Love Travelling, Hate Airports

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I’m so excited: I’m flying off on week’s holiday today.

Sorry. That was a lie. The first bit, that is. The bit where I say “I’m excited”. I’m delighted about going on holiday, of course. But the flying there? No. More particularly, the checking-in-passing-through-security lark. It brings out the worst in me every time, and that is not a pretty sight. I’m the woman who has spent a lifetime being told by strangers to “cheer up, it’s not that bad” when I’m feeling very happy indeed.

I know about security and safety. I know it’s all important. But there’s something called proportionality, and airports just don’t get it. I get off to a bad start by assuming that all staff are out to trip me up in some way, and prevent me from boarding the flight. Every question at every stage is a loaded one, and if I fail this part of the ritual, I will be sent away back to the car invariably parked 10 miles away. I am so paranoid that I can’t even handle the shopping. One time I was buying a 50cl bottle of water. The lady at the till asked where I was going and I said “Oh, nowhere, really” because I didn’t feeling like chatting about my travel plans. It turned out she wasn’t being chatty.  She said she had to have the information, and I had to show my boarding pass otherwise she couldn’t sell me the water. One bottle of water.

Then there’s the ritual humiliation of the security striptease. I have discovered that whatever over-covering I wear, I am required to remove it. I mean, obviously a big winter coat needs to come off. But a woolly cardigan? A fine cambric overshirt? One day I plan to wear nothing but underwear underneath and see what effect removing my cardigan has then.

The bit I hate most is the inconsistency between airports. Everyone does it differently. Shoes on or off? One plastic bag for all lipsticks and useless tiny shampoo bottles, or one for each item? It’s anyone’s guess. So I can only assume that there is no credible rational basis for much of the ritual, and complying with irrational reglementation is almost an impossibility for me.

Once I decided to think positive and try submissive compliance. I decided I would only act in accordance with instructions. When commanded to do so, I accordingly removed my shoes without complaint, and awaited the instruction to put them on again. Which never came. So out of interest, I decided to go barefoot, convinced someone somewhere would decide it was a security or H&S risk to walk as nature intended. No one blinked. I toured the duty-free without hassle, and I walked across the tarmac and eventually boarded the flight barefoot. My daughter kindly documented the performance. It was her first go with my ancient manual Nikon, and although I developed the film way back when, I never got around to printing the shots. I had dismal results when I tried scan the negatives yesterday, but the grainy, blurry images above give a little idea of the wondrous sight stalking Luton one cold February morning in 2007.


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