Diplomatic Baggage Handling
“Can I check your bag?” said the chap at security at Islamabad International Airport.
“Um, yes” I said, trying to work out quite what he might have seen in a bag containing nappies, wipes and Julia Donaldson’s seminal work “Monkey Puzzle*”. (This is J’s favourite who will present it to you, climb onto your knee and proceed to point at every blue butterfly in the book demanding “What is that?” with increasing volume until you say “It’s a blue butterfly”. He then moves on to the next one and repeats. There are blue butterflies on every page. It’s torture.)
Should be banned under the Geneva Convention.*
We were waved in the direction of a table. It wasn’t clear on which side we should stand, so we plumped for the one which meant the official would be closer to the scanners. That’s what they do at Birmingham City Airport, so it must be right. It was wrong. We were promptly moved to the other side. We were still a bit bemused. So was the official, as a mound of children’s detritus emerged from the bag.
There was then a small incident somewhere around the scanner area, so our official headed off to go and have a look, leaving us with the bag. Had we been international arms smugglers, this would have been the welcome opportunity we were after to secret our nefarious goods from Bag About To be Searched into Other Bag. As it was we were still at a loss to why we had been stopped so we didn’t. He came back.
Eventually, after much rummaging, he found a small car. We all looked at each other. He shrugged and took it off to scan it, leaving us with the bag.
It was at this point that a small ruckus started up. A lady, having already passed through security, wanted to have a chat with a chap who was still at check-in. Having located a door which connected the two, she had it open and was gaily settling in for a good old natter.
Our official, who by now was looking a little flustered by having had an incident with a scanner and then only having found a dinky toy in the bag of a dodgy western family clearly up to no good, started shouting. The lady shouted back, expressing surprise and gesticulating madly with her hands. She was clearly very keen to continue the conversation. Our man had had enough. The lady was encouraged to abide by basic airport security rules and the door to The Outside World was firmly shut.
We were reunited with our dinky toy.
We all went on our way.
Things I won’t miss when I leave Pakistan: No. 1 – Benazir Bhutto International Airport
*(Photo courtesy of Amazon.co.uk although I’m sure it’s also available from all good bookshops)