A New Ban at Airports- Glass Bottles, Glass Anything
August 15th, 2018
When is this insanity going to end? Some people did something, and we have all become suspects. What's worse, even now, 17 years on, we are all suspects... Anybody who dares walk into the sacred grounds of an airport is a suspect! Tell me... What part of this is logical??
We had been warned about the strictness of security at Stansted. A friend of my husband had been there recently and said it took such a long time, they opened up and searched all bags. I wasn't worried much, we were at the airport hotel. Still, my husband wanted us to get there early. I figured an hour early would be enough. Our boarding passes were already printed and we didn't have much anyway, travelling obligatorily light with Ryan Air.
So there we were. At the check-in area. We were approaching the sacred ground of the airport. There were warning signs everywhere that all liquids had to be put in transparent bags. In case the signs were not enough, in case some people did not know how to read and write, just to make sure everything was in order, an announcement was being made over and over again, reminding passengers of their obligation to put liquids in transparent bags.
There were zip-lock bags on shelves for y/our convenience. My husband put the toothpaste in one. We had a couple of 100 ml water bottles; as the zip-locks were small and as the shape of the water bottles was fatty, I tossed them in another larger transparent bag we had, done; we got in line.
Loading the bags into the boxes to be screened, a security officer was poking around everybody's things. A pre-check. She didn't like the way I put my stuff.
“You loaded too much here,” she said and got another box.
All I'd put was small stuff and they were not brimming, they did not even fill up the box. Whatever... Transferred two things in another box.
That was not the end of it of course; the security officer was not done with me. Not yet. She rummaged through our stuff and pulled out the transparent bag with the water bottles in triumph.
“You need to put these in a zip-lock bag,” she dictated.
The poor bag looked like a child being pulled by the ears... It had misbehaved and it was now being taken to the headmaster's office, to be put in its proper place. Bad bag bad bag, you are bad. An invisible finger was pointed at it. Oh no, not just one finger, all eyes in the security line were now turned towards the haughty, guilty bag. It screamed danger. Any moment, it could explode. A threat to their lives.
“But it's a transparent bag,” I muttered. There certainly was a tone of protest in my voice but it was more of unbelief and thus curiosity to understand, to make sense of all this. All this idiocy...
It's a transparent bag, but, or rather BUT it's not a standard ziplock bag, so no good.
“It will take you 20 minutes more if you don't do this,” the security officer informed. “It has to open and close,” she said putting them in the ziplock herself. Then she demonstrated. “Look lady, open-close, open-close.”
I looked, as I mostly look in such cases, in disbelief. The disbelief at the idiocy of the “authority” figures of our world. I wish these people could see how bizarre and surreal they seem. Anybody in his/her right mind would find this ludicrous. Unfortunately, most people on our planet have been infected by a disease that makes them blind to the insanity of all this theater. What's worse, they see it as for their good, necessary for their “security.” They are fooled to think all this theatrics is for their protection. We need aliens from outer space to truly enjoy this show for the satire it is. I mean I do enjoy it in a way, but as I am doomed to take part in it whether I like it or not and I get hassled in the process, it takes away from the enjoyment. Plus of course, I feel humiliated belonging to this race of idiotic people, the homo imbecilus. I am not a part of them but come and explain this to an outsider. They'll be thinking me as a homo imbecilus as well as I was born on this earth, walk among this crowd and look very similar to them physically. How can I convince the smart aliens I am any different?
That's why I write this stuff. So that I'll show them that this moronic practice has been driving me crazy for years. So that I can tell them that even though I am a part of the cogwheel, my participation is totally involuntary. I am forced to obey with threats by the leviathan governments. Although I could of course choose to stay home and refuse to go along with this imbecility, I possess the desire, nurture the will and the pragmatic decision to live my life.: in spite of the setbacks these despots cause me. No, I don't like putting up with the bullshit of bullies; yet, I don't like punishing myself, giving up the things I want to do because of them either.
I thought that would be the end of it. Perhaps open up my bag again after passing through the sacred line of the metal-detector, but then off we would be on our way to the gate. Lo and behold, something unexpected happened: I beeped.: And was promptly taken to the side to pass through the body-scanner.
A deep breath.
I strongly did not want to go through that thing. I told them I didn't.
