It was at Heathrow Airport that I had a screwdriver confiscated.
Okay, you might reasonably say.
Unless you knew it was one of those minute devices for tightening the tiny hinge screws in a pair of reading spectacles. It was exactly an inch (24mm) long, plastic-handled, and the metal part measured about a quarter of an inch.
The confiscated screwdriver was smaller than this one.
I remonstrated cheerfully with the security staff about what kind of threat I could constitute, armed with this tiny instrument. The response was equally cheerful but resigned: screwdrivers not permitted.
It was summarily dumped into the box containing a mass of pretty harmless domestic items.
Being a front-line airport security team member cannot be much fun. You are as much loved by your “victims” as a traffic warden, and you know it – and frequently get told it. The job is repetitive, poorly paid, and operatives are given no credit for having any intelligence.
If they were credited with intelligence they would, during their training, be provided with sufficient knowledge to enable them to use their discretion as to whether a device could realistically be used to create a threat - or even a nuisance – on an aircraft.
Being treated as if you have no intelligence gives you no incentive to act intelligently. In fact it gives you no incentive to do your job. I had taken the same screwdriver through Heathrow and other airports countless times before somebody saw it. Does that represent a failure of security? Answers on a postcard, please (or click to respond to this blog).
When they nicked the screwdriver, here’s what they missed: dental floss (for garotting cabin crew); laptop power cable (same purpose); slender metal ball-point pen (as good as a screwdriver for threatening people).
And, of course, the passenger encounters the ultimate proof of what a charade the overall security policy for airports is once he/she gets airside. You can buy a large glass bottle of duty-free liquor to carry with you. Large glass bottles, as members of street gangs know, when broken are truly fearsome weapons.
But who cares about that threat to the cabin crew and other passengers?
The duplicity of the policymaking government departments who know this full well is absolutely breathtaking. But somehow they remain completely unaccountable.