Airport Security

You’ve got to love airport security. It’s like a mad “It’s a Knockout” game, with constantly changing rules, and the consequences of getting it wrong ranging from dehydration to poor hygiene to intimate relations with a rubber glove.

You’ll be pleased to know that we made it through unscathed in our latest outing, which at least shows that you can indeed teach old dogs new tricks. It is the first time we have ever made it through en famille without having something searched – thankfully never yet the type requiring a private room, but pretty much everything else. I have a fondness for Frye Campus boots, which have an interior metal insert which sets every metal detector and security officer on high alert, the Other Half looks like an unshaven escaped criminal, the Wiggy One insists on packing a jumble of electronic items, chargers and batteries that always trigger multiple passes through the X ray machine, and the Feisty One is a traditionalist and just packs scissors and jumbo tubes of toothpaste.

Our worst every outing was on the way back from a somewhat fraught vacation to Tiwi Beach, near Mombasa in Kenya. We journeyed down by train, which is a whole other story in itself, but which was not subject to security checks or baggage restrictions. The return journey, however, was by air, and in the space of one flight we racked up one callback to checked luggage to remove the batteries from a radio that had switched itself on, five separate passes through the security checkpoint, and a search of the bag which revealed shells from the beach (illegal to remove if you are an adult, but if you are a blue-eyed five year old, you get indulgent smiles and a blind eye from the customs officers, oblivious to your mother’s horrified expression behind you), two pairs of nail scissors, a penknife, a set of fierce looking metal gardening tools (brought as sand toys, in case you were wondering) and a large bottle of sunscreen. If you didn’t already realise that I am a firm believer in children packing for themselves, you know now, but sometimes such a cavalier parenting approach does turn around and bite you on the bum.

I am still at a loss to explain the contents of a fellow passenger’s hand luggage on my last flight to New York, though. There was a considerable delay while the baggage of the elderly Asian couple in front of me was searched, and I can only think that they either spoke a language that wasn’t one of the many translations of security protocols peppered around the airport, or they haven’t travelled by air in the last twenty years. In a bizarre twist on the time honored tradition of always bringing a packed lunch, the entire line of shoeless, belt less and bottle less passengers behind them in San Francisco airport watched bewildered as three cans of Campbell’s condensed Scotch Broth emerged from a duffel bag…

Good to know it’s not just me.

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