Strange things can occur when you enter the world of grown up work as a late starter. I used to live in a place called ‘Orkney’ which I find is morphing into ‘The Orkneys’. This is strange but not the point of my diatribe just a small aside on the undercurrent of linguistic and cultural change that pervades our second class language and identity.
The pilot of a plane I was traveling on gratingly used this new collective term on a flight and I increasingly feel the urge to get up and correct people’s incorrect pronunciations of the names of local places. This could, I admit identify me as a pedant or an embryonic if not fully fledged crazy woman.
I found myself in the maturer years of my chaotic life in the lottery win position of gaining a real job ie the whole 9 to 5 thing of Dolly Parton fame, and one which requires Central Belt commutes from time to time in order to ‘Tardis’ me in and out of planet ‘Meeting’. I now must use the magic of aero technology to get about. Definitely of the school of Physics challenged, I have even become quite comfortable that those metal things wont fall out of the sky, and no longer need to be buoyed up to fly with either valium or copious amounts of gin, (were it that Gin was on offer these days).
Living where winter is the default weather status, the chance to get a wee flying perk when you cruise above the grim grey of 60degrees-north cloud cover and see the hidden blue sky and even the sun is certainly a big plus.
The increasingly dirty grease blot on this aviation love-in is the grubby process of airport security and while the jovial and the people-skilled do occur, they are more than outweighed by dour jobs-worths elevated to positions of supreme power by their polyester uniforms.
There is a thing called a ‘pat down’ which is followed through with varying degrees of ‘pat’ rigour depending on where you fly – least busy places are usually worst… we all know where the joke line has to be drawn even if I find it slightly squirming to have my (biologically eyebrow raising) Tampax stock poked through by the grown up wee boy I remember from next door. If you haven’t been through airport security recently I’ll update you.
The traveling elite approach having disrobed of belts, coats, cardies, jackets, scarves and shoes. Obviously you get rid of all your small change, mobile phone, car keys and other metal stuff that might set the beeper off. Bag goes on the conveyor belt and you have to remove your computer from its bag … You chattily try to be quasi-compliant and progress sock footed (sometimes odd socks and holey early morning seconds from the dirty washing but never mind) and off goes the bloody beeper.
Bingo! – a body search. Bugger it must be the under-wired bra for your saggy bits.
‘May I search you – its just random’ and you stretch your arms out and straddle your legs in readiness.
You can have a limp joke like, ‘Ho ho I’d be better keeping my pyjamas on than bothering to get dressed for this flight’ (Red eye from Kirkwall to all day meeting in Edinburgh)
You can’t try that kind humour anywhere though and the mini camp guards that eyeball you jovially even at a one-horse isles airport could easily take things the wrong way. You have to assume stranger-distance with the ex-forces/police types that don’t remember you from the school playground.
Graduating from a non- bag carrying existence to one where I now profess to using a hand-bag (lord preserve me from any similarity to she of the Maggie handbag). Said hand bag is crammed with phone/blackberry charger, keys for office car and home, and yes Kindle and I pod. Belt and change is also temporarily thrown in, so what happens is the erstwhile innocent bag is transformed to a vessel of potential global destruction.
Because it shows up numerous cables and strange hard things it becomes a nasty ‘busy bag’ which must be searched. Yes every zip compartment, corner of spilled drawing pins, nest of paper clips, congealed soft mints and other sinister contents. Did you know that flip chart markers will set off the thing? Well it’s the water in them apparently, not the growing urge in one to scrawl dangerous Banksy graffiti on the nearest pristine airport wall (one at least that isn’t already defaced by offensive RBS branding)
It’s all so very near to a Carry On sketch but so not. The poe-faced searchers are the worst should you make any comment of dissent as they seek your implied consent for a bag rifle. To reply grumpily or dare a slight comment about your eroded privacy and rights will produce a fatuous unquestioned retort like, ‘well I would rather go through a search than take the risk of blah di blah…wouldn’t you?…’
Wearily I will usually resist getting into a useless argument with a moron that feels it is the pinnacle of their life’s ambition to unzip the last secreted section in a handbag. What is being done to those of us that use air travel is that we are being systematically moulded into compliant automatons.
The dutiful mentality that we all subscribe to will make it just that bit easier to erode more privacy and civil liberties when deemed ‘necessary’. The Blair Bush hornet’s nest that George Galloway rightly described, has well and truly brought its severely pissed off chickens home to roost. And we as a population are subtly conditioned and tacitly coerced into compliance in the name of our own safety that they all wrecked.
Buying sun in lieu of several summers owed by GOD to me I perhaps thought that traveling as a tourist might be more relaxed. I expected the ‘busy bag’ to throw an x-ray wobbly, but managed to set off the security bleeper bodily or baggily at every point south and north again from Kirkwall to Santander (Santander the place not the bank although there is a bank there too). This was irritating and tedious. My own control experiment ruled out shoes, under-wired bra, although who knows, maybe they can actually tune bleeper sensitivity to catch the dangerous double D as opposed to the puny double A. Can you produce a blade from the contents of a bra? It must be possible.