“Why don't you want to go?”
“I don't,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
“This is safe, there is more radiation in your cellphone bla bla...” she tried to explain. I don't care.
“You don't trust me, I don't trust you,” I should have said. They can say all those things, declare these things safe, then it comes out they were not. How many times such things have happened? Sure, I use things that I know that are not so healthy in the long run, but at least they have some return to me; what's more, they are an inseparable essential to life in the 21st century. This stupid body-scanner has totally no use to me. Or anybody else for that matter.
Instead of these, I said something else:
“I can strip naked if you wish.” Simpler. A daring pronouncement of my innocence.
“No, we don't want you to do that.”
I bet they didn't. Who wants a show in front of everybody? I didn't want it either, but I was ready to go through with it just not to go through with this ridiculous security theater.
The fact that I was not going in the body-scanner was thus established.
“You'll have to wait here for five minutes for a colleague to come.”
So I waited. I waited but people were going one after the other while my family was waiting for me ten meters yonder. I saw Carlo waving, I approached a bit to hear him. He said he had my boarding pass, wanted to give it to me. I wanted them to go to the gate, not get stuck there waiting. Lara is still small and slow, I could run if necessary. Besides, if we were to miss the plane, at least they'd go and I would be the only one to have to buy an outrageously expensive last-minute ticket back home.
“Can I get my boarding pass from my husband?” I asked the security officer.
“No you can't,” the officer shot back.
Of course they don't let you take anything from anybody even if they have been screened and they are in the safe area. No communication between the two territories. One good one bad. The bad may contaminate the good if it comes in contact, extremely contagious. God forbid. Heavens no. Perish the thought. Absit omen!
“In America hand-search is standard, they do it right there and then,” I said in an attempt to demonstrate a more efficient system.
“We are not America.”
“I know,” I said. (This was out loud.) “But you could learn from others.” (This I said to myself.)
I know, one is indignant. I am a person of my own too. But seriously, there should be a better reason to dismiss a reasonable alternative than saying “We are not America.”
Good thing they are not America. There are so many wrongs there. But one looks at the world and picks up sound practices to implement. Anyway... Don't expect any capacity for sagacity from a person hired to do a senseless mechanical task. Surprises do happen, once in a while you do run into an agent with insight and understanding, but they are quite rare and therefore not to be counted on.
Meanwhile, the line was moving. There was a 7-8 year-old girl with her father. The father got pulled over to the body-scanner side. The child, not wanting to be alone, naturally went up to the father and stood next to him. When they beckoned to scan the child the father said “But she wasn't in this row, she was there.”
“Now that she is here, she needs to be scanned,” said the security officer.
The father did not protest, he dutifully told the girl to go in. The girl went in, opened her legs, raised her arms.
“Good girl,” the security officer expressed endorsement for the girl's obedience.
Yeah, good citizens (or should I say the sheeple?); dutifully obliging authority. Unlike me, the trouble-maker.
After a while more waiting I was tired of waiting! I walked into the glass cabin in resignation.
“What are you doing there?” they asked in panic.
“What can I do?” I asked. “You are forcing me.”
“No, we are not forcing you,” they negated.
“Yes, you are,” I insisted.
“Get out of there lady,” one of them, a she, commanded. (The security staff I dealt with were all females here. Not to imply anything, just to note a fact.)
I obeyed.: As I was not keen on it anyway. But added “I'm going to miss my plane.”
“No you won't.”
At this point you throw your hands up in the air in despair! How does she know?! She has no idea what time my flight is! But there really is no point in arguing let alone discussing or trying to reason with these brainless automatons. (Sorry if that's an insult but it is the truth after all, as you would acknowledge.)
Or do they hold the planes for people who get stuck at security in Stansted? Since when did they start doing that? Oh wait, that doesn't happen. Ever.
At least not for ordinary folks like us.
After that, one of the security officers took me a bit forward. I took some more steps into the sacred grounds of the airport. So happy (!). Waiting there or waiting 3 meters away did not make any difference for me, my psychology is not fooled by such gestures; we were, or rather I was, still waiting.
