Sunday, December 29, 2013

If we had Wings instead of Boarding Passes….

If we had Wings instead of Boarding Passes….

They will try anything on you at airports

Gyan C A Fernando

Illustrated by N. Senthilkumaran

Yes they would! They are in control and most passengers are not. That is the basic problem.
In the good old early days of flying and of B.O.A.C Comet 4s, very few people could afford to fly. Only the ultra-rich could afford it. But these days even the hoi polloi get boarding passes and that is the next problem.
 There has been a massive increase in the number of “unwashed masses” that pass through airports and this has led the airport staff adopting a superior attitude, and attempting to browbeat passengers into submission.
This is where international frequent flyers like me come into action!
 They can try it on me but they won’t beat me to submission! I have accumulated more miles than most pilots…er….the pilots of Nigerian Airlines, for instance which/who doesn’t/don’t fly anymore.
So, I am not the submissive type when it comes to airports or anything else for that matter.

Security Doratupala
The other day I passed through our own Bandaranaike Katunayake Airport (CMB), which generally happens to be a good airport but the first obstacle was waiting for me. As expected it was at the entrance, in the form of a security guard, or a “Doratupala” as I call them.
This is not an insult. In the times of the Ancient Sri Lankan Kings, security men were called Doratupala or “Guardian of the Door”.
I was ready for him as well. My tongue was loaded with verbal magnums. As I walked in purposefully, he drew himself up to his full height but considering that he was shorter than I am, it was a futile attempt on his part. I had a 38cm advantage in the height department against him. Nevertheless, he went into his obnoxious routine.
I noted that he was not armed. I do not take on little boys with guns. Dangerous combination!

Scene: As aforementioned.
“Your ticket?” he asks brusquely, and without a “please” attached.
I reply “I have no ticket!”, equally brusquely.
“You have no ticket sir?”
“No, I-am-on-an-electronic-ticket!” I say in measured tones.
“Can I see it Sir?”
(Note that he is now addressing me as “Sir”)
“No, you can’t see it because I haven’t got it! It should be on your computer anyway!” say I.
“OK OK Sir, …… can go in” says Doratupala with a submissive Sri Lankan style rotation of his head.
Notice how I won that round? Do keep your wits about you!
The idea of an Electronic Ticket is that you don’t have to carry little bits of paper on you.

Boarding Farce
The next obstacle in my way was the Check In.
I always choose a check-in girl as opposed to a man, in the belief that my charm will work on females. The female members of my extended family, notably Samanmalee (aka Sam) my niece, have a different opinion about my charm, or rather the lack thereof!
“Good evening Sir! Where are you flying to today?” asks the charming Sri Lankan Airlines girl in the peacock design sari and matching eye shadow of peacock blue.
“To BKK” say I, displaying my knowledge of airport three letter codes and thereby displaying my familiarity with flying. I also add: “Nice eye shadow you are wearing! Is it company issue?”
She blushes prettily and giggles but declines to answer!

George Clooney incognito?
There is a delay. She fiddles with her keyboard, calls a female supervisor. They both look at me, my passport, then the computer screen and back at me. Both go red in the face. Maybe they think that I am George Clooney with a heavy sun tan. Nice thought! Or maybe even Sean Connery!
 This goes on for a while. I yawn. Yawning in the presence of officialdom is a good tactic.
Eventually she asks “Sir? Did you check in on line?”
“Yes, I did darling!” I say patronisingly. They nod at each other in an understanding fashion. There is more fiddling with computers and more supervisors manifest themselves. I yawn again. Then suddenly the machine comes to life and clatters out my boarding pass.
I nod patronisingly, thank them and blow a kiss at the lovely check-in girl!

End of Round Two and I am ahead on points.

Border Control
It is now time to confront the Immigration Authorities. All on duty tonight are men. There are no females, charming or otherwise. This is a bit of a drawback for me but I stride in purposefully and with a slight but polite nod of my head and having removed my cowboy hat, place both my passports on the desk with a flourish.
Yes, I do have two passports. I am therefore at an advantage. The Man with Two Passports! The Man with Two Guns?
 Needlessly to say, that I cleared immigration very quickly. I was leaving the country. They should be glad about that!

Sabai Dee!
Moving quickly to Bangkok (BKK) airport, where I got to eventually, my first obstacle is a uniformed Thai girl in a short blue-grey skirt who is checking the boarding passes, or rather the boarding pass stubs, of disembarking passengers!
I repeat: She is checking the boarding passes of disembarking passengers! This I have not come across before!
Now, I happen to be one of those obsessive people who keep all boarding pass stubs in my scrapbook and I do have the recent one on me, but I am determined not to be browbeaten.
“Sabai Dee! Can I see your boarding pass, Sir?” she asks officially, but rather sweetly.
(I now struggle with the overwhelming desire to fall for the feminine charms of a short skirted, pretty, Thai ground hostess at 0600hrs local time. It needs a lot of self-control.)
“No you cannot because I am not boarding! As you can see I am actually disembarking!” I say with an air of authority. 

Mr Bean
“Embark, Disembark, Embark, Disembark, Embark, Disembark, Bark! Bark! Bark!” I bark out in Mr Bean fashion just to bring a little bit of humour into what could now turn out to be a nasty international diplomatic row. At an ungodly hour and in a foreign airport at that!
“You have no boarding pass Sir?” she asks, barely suppressing her giggles.
“That’s right Darling! I am disembarking! Bark! Bark! I am not embarking. Bark! Bark! So I don’t need a boarding pass to disembark! Bark! Bark!” I say this whilst doing a little ballet routine.
“Just a minute Sir” she says holding her lovely stocking-ed legs tightly together and suppressing giggles. She has now been suppressing her giggles for 45 seconds at least. That’s not good on the feminine bladder.
I yawn. It is early morning anyway and I am entitled to yawn.
She consults a long list, probably the passenger list but could be her personal shopping list, and says “OK Sir!” and waves me on!
I turn around for one last look. I see her rushing to the toilet.

The Last Hurdle
There we are!
All this demands for passports and boarding passes are total bull****! It is just a way of harassing passengers because of their, airport staff’s, inferiority complexes! Don’t ever fall for it!
You then walk confidently and cheerfully out of the airport into the bright sunshine and shifty looking airport Taxi drivers swarm around you.
Airport taxi drivers anywhere in the world are uncouth and vulgar. They are rogues and psychopaths all rolled into one. They are the scum of airport society.
You suddenly realise then that your day has only just begun to go wrong!

First published in the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka
Copyright Gyan C A Fernando 2013

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