The Dementia Diary

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The Departure Desk Debacle

on March 7, 2012
German 4" Navy Luger, caliber 9 mm Luger....

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday’s visit was much as predicted, with me having to explain how F i L gets his pension paid into his bank account (he forgets this every day) so I thought today I would expand on one of the ‘Holiday from Hell’ stories (The Forgotten Fortnight).

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to check in our bags.  We knew that having F i L with us would make things take longer as he was, and still is, very slow walking and needs to know the detail of everything we do.  Added to that, just a week or so before, the UK Terror Alert had been raised, and we were having to take all liquids in hand luggage in small quantities in a clear plastic bag, remove shoes to have them scanned, as well as the more routine checks.

F i L looked around the terminal like a lost puppy.  He didn’t have a clue what was going on and kept telling us “I’d never be able to do this without you!”

“Of course you could.  It’s the same as getting the right platform for a train.  You look for your flight on the departure board and go to the desk shown next to it.”

We got into the queue at the desk, and concious that we hadn’t helped pack his bags, and that he hadn’t flown for a good few years, we asked about his hand luggage.

“Do you have anything sharp in your bag?  You can’t take it on the plane.  Any scissors, knives?”

“No, No, nothing like that.”

“Any aerosols?”


“Any liquids?  You have to have to have them separate and only small amounts.”

“No, nothing like that” he was irritated by the questioning. “Only my Luger!”

For those of you who don’t know a Luger is a pistol widely used by the Germans during the two world wars.

In the UK it’s not only an arrestable offence to commit an act of terrorism or carry a firearm for that purpose, it is an offence to joke about it too.  There are heavily armed police officers patrolling constantly in airports, ready to haul off any one who does. F i L was continuing.

“Aren’t I allowed to carry a pistol in my bag?  It’s my bag…..”

“Shut Up” I said through gritted teeth.

“But why can’t I have a gun?”

The police were coming closer

“Shut up!”

“If I want to carry a gun surely I’m allowed to carry one.  I had one in the forces.  I know how to handle it.”


I am now confident that, if I had known how bad the holiday would be as a result of his company we would have allowed him to be arrested.

It transpired he hadn’t heard of air terrorism.  9/11.  The Shoe Bomber.  These events had passed him by without even making a hint of a mark on his conciousness.

When we reached the desk, as the clerk repeated the questions about his hand luggage, we glared at him, daring him to make a joke about a gun.  He answered the questions sensibly but we could see that he was surprised that these were genuine concerns.

We sent our suitcases off and moved over to the security check.  It was the height of summer.  The queues were huge and the additional security measures were slowing up the process.  Knowing how long it takes F i L to get his coat and shoes on or off we warned him he would have to do this as we queued.  He laughed at us.

Now is a good time for me to mention that we also had our two children with us who were aged 8 and 6 at the time.  Handling one F i L is equal to dealing with two small children, so I had the kids.  Husband had his dad.

As the children and I approached the front of the queue, we removed our jackets, shoes and belts and put our hand luggage and the contents of our pockets into a tray, ready to go through the scanner.  Husband was behind me doing the same.  F i L was still laughing.

He stopped laughing when he was told to do the same and the queue came to a halt as he took an age completing the request.

I had gone through the X ray machine, the children followed.  We picked up our bags and redressed ourselves.  Husband came through the X ray and hung back waiting for F i L. Then it happened……

“Is this your bag sir?”  The customs officer was holding F i L’s bag.

Our hearts leapt into our throats.  Could he really have a gun in his bag??

“Yes, thank you very much.” F i L took the bag and tried to move on thinking that the seurity officer was helpfully handing it too him.

“Could you empty your bag please sir.”

“But my family are waiting.”

“Empty the bag sir.”

We gestured at him to empty his bag.  No gun! So why had they stopped him.

There was a small airtight box.

“What’s in here sir?”

“That’s my flannel”

“Would you open the box please”

He did and out flopped a wet, previously used washcloth.

“And what’s that sir?”

“My toothpaste”

“You have to carry these items through in a clear plastic bag sir.  You are only allowed certain amounts of liquids.  You’ll have to get a plastic bag and come through again.”

We had queued for 20 minutes already.  We had queued at least that long to check in.  We needed to get to the departure gate so we told him to allow security to throw the items away and we would buy him new things in the departure lounge.  There was a chemist there where we could replace them.

“I’m not throwing that toothpaste away! I bought it yesterday” and before we could argue he went off to get a clear plastic bag.

We stood waiting and watching, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, as he tried to jump the queue.  Security stopped him.  He had to take his jacket and shoes off again, despite his protests that “It’s ok.  I’ve already been seen.”  He had to empty his hand luggage out again and proudly waved his clear plastic bag in the air filled with toothpaste and flannel.

Finally he was allowed through.

We were now left with approximately 20 minutes to get to our departure gate.   At our local airport these are in a separate building which you catch a little train to.

I grabbed the children and marched them over to the train. Husband followed with F i L.  The train pulled in.  I got the children on, along with their hand luggage, then myself.  As I turned round to speak to husband the doors of the train closed. They closed in front of F i L’s face.  He was on the platform with husband behind him. The children and I were now pulling away on the train.  Missy started to cry thinking that husband wasn’t going to be able to come on holiday with us.

When husband got off of the next train he left F i L next to me and walked off, declaring over his shoulder,

“I’m going for a drink”

He should have bought a couple of bottles.  We didn’t know it yet but we were going to need them.


One response to “The Departure Desk Debacle

  1. Thank you for a good read!

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