Monday, October 6, 2008

airport story.

Someone complained about how she was treated at Gatwick Airport in London. She said that the UK is third world country, and that she had a terrible time travelling around Europe because the airport officials were arrogant.

I think there is a grain of truth there. But I also think that it is not just in Europe. Last year, I had a similar experience at Dulles Airport. I forgot about the bottle mineral water that I was carrying with me, before I placed my handcarry bag on the belt. After I was searched, I went over to collect my bag.

There were these two American officers. One said, did you pack your bag yourself ma'm? I said, yes. He continued, did anybody ask you to handcarry something for him/her? I said, no. Finally he asked me if he could search my bag. I said sure, and I extended my arms to reach for my bag. You see, Ma used to tell us that if anybody will search us, we should never allow that person to open our bag, just in case they put something in it; and that we should do the opening ourselves.

Suddenly, the two Americans officers grabbed my hands. Each one, holding an arm. I was shocked. Before I could say anything, the other officer said in a robot-like voice, "Ma´m, the moment your luggage goes through that belt, it becomes a property of the United States of America. Please don´t touch it." In my head it sounded like this, `you have the right to remain silent, etc...´

Everybody was looking at me. I felt scared and very uncomfortable. I felt like a criminal at large. Finally when I found the courage to say something, I heard myself saying, I believe I have a bottle of mineral water in there. They took it out of the bag. I asked if I could have a sip because my throat was very dry. They didn´t even look at me, and threw it in the litter bin.

I was rather annoyed, but kept my cool. When I was about to collect my passport, the officer said, is this yours ma´m? I said yes. He asked, are you Dutch ma´m? I almost said, yes and Van Gogh is my grandfather and if you say another word I´ll cut my ear.

But instead, I politely said yes.... took my stuff and walked away. But I still could not figure out why he asked if I were Dutch. Is he going to give me a slice of cheese? What?! Will he treat me differently if I had an British passport? Or a Filipino passport?

Why is it that most airport officials are arrogant and rude? Is that part of their job description? I mean, do they get paid to behave like that?


Mel said...

i also have my own share of story re airport officials' arrogance. but i have also encountered a lot others who are so polite and respectful. i think what makes the difference is character.

Aristarkhos said...

That is quite a lousy way to treat travellers. We are anyway tired from the journey.
I have had lousy experiences at airports. I have never been hauled up but I have sensed the insensitivity. At the frankfurt airport - the officials behind the counter were so cold...colder than the air conditioning.
Even officials in embassies, the people who interview you before giving you a visa, are so weird.

Droomvla said...

Mel, I'm not saying that all airport officials are arrogant. All I'm saying is, I also had a similar experience.

Aristarkhos, you're absolutely right that it's a lousy way to treat travellers. I just don't understand why they have to do it in the first place. Checkpoint for safety precaution, I understand. But verbal and physical abuse?

When those 2 men grabbed my hand, my wrist really hurt. I wanted to file a complaint, but then again, they're just "doing" their job. I'm sure it's no fun for them either. Anyways...