Airport Gestapo – The Final Chapter

. . . . previously, I’d caused havoc, embarrassment and humiliation at Heathrow Airport and we were momentary illegal immigrants in Canada after having been awake for nearly 24 hours on our way to Seattle.

View of Calgary downtown from International Ai...
Imprisoned at Calgary Airport!  
View of Calgary downtown from International Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zombified by tiredness we stepped out of an elevator at Calgary Airport and appeared to be behind the U.S. customs desks, tourists to-ing and fro-ing on the far side of them, shops and departure gates splayed out beyond. Treading very carefully after falling foul of Heathrow Gestapo security, we approached the first human we could find.

“Excuse me,” I said in a little girl’s voice. Not intentionally, mind you. He just looked so very big and I was feeling like Alice.

“Can I help you?” he asked. Oh, yes please. Give me a fireman’s lift to the first aid room, find a cot for me to lie down on and put a cold compress on my forehead.

I lost track of the people we asked for directions, the forms we handed over, the snaking empty mazes we trudged along, eventually passing go, saying goodbye to our suitcases again and, oh goody gosh, going through security.

Thankfully they didn’t seem to be expecting me. Our boarding cards and passports were inspected for the 43rd time and we were directed to a security queue. It was the same drill as at Heathrow except everyone was taking their shoes off so I meekly followed suit.

As our boarding cards were scrutinized for the 44th time the proceedings came to a halt.

A young blond Aryan looked at our boarding cards, looked at us, looked at the boarding cards again and squinted, showed them to her colleague, who looked at us then called two other colleagues over who all peered at us while pointing at our boarding cards.

I wanted to cry.

If it would have made them happy I would have laid down on the conveyor belt and gone through the luggage x-ray machine myself.

“I’m sorry,” blondie said, “you’ll have to go to that other line.”

“What?” I had heard the actual words she said. I just hoped she’d change her mind. Jimmy was putting his shoes back on without further questions.

“That other line,” and she pointed.

“Where?” My poor brain was shutting down and I wanted to be really, really certain she meant what she said.

“Over there by the wall,” she enunciated very carefully. My jacket, handbag, computer and shoes, all neatly laid out, taunted me from their trays. Jimmy wouldn’t look at me and was wheeling away.

With a last punch of stamina, I put myself back together, walked to the other line, unloaded into the trays and watched it all whiz away on the conveyor. Good riddance.

Our boarding cards had taken a little side trip, courtesy of the security staff, who perhaps didn’t have enough to do as they outnumbered the passengers. The boarding cards were walked round the whole area by various staff and admired by all and sundry as though they were showing off a cute puppy.

In my socks I stepped through the security scanner, where I was stopped yet again. “You’ve been chosen for security screening through our airport. It’s on your boarding card.” I’d already forgotten about the boarding cards. They were still being passed around for the staff to marvel at. “It has four S’s on it. Would you like me to search you or do you want to go through there?” She pointed to Jimmy, who in my dazed and weary state I’d also forgotten the existence of, standing in a round glass case in a familiar Hands up! stance. The virtual strip search.

English: Body image scanner cartoon avatar, ge...
English: Body image scanner cartoon avatar, generated by software in lieu of actual body image, proposed for use in U.S. as airport screening method. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I looked at him. I looked at her. “Ma’am?” she asked.

She looked at me.

“I have no idea.” I was so worn down by officialdom I was completely unable to make a simple decision.

“Why don’t you step through there?” she said kindly.

“Okay.” She could have been sending me to a firing squad for all I knew. Or cared.

After asking the way out of security, being misdirected and taking only two more wrong turns, we found our departure gate for Seattle and sat down.

“Can I see our boarding cards?” I asked Jimmy.

I held them up side by side. “Yours has the four S’s on it. Not mine.”

“I know.”

“You were the one security was tracking this time.”

“I know.”

“They picked you out to track through Calgary when we checked in at Heathrow and marked your boarding card, long before my snit in security.”

“I know,” he said, smirking.

“It was nothing to do with me not taking my shoes off.”

“Nope.”

“Let me see the boarding cards for the London/Calgary leg.”

“I threw them away.”

“Why?” I asked on a note of rising mania.

“They’re no good now.”

“I know that but I’d still like to see them.”

“Well you can’t.”

“I’ll bet mine for Heathrow has the four S’s on it.”

