Heathrow’s Sacred Cow
Is travel stressful? More so if you are on a tight schedule
Heathrow accounts for annual passenger numbers of about 30 million – Like the population of Canada passing through every year.
On a Wednesday morning, we arrive on time from Singapore – a flight of a bit over 13 hours – that was on top of an 8 hour flight just to get to Singapore.
We had a bit more than an hour to make our connection to Paris
The long long walk that used to characterise Heathrow is made easier these days with a light rail service reducing the 40+ minute commute between terminals to maybe 10 to minutes.
But after that time in the air we just want to get on the final leg to Paris before train ride to provincial Sens
Not here to buggerize about with some labour voting, power weilding, corporate tree climbing un- civil servant.
After the little driverless train ride we are set to be re-screened through security.
So it’s off with the boots, the belt the hat and empty the pockets etc. Also here all the liquids and gels have to be put into a ziplock bag- but only 1 per passenger.
The guy operating the machine that xrays and looks into the carry on bags this morning has a touchy trigger finger. Lots of bags are being rejected and sent down the manual inspection schute.
At the end of the schute Mazie stands ready for any challenge. Mazie is the sole examiner of rejected bags and rejected articles . A powerful woman. She has just completed the security screening course and is keen to display her superior knowledge of security matters. Maybe today is the day Mazie will snare a would be terrorist smuggling a tube of toothpaste onto a plane. After all it is her first day on the job without a mentor , and who knows what promotion lies ahead on snaring a possible would be terrorist Even picking passengers up for security breeches like smuggling an extra mililitre of gel will yield brownie points and with enough a desk job is a possibility Maybe Mazie had a row with hubby last night. Something is making her itchy.
Mazie has in her clutches the bags of Lois and Lucy – a pair of rather tall slender European lassies. It is not their fault that they are considered attractive. Lois and Lucy at nearly 6 ft tower over the dumpy plump matronly Mazie.
Lois and Lucy are in strife. Mazie has to find something wrong. That desire to catch a baddie rides deep inside her. And who are all these puncy travellers? What are they doing swanning around the sky? Why are Lucy and Lois not a home with a shed full of bambinos? How dare they be so good looking? And don’t let their height trick you. Mazie has small person syndrome in spades, and flabs of fat to match.
So the scene is set. This morning Mazie might catch a terrorist. If not she will teach those pesky tourists a thing or two about the power of Heathrow’s human bag searching security sniffers. At the very least Mazie will get square with the gods who hand out good looks who denied beauty to Mazie and gave it so abundantly to Lois and Lucy. And anyhow what’s the difference between a tourist and a terrorist?
Lucy’s bag is first. Mazie orders it opened. In go Mazies mitts – mauls around for a bit and comes up with nothing. Prods and pokes around again. Still nothing. Lets the bag pass. Score = pretty Girls 1 vs Mazie 0
Round 2 – Who owns this bag? demands Mazie. Lois is impatient, concerned at the time day and might be late. Lois puts her hand on the bag to open it confessing that it is her bag. Mazie pushes the hand away. No touching. It’s in Government hands now. Mazie nonchalantly looks around the bag and wanders over to the stand behind her, pretending to check something or other has a chat with a co worker and wanders back to demand he bag be opened.
Mazie has refreshed her plan. The new strategy will be much more thorough. Pretty Miss Lucy might have not got enough roughing up. With Lois it will be no holds barred.
The search begins. Search for what ? Mazie has no frigging idea. But search she will. Just like they showed her in the training school yesterday.
The bag is open before her. Mazie looks at the fine clothes and knows she is onto something. This Lois must be filthy rich. Let’s have a look around she thinks, while Lois and Lucy exchange comments about how long it’s taking and how late they will be.
A crowd is gathering. The guy on the X-ray machine is rejecting as many bags as he can. There is a chatter in something like Hindi about how well Mazie and the trigger happy X-ray operator work as a team. Perhaps they come from the same village in India or maybe they just share the same squat in outer London.
Others in the crowd are starting to express nervous concern about how long it’s taking – nearly as long as this story.
Mazies mitts fiddle around under the layers of clothing. Nothing yet. But give me time she thinks. Ah here’s a new trick. The tray on which the bag rests also has some things taken out of the bag before it went through the X-ray. There is a phone, A pair of sunnies, a cap shoes , some jewellery and a bag of cosmetics and liquids. Let’s see what’s in the frame of these sunnies. Take them back to be X-rayed separately . Wander back – put the sunnies through – look at the screen. Nothing yet. Ok let’s check this phone. Get Lovely Lois to turn this phone off. Now Mazie take it back and puts it through the X-ray machine. Mazie has never seen inside a phone before.
The crowd is muttering. My bag was rejected. So was Pats. We have time now. But the snail’s pace here will surely make us late. Others are in a similar situation.
This bag of Lois is challenging Mazie. Mazie has put the phone under the X-ray. She calls a co worker to help scrutinize. Lots of electronic thing a me jigs – don’t really understand it shrugs Mazie. Together they conclude there is no threat there.
Back to the contents of the bag. Mazie starts taking everything out of the bag and placing the contents to one side. Wow – What nice clothes – and undies too. How does this Lois come by such luxury items? Must be something wrong. How can someone so pretty have such wealth to buy these garments? Possibly the proceeds of crime, thinks Mazie as she carefully checks the brand name and size of each pair of knickers? What’s this one for she wonders lifting a Chantilly lace G-string up to the light? Mazie waves the explosives searching wand over each item. Could be something in the pores of the lace.
