My deodorant pack (I discovered by chance while publicly disrobing in airport security this morning) is too big. At 4cms, it’s a deodorant; at 6cms, it’s a cosh. But my scissors were OK, having blades of less than 5cms. When you’re stabbing a co-pilot, that extra millimetre can make all the difference, but if all you
want to do is trim his handlebar moustache, then of course that’s just fine.
Airport security across Europe has become one of those rituals where nobody can remember any longer why the original rules are as they are, but we mustn’t deviate from them, or it’s Alla Aqbar next stop. As with kosher butchery or fish on Fridays, it simply is. So it indeed is that in 2015, we all get undressed and a dressing down while running the gauntlet of Airport Security.
I find it fascinating that, while almost every other tedious task once performed by a human being has been robotised, security hasn’t. This would suggest that the élites are just like us on one key dimension of judgement: when something absolutely 100% has to be right, safe and thorough, better a person than a pc. In other words, they know that modern circuit board electronics are crap, and they’re just pretending when they say “User error”. No human security officer, for example, would ever spot two toothbrushes in a bathroom bag and assume that the owner had both real teeth and a denture,good gracious me no. The doubling of one’s toothbrush complement immediately makes it a dangerous weapon in the hands of any terrorist hell-bent on disabling a stewardess. Countless cabin staff have been maimed for life after having a nose viciously tweaked by Jihadist toothbrush chopsticks.
The horror of all this nonsense (which has achieved exactly what Jihadists want – uncertainty, fear, annoyance and delay) was not helped by a decision to fly Ryanair, the only airline in the world surprised on every flight it manages that with a full complement of passengers, there aren’t enough overhead lockers for their bags. But as so often with neoliberal ‘choice’, there was no brand option if one wanted to go to Stanstead. I don’t mean I’ve ever really wanted to go to Stanstead, but landing anywhere else would’ve been hopeless given my end destination. So Ryanair it was, and trust me – the service hasn’t changed one iota.
The boarding area was a shed, the queue management incompetent, and the advice about which end of the plane to board absent. O’Leary likes to position his flying trams as a ‘no frills airline’, but in reality it’s a no-brain service. Information on the day costs nothing and saves the ever-present boarding fiasco in which people try to use a single aisle as a dual carriageway, with the result that it feels like taking on a Kiwi scrum pack in a toastie-maker.
With clinical accuracy, I put bum upon seat directly behind the only baby on the plane. It’s a sixth sense I have…fascinating in that it is both masochistic and pointless. Mum was ever so proud of her baby’s vocal chords, and kept up a nonstop mindless chatter with her offspring in the manner of Alison Steadman in Abigail’s Party. “Are we a little bit thirsty for a drinky hmm, is that what the noise is about little monkey, eh? There we go, lavleeee.”
All that said, I am forced to admit that the cabin staff on the flight were unfailingly helpful, friendly and polite.
Thirteen years of New Labour education targets and pictorial comms technology having rendered most people under 40 semi-literate, all of the safety procedures these days on cheap flights are in strip cartoon form. Getting out of the aeroplane in the likely event of Ryanair igniting the fuel before take-off is made to look like a party game in which people grin happily while crawling on all fours, have harmless smoke resting safely above them, and then jump onto a bouncy slide down to the wing where ginger beer, jelly and lashings of cream will surely be available. If the wing is still there.
But none of these pernicious predictions came to pass. We made it to Blighty on schedule and in one piece. Only then did things start to go very, very badly awry.