Computer Says No

It has only been a year since I last went on a plane but it’s clearly been a long and fruitful one in the tech dept …. bearing in mind that I was accompanying my 78 year old mum who is still struggling with the concept of a smart tv (only as smart as the person holding the control it turns out) I was now the designated youngster in this particular family cluster and we were off on a journey of discovery and female bonding.

The journey to the airport was fairly uneventful although my initial misgivings regarding our transport for the day were brought somewhat to fruition: my brother was our designated driver and, said brother, is famed for being, not only, somewhat highly stressed and fantastically disorganised, he is also able to get lost in any given scenario: an empty room for example or simply in his own mind. Seeing as he thought it perfectly acceptable to have 2 sat navs going at once “just in case”; both barking out slightly differing directions to the same destination, I may have stumbled upon the root cause behind his stress/organisational issues. Perhaps, I suggested, an over reliance on devices, rather than helping, might be doing the opposite. Hogwash said brother. I kept quiet as my dubiosity towards the sat nav is widely mocked. I’m not a total luddite, I have wireless headphones, I have a You Tube account, I write a blog which you may be aware of. No, my wariness is due to several things:

1. I confess, I find it quite a challenge to keep my eyes on the road and down at a screen at the same time. I only have 2 eyes and they both point in the same direction- fear I may take out an entire bus queue whilst attempting the looking up and down manoeuvre.

2. Perhaps it is wrong? What if the satellite responsible for my navigation in question has been hit by a passing meteor and is now sending me to Stoke On Trent, which is a dismal place.

3. I will have already printed and studied the map helpfully provided by the highways authority and so to ignore their advice would be a waste of paper. Greta would be cross.

We did though arrive safe and sound but later than I had wanted. We still, I thought, had plenty of time to check in, eat and shop. I was wrong.

You see there were no ladies with painted on stiff smiles and overly made up faces to greet us. No-one to double check that I actually had packed my own bag. Nope…in front of me was a bank of self service check-in stations. Now I have little to no luck self serving in the co-op local merely in the pursuit of a litre of of milk so the thought of accessing the system that would allow me and mumsie onto an internationally bound jumbo jet was , to be honest, starting to give me first night nerves. There is a certain ambience in airports that implies that any false move, no matter how trivial, could see you being tasered and knocked to the ground in a heartbeat. Unflappable is my middle name so I ploughed on regardless.“Scan passport” the machine said in overly large font. Helpfully, it even had a “say what you see” Catchphrase cartoon showing me how simple it was … in fact it could only really go 1 of 4 ways so of course on attempt 6 I hit the jackpot. Unfortunately I then, apparently, unknowingly confessed to having at least one of several illegal items in my bag, whilst doing the multiple choice questionnaire thus alerting a rather bored member of staff called David (so said his wonky name badge – he didn’t introduce himself) who had clearly seen this sort of idiocy a hundred times that day and simply retracted my falsehood with the wipe off a finger and not a iota of concern that my confession might be true. My plummeting hormone levels meant that I rarely have a sane though so I promptly replicated the same error on my mums checking in procedure. David was unimpressed. It occurred to me that no one is actually going to confess to having weapons grade plutonium in their wash bag so it’s a rather pointless question anyway.

Next, you must check in your own suitcase. I was comforted by the fact that nobody seemingly had much idea about this, nonetheless I thought I’d err on the side of caution and, having clocked a well travelled looking businessman, I stood behind him to glean some insight. Too closely, it appears, as he started to body block me – possibly a hapless victim of identity theft in the past, so I was none the wiser and had to try and style it out as Ma was looking more stressed by the second. I nonchalantly approached this next check in desk thinking that perhaps if I snuck up on it, if it couldn’t smell fear, it would respond appropriately. Not so. Staff member number 2 had to come and assist. “Janine” was as bored of the whole thing as David and had scant regard to conceal it; I had to use my full charm offensive to get her on to defrost. Eventually I got a smile and some small talk. All was well again.

Self service customs and bag check… got it this time. Scanned correct end of newly self printed boarding pass and through I shimmied. Ma let the side down though as she got all flustered and in my efforts to assist from over the other side of the gate I was scalded by a rather brusque, robust lady who was seemingly in the wrong jacket. The fleece jacket was, not only, ill fitting with the seams screaming under pressure, it also boasted “airport assistant” proudly across her ample left breast. Perhaps it was because I was not in the role of airport assistant that I was told not to lean over the barrier and help my conffudled ole ma… perhaps, concerned I had not had the correct level of training or in possession of the correct ill fitting fleece jacket.

Final hurdle… bag scanning. All was well. I had no contraband, no liquids over the allotted amount but, alas, I forgot to bag up my allowance in the customary clear bag and, on confessing this, I pulled out a rather sad scrumpled travel toothpaste from last year’s holibobs for inspection. Fortunately my illegality was over-looked.

I made it through.

I feel cleansed.

It’s a small wonder people feel required to have to have a couple of pints of vodka before finally boarding the plane – In fact, the drink should be complimentary.

By Kim Hawley

I’m a mum ... 48 years on our glorious planet and I have got some stuff to get of my chest!

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