Well, there I was with my belt in one hand and the other hand holding up my trousers while the man in front of me delved into his bag for a laptop and laid it on a little plastic tray then dug into a pocket for coins and into another pocket for a cellphone and then bent and slipped off his shoes and laid them on the tray before the man in uniform could tell him that he needn't go that far, and I don't know what the medical term is for halitosis of the foot but he'd got it.
OPINION: Ah, the romance of travel.
The electronic door frame let Mr Fragrantfoot pass, but it balked at me. Beep beep beep, like a pointing finger.
Honestly, would any previous age or civilisation have put up with it?
But the zeitgeist renders us as meek as water and I just sighed and raised my weary arms like Christ on the cross. And when I felt the flutter of hands moving up my inside leg with greater than usual vigour I presumed that the CIA had issued a directive for yet more thorough scrutiny and very soon every passenger would undergo the lube and rubber glove, at which point I'd resolve to stay grounded for the rest of my days. Then I felt my inner thigh being pinched, hard, as if nipped by a crab, not that I have experience of crabs on the inner thigh.
With words of outrage forming on my lips to be followed by the name and address of my lawyer (A Gouger, Easy Street), I looked down and there, grinning up at me, were the plumped lips and thickened lashes of . . .
"Angela," I exclaimed.
"Shhh," she hissed, then in a public voice, "if you'd care to collect your things, sir, and follow me."
I duly traipsed after my erstwhile employee, the cross-dressing Bulgarian hit man, to a table by a door marked EXIT ONLY.
"So how are you keeping, Boss?" said Angela, making a show of going through my bag, holding aloft any soiled or intimate artefacts for the world to gawp at.
"Do you enjoy this?" I asked.
"It gratifies my inner voyeur," she said, smiling. "You wouldn't credit the things some people take on holiday."
"But how many bombs have you intercepted? How many hijacks foiled?"
"Don't make me laugh," she said.
"No," I said, "I'm serious. What is this obsession with aircraft safety? What makes the authorities think that Mohammed al Fanatic will press the plunger only while on board an aeroplane? If it's corpses he's after, he can pick off just as many people on a train or bus or in a shopping mall or indeed in the queue for security screening.
"Yet if, on the other hand, the authorities are right for once and Mo's bent on self-slaughter only at 30,000 feet, how come they allow him to board a regional flight between, say, Christchurch and Rotorua with no security check at all? Do they deem 60 innocent travellers too small a bag to excite his murderousness? Do fundamentalist nut-jobs operate only on the major routes?"
"Well, sweetie," began Angela, but I had tapped into a seam of resentment that needs to find expression now and then lest it grow septic.
"No," I said, "the whole business is an insult to autonomous adult society. And while I have nothing but admiration for the patience and courtesy of the men and women who do the job and who, in great distinction to their counterparts abroad, do so with a cheery smile, nevertheless the job itself remains intrusive and pointless. It is merely a sop to American security agencies and tourists rendered timorous by a diet of atrocity porn on television and a woeful grasp of probability theory."
"Darling," said Angela, "I'd forgotten how adorable you are when you get passionate, but if you'll just excuse me a moment."
At that she turned towards a burly man in suit and tie at the back of the queue who had been looking at his watch and sighing in a theatrical parody of despair. Angela beckoned him over, looked around, then opened the door marked EXIT ONLY and urged him through.
"Don't say a word," said Angela when she saw me standing wide-eyed. "I know what you're thinking, but if you were brought up in Bulgaria, you wouldn't give the incident a second thought."
"I don't know what you're on about," I said. "I was only going to remark that there was a man with the right idea about airport security. If he was a politician I'd vote for him."
- The Press