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19 May 2011

Coming, Beeping, to an Airport Near You

I am now living proof that the human spirit can survive the most stupid rituals, get the hang of them and sail on through.

My first encounters with changes in airport security after terrorist attacks were not encouraging. I thought that the oversized child with what seemed to be a cattle prod at Dublin airport was about to electrocute me and I refused to go through the system. To give them their due, the people who took me into a room and explained the situation for twenty minutes were doing their best given the circumstances. They explained that they frisked one another every morning at which I became even more alarmed.

"You mean you don't trust one another?"

After several attempts to not beep on trips to Britain, I just gave up and decided to drive. The English, a tolerant people, used stand by impassively while I sobbed like a drain and explained that I was a not a threat to national security, but really even I found this boring.

Then I unleashed "Operation Beep-Off". Before one long haul flight to Australia three weeks were spent in my bedroom with a weighing scales and a measuring tape and, though I drew the line at the expense of a metal detector, I studied how I might lessen stress at every move.

The greatest humiliation, I now longer wear a foundation garment while travelling, as the French thugs who decided to explore my person at CDG seemed to find this detail particularly interesting. Having refused to be pawed all over there and threatened with the police and "the black glove" they finally found somebody who had not been trained in a prison, got on with the business and I got home. I have not been back, as the insolence has not been forgotten, much as I am used to French life. Comparing their system unfavourably to that in Singapore made me no friends there so we now go through Heathrow where some of the chatty attendants are actually friendly.

"You're shaking", a cheerful voice said as we went through after a twelve hour ordeal and I explained that we had been travelling for hours. We all have our pride and the cross-patch with the barking voice who had just asked me to step back behind the line would have been pleased to think that he had been the cause. There are sadists everywhere and they must be ignored.

However, having forensically removed every piece of metal from my person, apart from my teeth fillings, I am astonished to find that my hand luggage is still being either scrutinised for strange objects or, wonder of wonder, actually beeps.

"There's something in your bag" I was told at six in the morning at Dublin airport a few weeks ago. "What is it?" I asked, by now more intruiged by the eerie x-ray image on the screen than annoyed or frightened.

Not a good answer...

"You tell us, it's your bag..."

I had no idea that my companianable little Robert's radio was letting out pathetic signals. I have not studied electronic engineering, but this subject must now be added to the curriculum for the World Traveller. How, in the oceans of print that I have studied in the past few years could I have missed the word "radio". No wonder I got a mediocre degree.

"It's a radio... nobody mentioned radios" was my only limp excuse but every fool except me seems to know that radios must be put in a special tray.

Leaving Marco Polo airport I didn't beep which is not surprising since I have now banished hairclips (or, as my American friend call them, bobby pins, from my person. But even the security agent who asked if they could open my hand luggage rushed to help me find the culprit when the horror of its beeping presence dawned on my stunned face.

The radio was in the tray. We had thrown out any water bottles before coming through. I did not have any gifts or new purchases as the weight restrictions are now killing commerce. I had bought absolutely next to nothing to bring home and in any case the CD and books were in the main luggage.

This time it was the industrial grade earmuffs I wear while travelling, it seems. The had never beeped before but the metal content was seemingly enough to cause the noise in Italy where they must have bought a very sensitive sensitive system indeed.

I'm now on the market for a set of metal free industrial grade earmuffs...

But only a lunatic would design such a silly object, I fear.

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