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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Airport tips

We went to Tasmania for a long weekend a few weeks ago. It is a land of beer, wine, peculiar wildlife and many cheeses, some so virulent that they set off the explosive detectors at the airport. At least that's my story, the reason that I got checked for explosives probably had more to do with my general demeanour.

I'm not comfortable with flying at the best of times but having raced to fill the rental car with petrol before returning it and finding that the chip in the widscreen was going to cost us the nearly as much as the rental again put me in a bit of a tiz. Then running to the terminal to be told that we had run to the wrong terminal didn't improve my mood hugely.


The most annoying thing about air travel at the moment is that if you don't maintain a kind of detatched calm throughout the entire process, no matter what logistical or bureaucratic obstacles are put in your way, then you are guaranteed to be stopped at some point and either searched or explosives checked.

Surely the odd ones out in this whole process, the ones that should be searched in intimate and probing ways are the people who can remain calm. That kind of inner peace isn't simply sickeningly smug it comes from something really very profound, like knowing you only have a few hours to live before your martyrdom transports you a paradise where a million lustful virgins are waiting to attend to every freakish whim...

When I had to fly to Canberra for a meeting this Monday at stupid O'clock in the morning I picked up a few tips on air travel that I thought I'd share with you. Of course the best tip is the most important and really is a golden rule for life so I have excluded from the list below. It is:
Never attempt anything without first having a good strong cup of coffee and a decent breakfast, ever.
Once you have this sorted the rest falls naturally into place and you won't need any of the tips below:
  1. An aluminium briefcase looks good and is very practical, it can also be used to store your screw-together rifle or home made semtex, get one tomorrow
  2. Walking through the metal detector carrying your aluminium briefcase is a good way to meet in uniform, if you're into that kind of thing
  3. When they tell you to take your shoes off tell them how many days you've been wearing the same pair of socks before saying "you really don't want me to do that mate" will save silly misunderstandings
  4. When the nice man asks you to "please step this way sir" giving him a distant "wot me?" look and taking 2 seconds to process the information makes him speak very slowly and clearly, it is only polite to respond in the same manner
  5. When being checked for explosives you may be asked, "have you ever seen this test before?" customs men really appreciate experience, so answer with a polite "all the bloody time". Whilst being explosives checked:
    1. don't try and peek at the monitor screen, it's impolite and if you do have some exotic substance on you, you will be given ample time to explain, your bagage is already on the plane they will wait for you, they know how much you need to be on the flight and they empathise
    2. don't try and take the swab thing from the nice man even to speed things up, it's his toy, let him play with it first
    3. try and remain calm, perhaps by imagining you are transported to a paradise where a million lustful virgins are waiting to attend to every freakish whim, maybe even whisper this to yourself under your breath
  6. If you are not used to seeing guns follow all of the tips above and whilst going through the security checks stare intently at the automatics in the hip-holsters of the policemen, you never know they might show you one more closely
Sadly the Tasmania trip was before the Canberra one and I didn't have the benefit of the insights above. On being explosives checked I fixed the customs officer with a cheeky grin and said "it's the bloody cheese isn't it?" in my best posh english accent. When he reached for the bag I inadvertently spluttered out "careful man, there's a culture in there, you don't want one of those here". Whilst I was definitely misunderstood I don't think this one me many friends. However I made plenty more new friends shortly afterwards when Emily left me behind, blithely waved both boarding passes at the ground crew and set off accross the asphalt, still holding both boarding passes. I made lots of new friends then.