As you probably all know us United Kingdom dwellers, the sensible ones anyway, are staying put for the summer. Our currency is worth about the same as the Deutschmark was in 1920, we're also terrified of catching swineflu or any other "Johnny Foreigner disease" and we've got to stay home to keep an eye on those sneaky money-grubbing politicians of ours. Turn our backs for one minute and the bastards'll have off with the crown jewels or summat. We're prepared to do without sunshine to make sure they stay nailed down for Italian schoochildren to queue up and look at.
Still, I made my mind up that I was staying put after hitting Heathrow the other week. *
"Oh," I hear you cry like just about everyone else I've talked to about this, "Terminal 5 is OK now. Quite space-agey and remarkably efficient."
No, can I stop you just there. Let's just take a moment and think of the service we expect when we go into anywhere else when we meet an operative. Say...a shop. What usually happens is, you say hello, they say hello back. A smile may even be forthcoming. Certainly minimal use of the words "please" and "thank you" will be witnessed. It happens that way because that's what human beings like a certain amount of polite social interaction equivalent to the situation. It oils the wheels of day to day business, and stops us from wanting to bash each other with big pointed sticks.
Everywhere you look in Heathrow there are signs, "Any abuse to our staff will not be tolerated". There's more blurb about prosecution etc, but I didn't take a photo of any sign in case I got wrestled to the ground and koshed. Something gives me the impression airport security operatives wake up every day hoping they'll get an opportunity to use their shiny anti-personnel devices. But no, no one should be verbally (or otherwise) abusing operatives of any kind. That's only fair. But in my hand, I have a chicken, and in the other I have an egg, and I'm thinking to myself, "Who let in the chicken?", and more traditionally, "What came first? Chicken or Egg?"
Heathrow staff are on the whole, incredibly rude. They practically invite abuse. Especially in the security areas. Now airport security is AN IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS THING, but it seems to be that with every person you meet along the way, the rudeness builds accumulating to tolerance bursting levels in the average traveler. If Jesus Christ were to be trying to catch a flight from Heathrow to Jerusalem (Easyjet for sure. He likes to be with "the people"...) even he'd end up taking a paddy somewhere along the line. He may even use his own name in vain.
Anyway let's just cut to the chase here, the story is I was frisked rather too roughly for someone whose only crime was that she didn't take her shoes off whilst going through airport security. Sorry if that's an anti-climax for some of you. You know who you are.
Now I've had a look back in the news archives and I am certain the hands that violated my lady parts were also the same ones that violated Diana Ross's lady parts. Now if THAT isn't a tenuous claim to fame, then I don't know what is.
Reason for Diana's frisking: She set off a metal detector (I can only assume she must have been wearing the dress she wore for the "Chain Reaction" video- she's never gonna get through a metal detector with that)
Reason for Misssy's frisking: She read a sign that said "You MAY be asked to remove your shoes". Then when she approached two male operatives who were chatting about football she asked "Have I to remove my shoes, operative?". The men looked through her and carried on chatting without response. Misssy does not remove shoes. Female frisker snaps on the leather gloves and eyes up her next victim.
And now, I give the floor to Diana, as she says it best:
"I have been through all the airports of the world and have never been subjected to such an intrusive search.I am a huggy person, I don't mind being touched, but not in this way - it was far too personal."
Ok, I am not a huggy person. In that respect, as indeed in some others, Diana and I differ. She has been hugged, no doubt, by Michael Jackson. I would never allow that.
"It was scary, I was scared, I'm worried about my children and I want to go home."
I hear you, Pet, but I was not worried about my children, just my ability to conceive any more.
Effectively a small woman of Hispanic origin repeatedly and roughly checked my every crevice over my clothes because I cheeked her. "Those shoes should be off!" she barked. "I did ask your colleagues, they ignored me. I assumed I was fine." (That was me cheeking her. That's all it takes to get some repeated, extended and rough frisking in front of an airport queue.)
Not content with the fact that no Weapons of Mass Destruction were dislodged from my uterus, she proceeded to wave her little wand over my head. "And you should have taken your hair-clip off!" she growled in a manner that suggested she might rip it unopened wrenching the hair from my skull at any point. I say nothing.
She then finds a beep in the middle of my back. I have this sudden empathy for multi motor-bike race crash survivor and man held together by pins, Barry Sheen. This woman is clearly about to tell me that I should have also removed my bra. Evidently the clip at the back could be mistaken for a timing mechanism on a remote explosive device.
Anyway, this isn't a story. Because this is the kind of treatment we've come to accept in the name of National Security at Heathrow. No other airport I've ever been in comes close. But you're about to tell me otherwise, right?
* In all fairness I didn't. I said "I am never booking a trip that ever has to go through Heathrow, I will take my chances in Schipol."
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