. . . . . . previously, I’d behaved testily during the security search at Heathrow Airport, had a digital strip search (digital as in x-ray body scan, not what you were thinking) and been released back into the public domain of the airport lounge.
Two coffees, several visits to the loo (nervous bladder?), a few raids on the departure lounge shops, a long walk and two and a half hours later, we were seated at the gate, ready to board our flight.
My security breach had been put behind me and I was just opening my novel when I heard, “Excuse me madam, do you mind if I ask you a few questions? I’m with Heathrow Security.”
Looking up in alarm, I slammed my book shut reflexively, as though hiding my guilty secrets. She wore the crisp white blouse, black skirt and slick grooming of the previously encountered Gestapo. I wore an oh-no-not-again expression.
“Just some routine questions.” Another foreign accent. Ulla was the name on her badge. The secret police had tracked me through the airport! I was toying with the idea of saying Yes, I do mind, but she launched into her patter before I could muster up the bravado to give an unbidden answer to her rhetorical question.
“What is your destination?”
The same as everyone else held captive at this gate. “Calgary.”
“What is your final destination?”
“Where have you traveled from today?”
I muttered, “’pswich.” Alright, Ulla, spell that! With a quick and precise script she wrote Ipswich. Oh.
“What council district?”
Are you kidding me? “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know.” Oh, that just makes me sound stupid. “Um, no, I . . don’t know,” I offered feebly, bumptiousness fizzling.
“Okay. How have you traveled here today?” she asked with the tolerance of a well trained interrogator.
“Hire car.” She flipped a pad looking for a chart to find a special code to put in a box on her form and hire car wasn’t listed. With English as her second language, she was unable to translate. In hyper helpful mode and now anxious to just leave the country, I looked over her shoulder and picked from the chart “rental car” for her.
“How would you rate your experience in security today?” and she read off a list:
“Well above my expectations.
Above my expectations.
Neither above nor below my expectations.
Below my expectations.
No, she didn’t say that last one on the list. Perusing the list I couldn’t see a suitable expression for my security experience so dithered for a bit then chose the middle, non-committal answer.
“Why have you chosen that answer?” Ah, here we go.
“I felt rushed when my belongings came through security and there wasn’t enough space to put my things away and the security person wasn’t very helpful well quite rude actually and I felt intimidated and harassed and I just, well, I . . . . ” and I ran out of steam as she ran out of space to write in her little box.
There. Had I vindicated myself? The “strip search” room went unmentioned. By her and by me. And by Jimmy. He was oh so engrossed in his book. And pretending once again that he was nothing to do with me.
Shortly afterwards, we boarded our Air Canada flight for Calgary. Having left behind Heathrow Airport and its terrifying team of search and interrogation, we looked forward to the warmth and friendliness of the Canadians. They were friendly, but . . . . . .
. . . . . to be continued . . . . . in Calgary.