Some years ago, I was in Poland on a business trip. Like most of my trips, it was one of those short in-and-out visists, and it would probably have been filed away as utterly unmemorable if it hadn’t been for an incident at the airport.
Now those of you that travel frequently, know that one airport is pretty much like any opther airport. You check in, line up to make it through security, and while you’re waiting you study the people in front of you to assess if you can keep your shoes on yes or no, if you’ll have to take the computer out of its case, and if they’re picky about jewellery and watches. In some cases, they insist you take it off, in others, they just wave you through.
There were two security lines in the airport that day. I was talking to a nice American guy, who was making me laugh by explaining just how stressful he found this take your shoes off bit – he now went about with a constant hang-up on socks, because who wanted to have their big toe peep through a hole?
Our line was flowing along quite nicely. The other line had ground to a halt, and an excited Italian gentleman was making a lot of noise about this. American guy and I shared a look: making noise doesn’t help. Complaining doesn’t help. Making sarcastic if funny comments doesn’t help. While you’re in a security line, you’re at the mercy of the staff – something they know just as well as you do. To rile people with such temporary power, is to risk missing your flight.
At the front of the halted security line was a woman. I’d guess her to be somewhere between fifty and sixty, expensive matching computer bag and handbag on the conveyor belt. She didn’t want to take of her high-heeled black shoes, her body language making it quite clear that to set her stockinged feet on the potentially filthy floor was more than repulsive to her.
Well, some fights you can’t win, so after some arm waving and a heated exchange in something I’m guessing to be Polish, she took off her shoes, displaying their bright red undersoles to the world as she placed them in a little tray.
She swept through the barrier. It beeped. She was sent back, the man manning the barrier indicating she should take of her necklaces. The woman’s voice became shrill. Her body language spoke of an urge to ram something down the security officer’s throat. The man in question was young, dressed in an impeccable uniform. He spoke in a low voice. She stabbed at him with her finger. He shrugged. With a “hmph!” that carried through the entire airport, she took off necklaces and bracelet, her watch and her belt.
In only a black dress, a short little black jacket, the lady attempted the barrier again. It beeped. By now, activity in our line too had come to a halt. Attendants and passengers were all watching the drama in the other line.
The American guy snickered. “Think she has a bomb under that?” he gestured at her tightfitting dress. I had no idea. But I felt sorry for her, especially when the attendant now suggested she take of her coat, gesturing at the zippered pockets.
Our heroine complied. In only dress and stockings, she strode forward. Beeeeeeep! One didn’t need to understand Polish to follow the ensuing conversation:
“You’ve got to be kidding me! There’s something wrong with your machine, not me.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’ll have to do a manual inspection.”
“What, you? No way! I insist on a female attendant.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, we don’t have any on call at present.”
“Well then find one!” The lady returned to the other side of the barrier. Hands flew, arms were shaken. The attendant made an apologetic gesture. The woman said something very rude, to judge from the way various men snickered and looked at each other. And just like that, she bent over, took hold of the hem of her dress and pulled it over her head, throwing it to land on the conveyor belt.
In a lacy bra, as lacy knickers, a garter belt and stockings, she looked …umm… striking.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” American guy said, staring at the apparition who was glowering at the horrified attendant. As a last gesture, she pulled the pins out of her hair, and it fell in soft waves down to her shoulders. Bottle blond, I can tell you, but all the same.
One of the older attendants yelled at her. The lady sniffed, raised her head, and pranced through the barrier. It still beeped. But this time, the young attendant snatched her dress off the conveyor belt, pressed it into her arms and more or less shoved her towards the other side and the waiting departure gates. The lady grinned and did the V-sign. A round of spontaneous applause followed.
So, did the lady have a bomb secreted in her bra or knickers? I have no idea. But I do go out of my way to wear nice underwear and dresses when I’m travelling. After all, one never knows when an impromptu little striptease might come in handy!