Escaping the UK straight jacket
After the discovery of a London van which had tried very hard to get noticed before its cargo exploded, leaving the UK via any of its airports was like being processed through a prison camp. The heightened security alert level meant that already pointless security measures were stepped up and staff simply couldn't cope. Even at a provincial airport like Luton at normally quiet times a traveller was greeted with excessive check-in queues resulting in long waiting times with no other distraction but regular security announcements and television screens on which an animated single woman was walking robot-like through the security protocol of an otherwise completely empty airport. It felt surreal and bizarre.
The added security measures meant that travellers were only allowed a single piece of hand luggage, and through the intercom system they were constantly told that a separate camera or a food bag would count as a second item of luggage and was thus not permitted. People were agonising what to do with their camera or their child's teddy bear. From a security point of view I guess it makes perfect sense: if it doesn't fit into a single bag, or the bag you've brought is too small, then you are obviously not sufficiently prepared and security-conscious and thus a risk to the travelling public. And before you know it, somebody slips a Mercedes van packed with nails and gas cylinders into your handbag. My suspicion, however is that there is also a commercial interest involved. Signs pronounced everywhere that once past the departure checks you could, of course, carry as many duty free bags on board as you wished. I think you shouldn't bother though. Just turn up in your night shirt and plastic slippers and buy whatever else you need at your destination. There isn't a place in the world where you get ripped off as well as in Britain.
The only speedy movement was through passport checks. Her Majesty's officers only wanted to see boarding passes, not passports, which kept delays to a minimum and demonstrated the case made by government that we all need to carry identity cards, provided we don't show them to anyone. To be fair, passports had been looked at when reporting to the various airline check-in desks, but airline staff are not government employees, nor do they have the facility to read or analyse the biometric data our passports now contain.
Things slowed down again at the approach to the X-ray machines. First people were stripped of any liquid items they might carry, bare a few essentials. In the past, airport staff handed out clear plastic bags to put in toiletries - like hand cream and toothpaste - now you have to buy the bags from a dispensing machine, four for a pound. That's good value for money, since you are only allowed to take one such bag on board and can keep the others as a souvenir or gift for people you might meet in far-off destinations.
I watched a granddad emptying his cooling bag he had carefully packed before leaving home: the ice packs in it obviously contain liquid and are therefore far too hazardous to carry on an aircraft. Next he was asked to part with a fruit yoghurt as this was also a prohibited item. Rightly so, we can't allow carelessness to endanger the lives of crew and passengers with exploding fruit yoghurts, especially if they haven't got a say in what flavours they would like. Mind you, there are devious ways around the prohibitions: if you carry your yoghurt as filling in a chocolate bar you're allowed to take it, provided it fits in the single bag of hand luggage allocated to you as your ration. You are also not allowed any sharp items, plastic knifes or nail clippers for example, but I suggest the pins of electric plugs for your laptop or mobile phone are a lot more lethal. Oops, now they'll have to outlaw those as well, together with nylon stockings which could be used to strangle an air hostess and hold her hostage.
After leaving heaps of shampoo, drinks bottles, aftershave and other terrorist accessories behind, which they had inadvertently discovered in their hand luggage, passengers proceeded to the X-ray machines. Even after taking everything off and placing it on the belt, metal buttons or earrings would nonetheless set off the beeps of the walk-through X-ray frames, which meant they had to be given a rub-down search, resulting in never-ending queues again. At the end of such a search the staff in attendance would ask people to show them the soles of their shoes. Finally, the moment of revenge for the terrorists plaguing the British Isles had come. For Arabs it is an insult to point the soles of your shoes at anybody, and they must have revelled in delight to be able to swear at British officials whilst at the same time only doing as they were told.
The prolonged security procedures inevitably resulted in boarding delays which in turn caused take-off delays and lost take-off slots. Chaos all around, just because of some crazy van driver in London. You don't need to set off a bomb to destroy the British way of life and economy, you just have to do something silly, and the official response will take care of the rest. When the plane got airborne it finally felt like real freedom, not the fake one we're allegedly defending, gold-plated with rules and regulations. Unfortunately, most air travellers neither have the money nor courage to emigrate from these bigoted and narrow-minded isles for good, and thus will have to come back to the same sad old story. At least that bitter pill at the end of their holiday is sweetened by the fact that nobody will try to take their mineral water bottles or toothpaste away from them when they board their flight back to Britain from exotic locations. Only the British government and those who follow it blindly are smart enough to actually believe that you can bring down a Boing 707 with toothpaste or lemonade.