The crowd look on appalled at the expressions of determination and questioning disbelief on Mazie’s face as she picks up each shirt, each blouse, each skirt, and every bra and pair of knickers. The crowd looks on while Mazie checks each item checks the lining and elastic for explosives and drugs and signature labels. I watch wondering what I have that will interest her when it’s my turn.
Perhaps I should have ditched that dirty hanky?. And then there’s the treasure trove we call a plastic bag of laundry. Should I have soaked the skid marks off the undies? What about the body odour in my shirt?
Still no score in the Lois vs Mazie contest.
One by one all Lois possessions have been displayed, scrutinised, and put aside.
Whets left? Ah the bag itself. Wave the explosives detecting wand around in and around the bag. No need to rush here. Mazie has it at last. This is it. Mazie casually wanders back to the machine to check the wand. No need to let Lois or the crowd see that she is excited about being red hot onto a career coup.
The crowd is starting to stir. Everyone wants to barrack for Lois. Lucy is softly chanting her intention to make a formal complaint. In Whispers, others are questioning Mazie’s competence. Some are taking specific notes, presumably for follow up. But no one is too vocal. It s dangerous to criticise too openly. We all hope to be standing where Lois is right now, as soon as possible, but each of us want to move through the checking process quickly when it comes to our turn. The crowd groans.
Sadly for Mazie and for Lois and for the waiting crowd, the explosives test on Lois bag did not provide a positive result. The crowd shuffles from one foot to the other.
For Mazie its back to the starting line again. All seems lost. Then there is a new ray of sunshine on Mazie’s quest to trap a terrorist. It was staring her in the face all along. Lois has a bag of gels cosmetics and liquids. But it is over flowing. The zip lock bag is too full to close. And the sign at the starting point said that there can be only one ziplock bag per passenger.
So now Mazie can flex her authoritian muscle. Quite simply Mazie has the authority to refuse access to the airline gates. Fancy having the impertinence to have more than one ziplock bag of cosmetics. Mazie can now get square with this pretty lady. Lois protests that she has only one ziplock bag full. Mazie quotes her operators handbook which limits the quantity of liquids and gels. Lucy offers to take a few of the excess bottles from Lois’ ziplock bag so that the offending ziplock bag will shut. Mazie refuses, quoting the operators handbook which says that once passenger has been processed through security, then no goods may be transferred to that passenger. It looks like Lovely Lois is not going on this plane. The crowd groans.
Mazie’s expression relaxes. She is ahead in the contest at last. All she has to do now is witness Lois exit back through the screening area. The crowd is spellbound in silence.
Lucy gets vocal. A guy beside me offers a spare ziplock bag. Mazie refuses because there can be only one ziplock bag per passenger. He does not give up. He offers to take a few of the cosmetics in his ziplock bag. Mazie quickly rejects the offer asking if he is travelling with Lucy and Lois. He should have said he is the current boyfriend of one or even both of them Or alternately Lois or Lucy should have claimed him as a boyfiend.
I heard him muttering to himself what his intentions might be if only,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
I hear Lois and Lucy muttering in French. Gently describing Mazie in terms of rond, then gros and even laid
Mazie announces that as Lois offending ziplock bag is over flowing and cannot be sealed, then Lois cannot travel. Final determination. Game set and match to Mazie. Mazie completes the Form – Declaration of Banned Passage.
Lois begins repacking her garments which have been strewn across a bench Preparing to walk the walk of shame And leave the security area unable to fly today
Behind the scenes one of the waiting crowd has seen what was going on This guy has the phone number of someone in British Airways who is on duty at Heathrow this morning There has been a frenzy of phone calls eventually reaching Heathrow’s Security Centre
So just as Lois is about to walk the walk of shame, a tall dark man walks in and asks Mazie what the problem is. He mumbles in embarrassment that Lois is free to fly. The rule about fitting into one ziplock bag is purely arbitrary he assures Mazie over rules Mazie. Then tears up the Declaration of Banned Passage and waves Lois through. The crowd collectively sighs with relief as four extra screeners arrive to clear the backlog.
Mazie shuffles away from the work area – beaten. For now she will have to lick her wounds. After a few minutes in the sulking corner Mazie returns.
Pat’s bag is next.
Mazie doesn’t know how to beat these pesky passengers now. She had an open and shut case against Lois. So she forgets about fighting terrorism. But she does know how to upset passengers. And she does appear to be under pressure from her superiors speed up rather than hold up.
So Mazie has a new game plan. Just flick the contents everywhere and go on with the next bag.
So Pat’s bag is placed on the examination table.
Out go the travel goods, the cosmetics, the little bag of toiletries, the clothes , the personal documents, the spare undies, the stationery and reading material. All out on the rack. Mazie glances over it all. Nothing to report.
so waves Pat on.
But Mazie leaves all Pat’s stuff strewn around untidily, and wanders off to chat with a co-worker casually looking out of the corner of her eye at Pat fuming . Pat repacks quickly and efficiently.
Perhaps this minor victory over passenger Pat gave Mazie a slight lift in her battered ego. But it would take many more such minor victories to overcome the humiliating defeat inflicted by her failure to bring Lois to heel.
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