You may find it hard to believe the following story isn’t fiction. And even harder to believe that all these terrifying things happened over the course of just one flight. But it’s true. Not mostly true. All true.
“Look. She hasn’t taken off her shoes.”
“I thought you had to.”
“So did I. He hasn’t either.”
A jeans and trainer clad couple tramped through the security scanner at Heathrow Airport without so much as a Hey you! “Well, I’m not taking my shoes off. I don’t see why I should get my socks grubby,” I said prissily.
Jimmy proceeded to the conveyor belt where one takes a tray, deposits jacket, keys, watch, belt and in Jimmy’s case – “Should I put my shoes in here?” “Yes” – his shoes.
I asked no questions as I heaped up jacket, handbag and laptop, then crashed my overweight carry-on on to the rollers leading up to the conveyor.
We’d already run the gamut of check-in, treating our carry-ons as featherweights, certain they were over the weight allowance, trying not to go red in the face, tremble or grunt when lifting them in the proximity of the check-in staff. That pretense was no longer necessary at security.
Or was it?
Poised and ready, I held back my carry-on and trays on the conveyor, and timed my dash through the scanner so I could scoop up my loot from the other side of the x-ray machine before anyone else could get their hands on it.
My trays and bag whooshed off and I sneaked through the scanner feeling triumphant not only for keeping on my shoes but for avoiding the pat-down search I could see on my left.
Things were going quite well until my heavy case and two trays shot out the other side of the x-ray machine and hurtled down the rollers to the buffers. I’d already breathed a sigh of relief when I was startled to hear “Is this your case?” I looked to see it wasn’t my case so relaxed again. Prematurely as it happens.
The five zippers and four handles on my roll-along carry-on have always been a mystery to me and I turn it round and round, unzipping and zipping up, sometimes the same wrong zip three times trying to open it, not expand it. The large-as-possible carry-on, purchased to circumvent airline luggage allowances, was stuffed so full it would detonate with one wrong move.
I’d eased the laptop out for the security check with the delicacy of a bomb disposal technician and it was languishing in a tray. The rest of the contents – empty plastic containers, a Daytona 500 baseball cap, plastic zip bags, dirty clothes, a few clothes pins, Jimmy’s slippers, two pot holders, six hangers, pajamas, a book, a magazine and a ball of string – were packed with the precision of a 3-D puzzle.
To open the zip fully would be like pulling the pin on a grenade. If it all flew out, it would never go back in and I would have to don some of the dirty clothes for the flight.
I just needed to unzip my carry-on a few inches, slip the laptop back in amongst the dirty pants and socks, zip up, grab jacket and handbag and go. Jimmy was already shod and jacketed and backing away from the chaos.
So, is it this zip? Zip, zip. No. This one? Zip, zip. No.
Bags and trays and people were piling up behind me. This one? Zip, zip. No. Needing to do my zip, zip thing not under the glare of harried travelers, I heaved my bag from the downhill rollers and thumped it onto an adjacent table.
Just as I nudged the bag away from the edge of the table, a lofty sour-faced mein führer pushed it back at me and banged her prey’s suitcase onto the middle of the table.
“Excuse me madam. This is my security search table.”
And then the trouble started.
. . . . . . to be continued.