Belfast Telegraph

Airport security's a joke, just don't try to make them laugh

By Robert McNeill

If high comedy is your thing, then you should try cracking a joke to airport security.

In fact, nearly all security is comical. Which is odd, considering it's a serious business. In one low period of my life I was sentenced to attend the Scottish Parliament every week.

Not unnaturally, after a few initial scuffles and some broken glass, I got to the know the security guys and we became pally.

One day I turned up and was greeted thus: "Good morning, Rab. Lovely to see you again. Are you well?"

Your scribe: "Indeed I am, humble orderly. The sun shines, the birds tweet and, only this morning, a team of top doctors inspected my private parts and gave me the all-clear."

"That's the ticket, sir. And your yellow tie with mauve flashes is quite the sight."

"Yes, sets off the red shirt nicely, I think. Now, where's my pass? Damn, seem to have forgotten it."

"Ah, in that case, you can't come in."

"Don't be silly. Why not?"

"Because I don't know who you are."

"Of course, you know who I am, you berk. You called me Rab, an over-familiar appellation usually applied only by my Auntie Morag, a sherry-soaked crone."

"Makes no difference, Rab. You can't come in without a pass."

True - he never let me in. Meanwhile, as we stood arguing, nervous men in burkas flashed their passes and waddled through in lumpy habiliments.

But such lunacy pales into insignificance compared to airport security. And it's even worse in small islands than in Belfast or London. I know of an incident in which a security operative searched an old wifie - who was his next-door neighbour. Maybe he thought her 50 years of hen-rearing merely a cover for her al-Qaeda sympathies. At small rural airstrips, I've had to remove my shoes, presumably after that nutter on a trans-Atlantic flight tried smuggling a bomb in his. How we feared the worst after another nincompoop smuggled explosives in his underpants.

No joking, getting in and out of Belfast or London is nothing compared to these places which, thankfully, I haven't had to visit for years now.

Controversially, despite thousands of newspaper columns, I've never taken a stand on anything. Far too busy for that sort of thing. So I doff my hat to Stephen Fry, comedian and all-round good person, who says he'll go to prison for a man who joked on Twitter about blowing up an airport.

Paul Chambers is appealing for a second time after being convicted of publishing a menacing message when he thought his flight from Belfast to Doncaster might be cancelled. He Tweeted: "You've got a week and a bit to get your s**t together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" Pretty dumb, particularly the two exclamation marks and, to be fair, you can't blame the Doncaster operative who spotted it.

But it's clear we ain't got a terrorist here. He was joking. For which he was fined £1,000 and dismissed from two jobs. Crazy stuff all round.

It's the industry's need to be seen doing something that's the cause.

Somebody somewhere needs to take 'security' by the scruff of the neck and give it a good kick in the pants.

I'm not doing it. Busy, you see. But Fry or someone should have a go.

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