tiny baby boy with her. I’d say she was about 32. Well dressed, well spoken, neat, smiley, co-operative but evidently rather baffled at being treated like Osama Bin Laden. The chances that she was going to use milk from her baby’s bottle to destroy a plane, killing herself and her three children in the process, were oooh – let me think – NONE.
Meanwhile, the young Nigerian would-be terrorist – the creep who had stuffed explosives up his trousers – was waved gaily through to his flight. Only his own incompetence saved the plane and the lives of its passengers.
The security forces must know that the vast majority of people they treat like terrorists are actually peaceful citizens going about their lawful business. More than that, we’re airline customers. We’re paying for a service.
You wouldn’t think so though, half the time. They seem to lose sight of the fact that if they’re meant to be protecting anyone it’s us – the people they’re harassing and putting obstacles in front of.
It’s been going on too long, this institutionalised irrationality. Logic dictates that airport security either check everyone with the same rigour or introduce profiling. Random extra-tight checks are utterly senseless, annoy and impede innocent passengers – and self-evidently do nothing systematic to prevent or catch terrorists.