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Fly boy

Posted Feb 17 2010 10:27am
This is a Highland Cow - Hairy, horny and not very happy that I interrupted him while he was eating. A typical Scotsman!

I’m sitting in the departure lounge of Prestwick Airport , waiting to make my return flight after teaching a first aid course up here today but I am flying Ryanair and, as seems normal with these airlines (cheap as chips but not always reliable) my fellow passengers and I have been treated to a 4-hour delay, courtesy of a ‘technical problem’. These things happen I guess but I am on an early shift tomorrow and really needed to be home before dawn on the day I work! I therefore have time to add this to my blog because I haven’t been on duty for almost a week and it looks a bit threadbare.

Aficionados of Elvis will know that this little airport, near Kilmarnock in South Ayrshire, is famous because the King himself visited it whilst returning from his tour of duty for the US Army in 1960. The transport plane carrying him (and others obviously) landed to refuel as it travelled from Germany. This is supposed to be the only time that he ever stood on UK soil, although this was disputed by Tommy Steele who said he was in London with him during the 1950’s but that has never been proven and Prestwick jealously guards its historical claim with photographic evidence.

And because of that single visit to Scotland (when, on seeing the Scottish countryside the King is alleged to have said ‘where the f**k is this?’) – Prestwick has its own dedicated lounge and pictures of the great man are displayed around the terminal building. Bless. It is still one of the quietest airports I have ever flown to and from.

Going through security is a bit of fun too, isn’t it? We are all so used to having to remove our footwear that a little girl in front of me, who was no more than 8 years-old, deftly removed her softer than soft boots (nothing could be planted in them, even if you tried) and put them in the little basket for inspection. Then a wheelchair-bound man was asked to stand up (stand up, that’s right), to be searched when he came through the security gate, like he doesn’t have enough trouble and really wants to threaten everyone on the flight. We’ve gone a bit mad with this – we can’t be selective without being called racist and we can’t get a grip, so we are forced to go through this awful charade. All the while someone will be shouting in your ear ‘it’s for our own good. What if a plane blows up?’. Yes, there is a threat but there's dealing with it and there's being a paranoid, emotional wreck about it.

We could just make peace with people and stop irritating other nations to the point of hating us. We could butt out of the affairs of other ‘superpowers’ and get on with life – Switzerland isn’t currently being threatened with terrorism, is it? Or maybe that’s all a bit naive. Maybe reducing our liquids and gels to 100ml containers, all of which MUST be carried in a clear plastic bag, will radically cut the threat level. Has anyone even considered that as little as 100mls of any high explosive could do a good job of destroying a plane... or that having five bottles of liquids, masquerading as after shave, amounts to... hold on, I’m working it out... 500mls? Suddenly the volume of one container seems irrelevant and the whole idea stupid.

The rub is that if you get as far as the civilian security people, who hardly ever smile and are often just downright arrogant about their role, and you haven’t put your stuff into a clear plastic bag, they will take it away and bin it (you paid for it but now it’s gone) or, as in the case of Prestwick, point you in the direction of a handy machine, owned by the same company that makes those chewable toothbrushes, so that you can buy ‘security bags’ at £1 per 4. Twenty-five pence for a 2p plastic bag that calls itself a ‘security bag’ – is it any wonder people are being turned off the whole flying adventure?

To be fair, at Stansted, on my way out, I'd forgotten to remove toileteries from my hand luggage but, after a scan, search and rub down with explosive-detecting chemicals, the smiling (yep, friendly) security man gave me a plastic bag for them. See, getting on a plane can be a nice experience.

But then, inside the departure lounge, after all that security checking and plastic bag enclosing, they still put up signs advising you not to leave your bag unattended. Why the hell not? I’ve just been through a long and boring exercise with people who seem to judge me for the colour of my socks and now it’s still not safe to leave my bag alone for a few seconds? Is there something I should know?

Sometimes it’s good to get these things off my chest. I’m not very big on this whole authoritarian Government-led, terrorist-fed police state that we are entering into. Sure, we all need to be safe but safety is never guaranteed in life, however, being bullied and manipulated into thinking you need extra security is certainly guaranteed these days.

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