Continuing the elimination- I don’t wear jewellery (having already scattered the beaded shrapnel of an entire necklace all over the security conveyor at Edinburgh some time ago), so I travel unadorned. My ability to agitate the bleeper left only the possibility of a statistical spike of ‘randoms’ unless face recognition technology connects me to an anonymous wanted person, or I am indeed that unsuspecting suspect.
Jokes? Well you just cant go there, certainly not within 20 paces of the security queue. Any overly-exuberant traveler must pack away their black humour in the hold luggage. Bomb jokes, ‘Don’t mention the war’ style have a Tourettes way of insisting themselves onto the tip of your tongue in the very worst of places.
When the day comes that thoughts can be scanned and writ large on a screen bubble above one’s head things are going to get a lot more difficult. The unuttered truth and uncensored joke scanner would go ballistic methinks. There will be a lot of us stuck on the ground.
There could have been an embarrassing stupid joke incident on my way home through Stansted. It was this close. (I’d had to endure running the gantry of flag a-rama in honour of some sporty thing so was getting a bit stoked up) Perhaps it was all part of the come-down from sun and sangria in the atypical attire of a (sun) dress. But what did it was the way the passenger in front of me was treated.
The poor girl, alone with a toddler in a buggy underwent one of those over the top demeaning searches. She wore a long figure hugging dress that already revealed every lump and bump on her ample person. She wore a splint on her wrist, (could have been secreting a knife I suppose) and after removing the child and then the suspicious packages from the base of the buggy was asked to remove the splint – her wrist was obviously sore. On she went through the scanner – bleep –a novice searchee she wasn’t pre-programmed to spring into straddle position for the body search.
I watched with horror at the intimacy of the search she endured and felt like slapping the security operative on her behalf. Bleep-making nasty thoughts began amassing in my brain. She had to take her sandals off and send them back through the scanner, after which her feet had to be undergo a metal- detecting scan – she wobbling to keep balance all the while with her un-strapped wrist painfully naked. The body search was verging on pornographic, buttocks neck shoulders, between the tits and under the tits, inside leg out side leg, and ankles. She was then resent back through the scanner like an errant school child who really should do better.
When it came to my turn and the bleeper went off in its usual fashion, I bit my tongue and said nothing when the ‘permission question’ came. Apparently you must answer, not to, appears to also be a non-compliance infringement. Would silence be enough to get one arrested I wonder?
They have to feel round the waist band of your trousers now too, so because I had shorts on under my dress (stylish I know but this was holiday garb) I was asked to bequeath my permission for this check also. I lifted my dress sufficiently high to enable a clear view of the ample stretch-marked belly fat. Childish maybe, but to have whipped the whole thing off and stripped naked at the check would have been the best thing. What would have happened? Would this have been a breach of security – would I have been marched off to a side room, branded a nut case – provided a fleeting loony headline somewhere? Maybe, but what provokes me so much again is the compliance mentality that we are all being subtly trained to accept.
My thoughts were very definitely explosive, and were I a serous threat I would certainly try a lot harder and find very personal and extremely search averse places to secrete my self-igniting stick of dynamite Tom and Jerry style. I’m imagining a pull cord system similar to Tampax. In this thought police world we are entering could this paragraph I am typing get me done for some infringement of National security? Maybe I’d better stop, humour after all has borders. I’m not sure you’re allowed to joke in writing these days even when you are writing about something that is obviously a joke. Jokes can be taken the wrong way especially when they are written down on stuff like facebook. I feel a joke hole developing that I myself am digging, so here and now I lay down what is my fictitious and very joke spade. (Disclaimer to those mistaking this for seditious writing, the above paragraph is a JOKE.)
To conclude I did not strip off but I damn sure felt like it, and as I do want to keep traveling by plane I will comply with the militia on the security searches.
My puny rebellion was worth it to see the frigid security woman rocked out of her comfort zone at the site of my cellulite and in a fluster tut-tutting me like a teacher you’ve just won a naughtiness point over. I look forward to the day when a priority fast track queue for those willing to strip naked is introduced, staffed by voyeurs. At least it would avoid those ritual ‘feel-ups’.
I still question the true motivation for all of this security – its purpose I suspect to reinforce that man-made shard of fear, created by those hell-bent on war-mongering ensuring a fearful, docile and compliant populace who will listen to even to the poorest political leader because fear creates an in-group mentality of ‘all being in it together’ and fear make politics easy. Government need to perpetuate the fear and find new ways to revamp it. Who was it again who said that, ‘war is peace and peace is war’? Well that guy had it pretty well sussed.