Saturday, March 24, 2007

Flight Safety

This weekend I'm off once more to Livingstone on Thames, or, as we used to call it, London.
Naturally, I shall be travelling by the British national airline, Ryanair.
The flying bit works just fine. It's the preliminaries that I and a good many others find distressing.
It starts at the check-in desk.
"Did you pack your own bag, sir."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I said no, I did not pack my own bag. I'm a rotten packer and I prefer to delegate the matter to butlers, batmen or, if all else fails, wives."
There usually follows a long pause and one day no doubt I shall be carried off and locked up. But the point is that I am telling the truth.
Any self-respecting terrorist who has got up to page four in his manual, knows that the correct answer to the question is "yes," when he will be cheerfully waved on board.
Further down the security assembly line, there will be an octogenarian lady having her handbag rifled. Vials of what look to me like nitro-glycerine - very handy for making bangs - are being tenderly placed in plastic bags for reasons that totally escape me. However, it is a relief to see that they take her nail clippers away. When you have a spare minute, I suggest you take a look at the International Civil Aeronautical Organisation's statistics on the incidence of aircraft hi-jackings in which nail clippers have been used.
At Stansted they exhibit an enthusiasm for shoes that would make Imelda Marcos envious and have set up a separate machine for looking at them. So far they have found none of the exploding variety but I suppose, like archaeologists, they live in hope.
But now, you will be relieved to hear, I come to the nub, crux or the point of all this.
On my forays I use a video camera to record interviews with my clients. This is an expensive piece of kit and I am reluctant to hand it over to the professional baggage-smashers at the airport. Therefore I take on as hand baggage. Since the metal carrying case is a bit bulky I put the camera, battery, charger, cables, microphone etc. in an old laptop case.
On placing it on the scanner belt, the head scannerist enquires: "Laptop. sir?" "No, video camera." "Very good," says he and away we go.
Had I been carrying a laptop, I would have had to unearth it, open it up and switch it on. We would listen to the merry Microsoft jingle and all would be well.
Now my video camera is not only worth about five times the value of a laptop but contains at least as many electronic bits and pieces. Once I caught a glimpse of it going through the scanner. On the screen it looked like the thing they exploded at Los Alamos, wires everywhere. But no one has ever asked to see it. Perhaps it's because it doesn't play a tune.
Puzzled by this, last time I was passing through Stansted, I enquired of the chappie running the machine.
"Don't ask me," he said. "We're just told to look at laptops."



Anonymous Quella said...

Great work.

9:37 pm  

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