Kelly Hadfield-Hyde was fined £80 last month for causing a disturbance at Manchester airport. She was on her way to Malaga and going through security. The fifty year old woman had already removed her coat but when the security guard said “Off, off. All off” she took it literally. She removed most of her clothes leaving her topless. Having just returned from a trip to the UK, I understand her frustration.
Whilst away, I went on a guided tour of a Sussex cemetery, went to the flicks (Philomena – what a film) and caught up with family. I travelled light and took just with a small suitcase with me. Returning home to Ireland, inside there was a Yankee candle (a gift from my sister), a framed picture of the fictional serial killer Dexter Morgan (a gift from my nephew) and the usual mix of clothing in need of a wash.
“NO LIQUIDS, GELS, CREAMS” the security guard called down to us from the security conveyor belt. I took out my liquids and put them into the tray. Ahead of me, a few people took off their shoes and outer clothes. I was wearing boots, a coat, a scarf, a belt, a chunky metal bangle, earrings and a watch. Not to mention the fact that I had three tops on me. It would take me ten minutes at least to get down to the bottom layer, I would need at least three plastic trays to put it all in AND I was wearing an under wired bra (that never fails to set the machine off).
An elderly woman in front of me lent over, about to take off her boots. The official on security called over to her kindly, “It’s all right love, you can leave them on”. She shuffled past him and the scanner wearing her ankle boots, a watch, glasses and a heavy jumper. The only thing on her tray was her handbag.
The security official looked at me sternly. “Take off your boots”. The left one came off easily and went into the tray. The right boot wasn’t so easy. The zip had got stuck in my winter socks. I looked at the security guard with pleading eyes but he was having none of it. “The boot has to come off”.
The pressure was mounting. The queue was a mile long and I was hopping around in circles on one leg, tugging at my heel. Then a voice from behind, “Need a hand?” A young rocker dude in leather, with a tall black hat and long black curly hair stood in front of me and with one tug, had the darn thing off. I thanked him for his help with a “Nice hat”. “I’m wearing it through security. It’s too big for my bag”. He was going to a fancy dress party in Dublin as Slash from Gun’s ‘n’ Roses.
I threw my boot in the tray and prepared to go through the scanning machine. “Earrings?” the guard reminded me. I took them off. “Scarf?” I took it off. “Coat?” I removed it calmly and put it in the tray. “Belt?” I removed the belt that was holding up my jeans. Any minute now he’d say “Off, off. All off” and I’d be in the same boat as Kelly Hadfield-Hyde.
I went through the machine and the alarm sounded. “Come here please,” a woman rubbed me all over with her hands, then a paddle that went off every few seconds. “Have you any coins in your pockets?” “No”. “Why did you keep this on?” She pointed at the bangle on my arm. It was the only thing that her colleague had not told me to take off. “BEEP BEEP” the alarm went off around my middle. She looked at me with suspicion. “Mirena Coil?” I offered, convinced that the device was to blame. She gave up on me. “Ok. You can go”. I went over to collect my clothes and bags.
“Is this your suitcase?” Another official. The X-ray machine had found something suspicious in my hand luggage. “Come with me”. I stood and watched as he stood over my bag. “Did you pack this?” I’m still not sure if it was a security question or disgust at the state of my packing. “Yes”.
He pulled out the framed picture of Dexter Morgan and eyed me with suspicion. “I am not a serial killer” I joked. He didn’t laugh. He pulled out the booklet that the Worthing Historical society cemetery tour guide had given me titled ‘Unusual Deaths’. “I am not a serial killer” I joked again. Then he pulled out the candle. He turned it in his hands and looked at me. “It’s a candle,” I said. “I swear on my life it’s a candle.” I even sounded guilty. My voice sounded different and for no reason, I had put on an American accent.
He looked at me sternly. I was beginning to doubt my own mind. Was it a candle or had my sister accidentally given me a jar of Semtex? Without taking his eyes of me, he put the candle back in the bag, laid my Dexter picture and leaflet on top and gave me back the bag. I walked away and looked over my shoulder. Behind me, Slash was getting a thorough examination too.
I looked ahead of me for the elderly woman. She was nowhere to be seen. She was probably sitting in the departure lounge sipping on a glass of sherry with half a pound of cannabis in her boot heels and a thousand cigarettes sewn into her jumper.
Something about my current state causes security guards concern. Next time I fly, I am going to get myself a grey wig, some knitting needles and a walking stick. I’ll hand out aniseed balls to the security guards and sail through departures with plenty of time to spare for a gin and tonic on the other side. Maybe as Granny Annie I’ll look less suspicious.