“Possibly.”

“Choosing me for a security search and tracking was completely random.”

“Probably.”

“You let me think it was my fault that we were screened.”

“Yes.”

I was too tired to give him a piece of my mind. I’m not sure there was a piece of it left to give him.

The flight to Seattle must have been uneventful as I didn’t feel inspired to write about it. That or we took a taxi from Calgary. I don’t remember now.

English: Security checkpoint at Seattle Tacoma...
Do you see what that sign says? Tiny print, right side of picture – Wrong Way. You betcha! I’m never going through security again. Ever. Until the next time. English: Security checkpoint at Seattle Tacoma (SeaTac) International Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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81 thoughts on “Airport Gestapo – The Final Chapter

  1. Oh, I am so glad to hear someone else has had this experience! I could tell you of our own adventure coming out of France last year that would make you scream (because it surely did me!) But suffice it to say….I also had the distinction of the SSSS on my boarding pass, but that was only after so many other issues at that airport I didn’t even care! Also, I think it becomes infinitely worse to go through airports when you have to look for an English-speaking employee to find out what exactly is happening! Oh, yes, I think you definitely did a good job here getting me wound up all over again even a year later just remembering all this. You must, indeed, be an excellent writer!

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    1. We have a “Four SSSS” club! Comrades in boarding cards! Wow! What fun to think to think of going through everything that we did but in French! Not. Thanks for the compliment. Sorry for the distress. 😦

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      1. Hah! Is nice to have someone to commiserate with, huh?! I couldn’t believe how my blood started boiling when I read your experiences too. Am thinking perhaps I have PTSD! (Just kidding). Anyway, can’t wait to read more!

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              1. Probably the best plan and probably the plan we’re both employing right now anyway…..however, I do not think I’ll be flying out of France again anytime soon. Iceland also not high on my list as we were corralled there in between flights and yelled at by a man in an unknown Icelandic tongue (which was actually okay because my son and I imitated him and burst into peels of giggles doing so all the way across the Atlantic). Ugh. Anyway, we’ll grin and bear it as you suggest…..

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        1. You are sooo right. The thing is we were selected for our SSSS “privileges” right at the start. Maybe it’s like getting hit by lightning. It won’t happen to us again. On no. That’s a dumb thing to say. I was in a plane once that got hit by lightning twice! O_o

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  2. We were selected once too – 11 yrs ago when all of this started. Little did we know they also emptied out our locked suitcases. But we kept a positive attitude thanking God they checked our luggage on the way to our destination and not on the way home with a few loads of dirty clothes!! Needless to say our time at being the chosen ones was uneventful unlike your adventure. You poor things. 😉

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  3. Never fly again… walk to where you want to go… or check your boarding pass and if marked with the four s’s ask for spill coffee on it and ask for another hoping it has no s’s on it….

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  4. I have been strip searched (including socks) at machine gun point in a make shift tent on a frozen runway before being allowed to board. But Never Never have I heard of someone having a boarding pass marked and tracked through every airport. And have never been asked for old boarding cards. I assume you are just the luck one.

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      1. Flying out of Switzerland but do not recall where to but in Europe. Sometime will have to tell you about India, Will make you laugh and be happy for the way security responds.

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          1. They have some of the best security there is in Europe. I would go in a flash. If you are driving watch for planes flying into or out of a mountain, you might even catch the door opening or closing. The food and locals are great.

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    1. Looking forward to your next flight?
      btw, we’ve got Derek back and himself is busy catching up with financial things while I’m in the library. I’ll try to send you a photo via a comment soon. Hmmmm, which one?

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              1. Whoooo! Hoooo! Who’s a clever girl? I read Jude’s instructions again. When you comment via the dashboard you need to click – img – and past the URL in the pop up box. By the way, that’s a mimosa in the glass.

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  5. I had a similar experience back in 2003, but fortunately only had to put up with two pat downs in the side room away from everyone but fully visible thru the windows (before the nifty naked scanners), and have my purse and bag hand-searched – but I was only going from BWI to Atlanta and back. When Sue and I flew to Mauritius, we had the delightful experience of having what was supposed to be a 3 hour layover in Heathrow turn into 11 hours. UGH!

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        1. The thing is – we didn’t know our boarding cards were different until it was pointed out to us. The four S’s weren’t very conspicuous. Just keep smiling. Everthing will be alright!

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