Friday, March 14, 2008

The Truth about Airports

Hello Everyone,
The trip is over and the reflections must begin, the first of which is the joy of airports. I always believed I loved travel, especially air travel. My opinion has becomed refined since we started traveling with Christopher, travelling with children is never fun, that is my final analysis, no way around it but between the age of mobility and the age of understanding there lies a difficult period best spent away from airports and airplanes. Which is why (secretly) I was looking forward to traveling on my own as a person who could enjoy the experience. The truth that became readily apparent to me was that airports for the most part are the bane of air travel. Their existance can be compared to being in line at the supermarket but instead of waiting for the person before you, you are waiting for a "flexible" point in time, thus taking away the feeling of progress as you watch that elderly lady with 400 items who wants to pay by cheque and doesn't speak english who stands two people before you. Your waiting for the boarding call, watching a screen change and anxiously hoping you`re next. For the moment let me digress.
The airport in Inuvik is a northern airport, meaning there is no real security, no ID needs be presented, no removing everything from your pockets, body scans etc. It does have a restaurant which is a unexpected joy for northern airports, but no gift shops, book store's, etc, but it does have the "manditory" broken water fountain. Overall, a nice little airport which can focus itself towards every plane that arrives, giving you a overall feeling of progress.
The Airport in Yellowknife however is a different creature, a mean creature that strives to destroy the passing traveller with the "official" rules of air travel. Now, I must establish that I am totally unaware of the operating budget for this facility but my personal opinion is that it exceeds needs by about 500,000 dollars. The plane I arrived on was a 737 about 3/4 full, with half of those people remaining in Yellowknife. Since, we are travelling to a sourthern airport we are forced to deplane and go through security before being able to continue our journey. So forty people have to go through security, let`s say the southern average time to go through this procedure nears the two minute mark, and this airport has two metal detection gates. Yes, two gates and two x-ray machines. Seems adequate for a airport of its size. I run outside for a quick smoke then get into the line for security screening. While standing in line I notice all the doors in the airport are equipped with card readers and biometric iris scanners ... "strange" thinks I, as I await my turn at the front of the line. I don't remember ever actually seeing these devices in southern airports yet but the five doors I encounter all have them. when I enter the screening room.. eventually I turn the corner and see something I never expected, two machines, two X-Rays and 27... yes count them 27 security personel. All "assisting" with the check through procedure. So, that many people must be kept busy, I put my belongings in the lovely grey bins to pass under the inspection of the 4 people watching the X-ray machine, I have no metal of any sort on my body so I pass cleanly through the metal detector, where the first officer does the usual wand test cause the machine is probably broken, since he did not find anything, I am passed to the next officers. Since I have passed through two metal detectors obviuosly there are some real concerns about me and I get passed to the next stages, 4 officers awaiting my arrival, smiling reassuringly. I am instructed to remove my belt (which I am not wearing) and my shoes. The belt officer seems dejected but the shoe people are estatic and perform a extremely thorough shoe inspection that would make a fetishist jealous. The officer who remains convinced that metal detectors don`t work starts a extensive pat down in search of the ceramic polymer weapon he seems adamant I must have, at this point the belt guy seems to take renewed interest as he now jumps in to pat down my dorsal half, and this was a thorough pat down, to the extent that it rivaled most of my grade 9 groping sessions in the back of the library. These gentlemen, being very dissapointed that their inspection did not reveal me to be the head of the "Northern Liberation Army" start to turn their attention to their next victim while I glance towards the 4 officers studiously looking at my jacket going through the x-ray machine, still on the first item so there is little hope that I can retrieve my wallet in the near future, so I cannot offer a tip to the two officers who have just done as much as they can to make my stay in Yellowknife a pleasure. Then what I must think of as the right foot and left foot inspectors are still examining my shoes like they are made of C4 tied together with thermite cord.
My Jacket has arrived at its next stop, the trace detector, and apparently this gentleman is convinced he will discover the truth the other have failed to about my real identity. He swabbed my coat, I can't believe he swabbed my coat, now I'm having some real concerns here, I`ve used that coat while shooting as little as two weeks ago, so this guy is going to bust me down to the fifty guys who must be hiding in the basement for me. My camera arrives, my camera is swabbed, my lenses are swabbed my tripod is swabbed the case is swabbed, my lens filter are studied closely, my camera is released and the guy asks to see my jacket again. I suppose he felt dejected as he makes me remove my jacket and this time swabs the ipod and book in my pocket.
Anyways, I`m tired of this conversation and starting to get flabbergasted again, so I`ll leave this topic here for tonight.
Take Care.


Rob, Tina and the boys said...

Wow. You should have called. I would have come to document this. I've never seen that kind of treatment here in the YK airport the couple of times we have flown through it. Now, I've probably jinxed myself for when we go on vacation in June.

Anonymous said...

Damn! Makes the Amsterdam airport security seem like a walk in the park!! lol. Poor Curth. You just look suspicious.