‘Moving sidewalk ends. Prepare to step off,’ read the sign in Nashville airport the other day. Well, I wondered who that sign would benefit.
Somebody forgetting that he was on a travellator? Possibly. A blind woman? Certainly not. A cretin? Ah, we’re approaching the nub. Surely this is another example of global malaise.
I went to the toilet to escape the lunacy. Oops, I mean the restroom. But was I going in there for a rest? Or to use the toilet? Perhaps a bit of both. Mouthwash and complimentary mints were on offer; a fellow said “Good morning, sir”; and my wee wee was billed, according to the wall sign, as a “superior customer experience”. Superior to what? Maybe it was safer out of the lavatory stalls after all.
Nope. The next stop was TSA: Transportation Security Administration. (To those of us outside the USA, that’s the pre-flight luggage x-ray and metal detector.)
Twenty yards before two short queues a lady stood, her chestnut hair drawn back from a high forehead, with her finger poised over a button. ‘It’s a Randomizer,’ she intoned without the slightest trace of irony. ‘It’ll tell you whether to go left or right.’
‘Let’s go crazy,’ I teased, with a faintly heady sense of adventure. ‘Press it twice and see where the arrows point.’ (I don’t get out much, you see.) Surprisingly, unaware that I was taking the piss, she complied. And do you know what? It randomly pointed left twice in a row. Ooh!
My point, however, is that anybody able to see twenty yards ahead of his own feet could pick which queue to join. But, no, the airport employs somebody to stand there and press a Randomizer. And I daresay this lady had to go on a full-day training course to learn how to safely operate the machine.
But let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a second and make fun of the English. Here’s an airport story you won’t believe – it’s just about as daft as putting speed bumps on the runway. But it’s true. Remember the time when you could still take liquids on planes?
Well, my dad once took a pint of milk from London to San Francisco in his hand luggage. What for? ‘So I could have a nice cup of tea when I got there,’ he says, deadpan. ‘I wasn’t sure whether the hotel would have any.’ Erm, they do have cows in the US, Dad.
The sniffer dogs were his undoing, though. And attached to one of the dogs’ leads was a stormtrooper, who enforced the ‘surrendering’ of the milk. Poor old dad was astonished. ‘Bastard wouldn’t even let me drink it,’ he recalls bitterly. Ha ha. Airport travel, eh? What a crazy world..