“The government are going to sack 40% of airport staff,” he declared. “It’s inefficiencies like this, a waste of time.”
He and I were just two of a number of people waiting on the other side of airport security for our bags to come through. Airport security is no-one’s favourite part of travel, but you suffer through it. The staff are doing their job, and my job as a passenger is to follow instructions – remove coat, take out laptop, have liquids in their little plastic bag on display in the tray for other passengers to judge my choice of toiletries.
Sometimes there are other instructions – take off your belt, take off your shoes, stand here and make an X. I follow the instructions and don’t give the staff any grief. We are all just going our jobs: my job as passenger, their job as security.
“Forty percent,” the man repeated, louder, looking around for approval. Was he trying to impress the woman standing next to him? “They’re inefficient, they’re wasting our time. No wonder the government want to sack so many of them.”
My bag was in a queue with many other bags to go through the x ray, inching forward. It was August, summer holiday season. There were a lot of passengers and a lot of luggage to be processed.
The man shook his head. “A few months from now,” he continued, and I realised the woman standing next to him wasn’t with him or even listening to him. Her eyes like mine were fixed on her luggage and its slow progress towards the X-ray. “Yes, a few months and most of these people will be gone.”
I stole another quick look at this ridiculous man. Did he realise these people could hear him and they also had the power to make his journey through airport security much less pleasant? He did seem to know the security staff could hear him, but he seemed to be puffed up on his own sense of importance and his 40% statistic.
“Two out of five of these people will be gone in a few months,” he said to the woman next to him. Her bag emerged from the X-ray, she grabbed it and walked away.
My bag was next in line for the X-ray. Soon I too would be able to walk away.
“Here comes my bag now,” the man said, trying to catch my eye. “These people have wasted enough of my time.”
His bag emerged from the X-ray and – instead of sliding down the freedom slide – was redirected down the “problem” chute.
I couldn’t stop the smile that crept over my face as the man huffed and puffed, “Oh what now? They are wasting more of my time.”
A security man with tired eyes picked up the bag and approached those of us waiting.
“Is this your bag sir?”
“Yes, yes its mine. For heavens sake you people…what is the problem?”
“Something came up in the X-ray.” The security man was calm and polite. “May I open the bag to inspect it sir?”
Huff. Puff. Harumph. “Yes, go on, get on with it.”
The security man unzipped the suitcase and started to search through it.
The bag search is peak embarrassment at an airport. It’s done in full view of other passengers. You can judge people on how they packed their bag, what their clothes look like, and maybe smirk at the sight of their underpants sitting proudly on top on the suitcase on full display.
Those of us who had been subjected to Mr 40%’s ranting all leaned in slightly to observe the inside of his suitcase being searched.
Security Man felt around the suitcase contents and pulled out a plastic bag. Mr 40%’s liquids. This felt like a fine piece of poetic justice.
“Oh for heavens sake,” the man muttered.
“Please remember to put your liquids through separately from your luggage next time sir.” The security man maintained a polite even tone.
Mr 40% zipped up his bag and with one final harrumph headed off into the airport concourse.
“Of course, a few months from now, 40% of those people are going to lose their jobs,” I heard him say to no one.