James Stevenson Loves Airports… Not!

js_introAnd………back the other way. Pissed off at LHR en route to LA after security confiscated my hair gel (it was 125 ml – the limit is 100). Here’s a piece I wrote a couple of years ago called – “Why Airport Security Is Bollocks”

The security official looks at me with unflinching eyes, holding the culprit towards me at arms length. “You can see its only Tabasco” I argue, “taste it!” “I don’t want to taste it” he replies, “it stays here or you can go and check it” “Oh what, they’ll put a label to New York on it? Bollocks” He looks displeased, and I’d sworn. I tell him to keep the bloody stuff.

Every time I travel the complete nonsense of airport security is further confirmed in my mind and demonstrated by the powers that be. I’ve just been in an airport shop on the other side of security in Melbourne Airport. I’ve been visiting my brother now I’m flying home to London. They’re selling Aborigine boomerangs. “Are you allowed to take those on the plane?” I ask the lady behind the counter. “Oh yeah, they’ve been treated.” What do you mean treated?” I’m confused. “For bugs and animals, the wood’s been treated, you can take them abroad quite safely.” I look at the biggest. It must be 24 inches in length. These were / are fearsome Aboriginal hunting tools. It’s a serious bit of lumber. “You can take that on the plane but they’d confiscate my corkscrew!” It’s true, but hard to believe. “Don’t get me started,” she laughs with a shrug, “I totally agree.” The flight back to London on Singapore Airlines offers more confusion. Stainless steel cutlery – although in deference to the “war on terror” the knife is plastic. But they definitely would have confiscated that fork at security.

But I shouldn’t be incredulous, because I’ve seen and experienced these double standards so many times over the past seven years. Like in February when I was flying from Long Beach Airport in California to Seattle for a Gene Loves Jezebel gig. They confiscated my toothpaste. “Its more than a hundred mil” the security lady offered. I got the feeling she knew her defense was weak. So 85 mil of toothpaste is fine but 125 isn’t? Who makes up this bullshit? On the plane, an Alaskan Airlines flight, they serve me a beer in a glass bottle.

js3During the recent stringent security we all have to go through at airports the establishment’s attitude to the duty free has always confused me. Now the utter lack of logic makes me angry. I’m at Heathrow terminal three. I’ve left a very small Philips screwdriver in my hand-luggage. I forgot to put it in my guitar case. They confiscate it. OK, I’ll get another when I get to the US for 2 bucks. But the next section is Duty Free. Here I can buy a couple of litre sized glass bottles of whiskey if I want to. I went to a rough school and I know what my weapon of choice would be if I was offered a small Philips screwdriver or a broken bottle (or two) to fight with – no contest.

And the ritual at security itself – every country has different criteria. Shoes off here, keep them on there. Laptop out here, leave it in its bag there. A year ago I flew to Washington DC to start an Alarm tour. When I got to my hotel room I went to the side pocket of my leather carry on bag, the one I take on the plane. It’s where I keep all my documents. There, lo and behold, is a Swiss Army knife I forgot I had. It must have been through ten security screenings at least. Flying back from the Czech Republic in April after a Chelsea tour I suddenly realise there’s a pair of pliers in my bag that has all my strings and stuff in it. They’re expensive ones too, but only small, guitar string snipping size pliers. It makes me really angry when they take them away, though it shouldn’t, because I know the rules. The problem is the rules are totally illogical. Tony Barber our bass player sees I’m pissed off. “You know why it pisses me off Tone?” I ask rhetorically, “Because its just posturing, they need to be seen to be doing something.” He laughs in agreement.

js2Another month, another flight. Through security I go. I’ve learned what I need to do: Wash-bag in my check-in luggage (I used to like having my wash stuff on the plane), all guitar stuff in the cases. The security guard eyes me suspiciously as my bag comes through the x-ray machine. “This your bag sir?” Bollocks – don’t say I’ve left my tweezers in there again…..


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