Don't know what made me unconsciously touch my ears. Oh, my earrings were missing. I remembered that I had thought of putting them on in the morning and then had not. They were there, in front of the mirror in the hotel room. It would take me 10 minutes to go and come back, I could easily do it. But of course they wouldn't let me out now. Now that I was at the point of no-return sacred ground of the airport. Now that they had caught me! I didn't even bother to ask. I just hoped the woman who found them would give them to her daughter or they would end up in the hands of someone who'd appreciate them. I had paid dearly for those earrings. A bee and a flower. From the Natural History Museum. Everything is sort of dear in England. But these were especially dear given they were not precious metal but cost as one. The cost of these security searches is much deeper than the material cost, i.e. the salaries, the waste of time and money. The deeper cost is the psychological effect in our universal subconscious. We are conditioned to fear, we are conditioned to submit.
When the other woman we were waiting for came, the first one asked my boarding pass.
I said “That's what I've been trying to say. It's with my husband,” I pointed.
She walked up, took it from Carlo's hand. Walked back. “So this is your boarding pass?”
“This is your name?”
Eh yes, what else is it going to be? If that is my boarding pass, that is my name on it!
She wrote it down. Then, signalled me to follow her and asked “Do you understand English?” As if we had not been talking in English all this time!
“Yes I understand English perfectly well, thank you,” I said.
We got into a room. The Door closed.
“Now I'm going to read you this document, I need your consent,” she said and started shooting the moment I said “Ok.” She was going fast, it's a long document, formality, one wants to get through with it. But she must have heard herself, “Am I going too fast for you?” she asked.
I didn't like the “for you” part in the end. It wasn't that she was fast and I didn't understand the words, it's just not really possible to make sense of the words put together at that pace and at that monotonous tone even if you understand English, in fact even if it is your mother-tongue. Besides, I wasn't ready to listen and understand what she was saying. You need to concentrate for such a thing, and I was stressed. I was also aloof, not in the mood for it. Still... If I was to answer their questions and give my consent, I had to listen and comprehend the implications well.
“Can I read that myself?” I asked. It would have been better if I saw it written, I'd grasp it more easily and I read fast.
“No,” she said.
“Then at least turn it towards me,” I said. I wanted to see what was written on the paper.
Even with the paper in front of me, I just couldn't concentrate... Until she got to the point:
“Do you want someone to be a witness?”
I was taken aback by this question. What were they going to do to me? Were they going to torture me, did I need someone to witness?
My eyes must have drifted on the table unconsciously, now I was gazing at the black stick there. Was it a truncheon, a blackjack? What did they use that for?
“Are you going to stick that thing in me?” I asked. Out of all the possibilities, apparently that came to my mind at that moment.
“Did I say any such thing?” she asked.
I don't know... She doesn't have to say it, she may just do it. How do I know?! She just asked me if I wanted a witness, what's stopping my mind from going wild? Back during my second round-the-world tour when I wanted to cross the Pacific on a cargo ship, I signed a contract saying I give permission for my bodily cavities to be searched. Who knew what these people were going to do to me now? Just because I wanted to opt out. This wasn't what I wanted to or agreed to get myself into.
I had opted out in other places and was even taken to separate rooms to be searched, but I had never been put in such a situation. Be it in Europe or Iraq or Saudi Arabia, it was straight-forward: “Now we're going to be touching here, doing this and that,” and that was it. I was hesitating when I was startled by the woman's declaration:
“Now that you have come here, you cannot return.”
What is this? What kind of a Catch-22 did I get myself into? What if I did not agree to their terms? If I wasn't allowed to go back, I should have been read this paper and briefed on the procedure before I was taken to that room!
I understand I cannot leave but can't I even check-out? You can at least do that in Hotel California. But apparently, not in Airport Stansted. This is not America...
I considered calling in Carlo. But he couldn't leave Lara alone. They would have needed to come in together. With all the bags... Plus, did I want Lara to witness this? I weighed all this with the fact that this was England after all, they must be civilized. Writing and reading makes you think this has been a long process but all these things go through your mind in a split splash second. I said I was okay. No need for a witness.
I honestly do not remember the rest of the questions they put, the regulations they notified me of or the terms they made me agree to. I said “Yes,” “Okay” to all but my simple consent was not enough, they made me sign that paper.
After we got through all this formality, we could finally get to the bottom line: The search itself.
“You have three layers on, can you take off one?”
