Gatwick. London. May 2016. Airport security.
What do you do when you’re in an airport security line? I’m curious.
This was the line at Gatwick for passport control and airport security getting into London. We were spending only one night in London, but had to go through the process. The huge line snaked around control barriers and took about an hour for us to work our way through. There was a day when passengers would be pretty testy about such a wait, and in fact, there are a lot of complaints overall about increased security taking so much time, or so I’m reading. But frankly, I haven’t heard those complaints nor am I one of the complainers. I’d rather be as safe as possible.
Now,I get that “safety” is a relative term, because we’ve all encountered some idiotic TSA agents and we’ve wondered how the hell they got in charge of keeping us safe.
So there we were, in line in the crowd. I watched a woman in a headscarf set her suitcase down and continue in the line that snaked around the barriers. She was about 25 people behind us and parallel to us in the queue. I knew what she was doing: her bag was heavy and she didn’t want to pick it up and put it down 50 times a minute as the line moved around. But still, the rule is “no unattended bags,” not in the U.S., not in London and not in most places. So I kept my eye on her as we moved slowly toward the passport control booth. I wondered if anyone in charge would notice. I wondered if anyone would say anything.
I saw the London equivalent of a TSA person on the edge of the line. I thought about calling her attention to the bag and the only reason I didn’t was that I was 99 percent certain that it was just a case of a heavy bag. But of course, I didn’t know.
After about 15 minutes, the border worker saw the bag and called out to ask who owned it. The woman raised her hand and they had a conversation. She took her bag and continued in line. With her bag.
A few things about that episode:
I should have said something. If you see something, say something. I HAVE said something before, but not this time. Next time, I will. Because you never know.
It disturbed me that no one else in line seemed to notice. Of course, I don’t know if someone called the worker’s attention to the bag or not. But I seemed to be the only one with eyes riveted to that bag.
Since the worker was so close to the bag, I wondered why she hadn’t noticed it sooner. I wondered why she wasn’t constantly scanning the dense crowd.
On the day I’m writing this, it’s only been a few days since people were hacked to death in Bangladesh. It’s a horrific thought. Just like Bataclan is a horrific thought. And all the things that have happened since those events.
This is the world today. We live in it, we travel in it.
We’ve got a three-week trip to France planned for spring and it’s pretty likely we’ll go. Any airport is a risk, any city is a risk, any restaurant is a risk.
There are so many reasons that my heart hurts all the time now and this is one of them.
So, back to my question: What do you do in an airport security line?