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Saturday, 28 August 2010


Getting from point A to point B by air used to be easy; whether it was Brisbane to Sydney, or New York to London. You went to a travel agent, they gave you this lovely old-fashioned thing called a ticket (remember, they came in triplicate?), which you safe-guarded until departure day.

You’d waltz into the airport and light up a fag while your baggage was being checked. Well, of course you could – your hands were free because you weren’t digging around looking for your drivers licence so you could prove you were the person listed on the ticket.

There’d be a few ratty old plastic chairs to sit on while you waited for your flight to be called. Maybe there was a bar – bonus points if so – or maybe you snuck a few voddies into your bag to make the wait more fun.

Either way, nobody minded.

Then off you went, scampering across the tarmac, umbrella aloft if it was raining, and into your plane, where you could continue smoking and drinking again. In those days, you were offered beer long before you were offered food. The seats had tiny ashtrays built-in. Anything that makes the long haul to Heathrow bearable.

Then somewhere between the launch of the world wide web and the terror of September 11, it all changed.

Bookings must be done online. Travel agents, the human ones, don’t want to talk to people. They want to talk to computers. Ditto the airlines. “People!” they bray, “those funny things that pay us lots of money so we can hold them up at horrible airports? Arrggghh shudder.”

You must print out your own ticket at home, memorise your booking reference number and do your own check-in. That’s if you can find your way through the hordes of smokers gathered around the doorway.

Today’s airport security means you need to allow at least another hour to your travel itinerary. I don’t fly all the time, but I fly enough to know a few simple rules:

1) Remove all solid gold jewellery prior to passing through security. Extend this to belts with a solid buckle. Which was ok for a number of years until I put on weight and now I have this one gold bangle which I can’t get off. It upsets officers in airports all around the world. I think they would rather have me amputate my own arm than pass through their detectors while wearing the offending item.

2) Wear thongs or slip-on sandals, heel optional. Never boots, never strappy shoes with a hundred buckles. They’re too hard to get off. Even if I am getting straight off the plane and commencing my walk up Everest, I will wear thongs. Even if I am getting straight off the plane and going to dinner with George Clooney, I will wear thongs.

When it first became essential for footwear to be removed before passing through detectors, the airport geniuses declined to provide seating. It took a number of times of me leaning against Lover Bloke while fumbling about trying to undo my shoes to realise that, much as I love looking glamorous in the air (and leaning against Lover Bloke), it’s not worth the pain of unbuckling strappy shoes in a vertical position. And putting them on again.

3) Don’t wear any form of metal hair clip. This one time I was off to Melbourne for something fabulous, getting a morning flight with a view to arriving at Lygon Street, dragging my hot pink hold-all, with that air of “Hey I do this all the time, just like my good friend Paris”. I’d spent ages that morning twisting my hair into this messy knot, secured with a hideously expensive diamante clip, only to have the security officer shug and say, “Sorry love, it’s gotta come out.” Do they think I have half a kilo of explosives in that clip? Where? Imbedded in the fake diamonds?

Last Easter, I was fortunate enough to spend the break in Perth. Being totally clued up, I made sure I had cleared my bag of anything that might eventuate with me in a maximum security facility. I had my thongs on. I had an elastic to hold my hair back. I wasn’t wearing a belt. I declared my laptop as they like us to do and I was jewellery free (save what I affectionately call the fat bangle). Couldn’t have planned it better.

Except the security fraternity still wasn’t happy with me. They wanted to get a little more up close and personal.

“Where are your little hand-held detectors?” I asked, as I watched some frighteningly overweight lady with frizzy red hair and one-inch fake fingernails begin to descend on me.

“Qantas now does initial body searches by hand,” she smiled. “Have you had a pat down before?”

“No!” I say. “Even that one time when I didn’t have sex for ages did I never went so far as to have a pat down.”

So right there, in the middle of the security quadrant she’s got her hands all over me, pat pat pat – ooh that’s some nice fat on your thigh – pat pat pat – ooh and some more around your tummy – pat pat pat.

Go near my boobs lady and I’m clocking you.

I eventually got to Perth. But clearly it is not where my bag wanted to go for Easter, since it ended up in Melbourne. Probably because the shopping is better.

For all the security in the world they still couldn’t get the luggage manifest correct.

I wonder how my bag fared at check-in?

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