“Sure I can,” I said and while doing it added “I can take off one more if you wish.”
“We didn't ask that.”
Oh, I understand... I'm supposed to do only what they ask. I am their subject after all, right?
The search wasn't anything special or any different than the standard. First a hand-held detector, the touching your arms, legs, etc. When we were done, the woman who did the search went out to file her report.
While waiting for her to return, I said to the other woman “I don't believe in these security searches, they are a waste of time.”
“Not that we like doing it, we do it for you,” she replied. “Apparently some people blew up an airplane.” Needless to say the referral is to 9/11. I wonder if there is a soul in the world who doesn't know that date.
“I don't want to give anybody any ideas but you sell glass-bottled drinks here, anybody can break that and voila, he's got a weapon.”
“Most incidents happen in the air.”
What kind of a stupid argument is that? You can carry that on to the plane and have it in the air too! Plus, some airlines serve wine in a small bottle even to the economy-class, they give you the plastic glass and hand over the glass bottle for you to fill and drink. Broken glass is something much more dangerous than the small items they confiscate from us. Besides, incidents are averted by vigilant passengers who take action, not by these stupid security searches. I didn't argue though. There is no point. See the above remarks; and perhaps read about automatons.
“Did you hear what happened this morning?” she asked me in rebuttal.
“Yes I did,” I said. Carlo had mentioned someone running into the sidewalk in a car just outside the British parliament. Some pedestrians were injured. It was thought to be a “terrorist act”. I should have said “That's exactly my point. You cannot prevent people from being killed, being victims of terrorist attacks or mass shootings. You simply cannot do that. We all take a certain amount of risk by simply living.
Similar car running incidents have happened in London before. One cannot list all the attacks. I mean if you want a list, Wikipedia does it. And it's so very interesting. First, it starts listing pre-1800, then it becomes a century, 1800-1899, then 30 years, then 20 years, after 1970 it becomes yearly and there is a separate link given. In 2011 it becomes every six months. And from 2015 on you have a list, a link for every month. There is also a List of terrorist incidents by country. Or terrorism in bla bla...
As you cannot stop everyone getting into their car in the morning, open up the “intention folder” in their brain and check to see if they are planning to crash their car into another or run over pedestrians... I mean I bet they are trying to do it, scientists are probably working on such things and they might be achieving that power one day, but until then... Until then leave us alone. Please...
As metros, buses, museums and all the other crowded places are not screened and cannot be screened, what's the deal with airports? Aaah! September 11 happened. Right (!)
On return, I was doing a podcast; when I was recounting the incident and my loathing of these “security” searches the host asked me:
“So you're saying you have no issue with people bringing firearms unto planes?”
I don't think anybody is fine with that. But airplanes now have a bad rep. A totally unreasonable, unjustified bad rep. Why aren't there routine security searches in metros, trains and buses? I'll tell you why. Because it's so inconvenient with so many stops and so many terminals! Metros are sort of one thing, buses are impossible with so many people getting on and off constantly. Airports are optimally convenient in that sense: They take a large number of people on board in a hub and let them off in another.
These “security” searches at airports is a chase of red herrings, wasting time and money. It's our time and money. We are paying for the cost of all these searches. I don't wish to pay for chasing red herrings, if I am to pay for anybody to chase something, it would be to chase away the fear, not to create fear by chasing imaginary hobgoblins hiding in every corner.
That being said, I'd feel naked myself if there were no searches at the airport tomorrow. Even though I do not believe in them, even though I advocate their abolition, I am very well aware and confess I'd feel exposed if by some miraculous mandate/decree/edict there were no more searches at airports. The thing is, we are conditioned... We are mentally and psychologically conditioned from being searched all these years. Airport searches have become the norm. And that's very dangerous. Because once masses are conditioned, it's so difficult to undo that conditioning. It takes decades, even generations to erase that from the consciousness. To overcome the inertia to change the status-quo. Once things become the norm, it's difficult to break.
And that my dears, is the biggest crime of all. The crime against humanity, to condition people in awful ways, to condition them to fear. To live in fear continually in perpetuum/perpetuity.
We have mostly overcome our fear of nature by the technology we developed; the biggest challenge remains however, to overcome our fear of another, an other.: but a one of us.