on the Heathrow Security line

May 20, 2015

 

… was a lot less than I’d started out with.   amsterdm2

I blame Amsterdam.

The prospect of going there, and singing there with my choir was very exciting. I’d    never been to Amsterdam. I was in such a pleasurable tizzy about the whole thing   that I organized a special travel outfit to mark the occasion: a ladylike dress, a belt, tights, boots, spring gloves, leather jacket (my daintiness has its limits), bracelets, earrings and a silver doo-dad to keep my hair in order.

In retrospect, I can see it was way too elaborate. Not for life – it was fine for life – but it was terrible for modern day air travel. I’d completely blanked out the reality of airport scanners and trace detection portals and uniformed personnel coming at you with wands and beepers.

I was too caught up in visions of cobblestones and canals, and gabled houses with adorable window boxes, and what it would be like to walk, very solemnly, past Anne Frank’s attic. As I mentioned, I’d never been to Amsterdam before. This despite the fact I’ve lived in Britain for two decades and Holland is ridiculously close by jet, one of those quickie flights where you’re still trying to open the bag of airline nuts, going at it with your teeth and the plane’s already starting its descent into Schiphol Airport. Up, down, you’re there. That’s the reality.

It wasn’t the first reality of the day. When I walked into Heathrow and saw the stack of plastic trays on the security line, my little fashion bubble burst. It dawned on me that I’d dressed for a completely different era of air travel, and that almost everything I had on, had to come off. Boots, belt, jacket, jewellery, the silver hair doo-dad — all of it unzipped, unbuckled and peeled away in a fair imitation of the world’s worse strip tease.

I padded through the X-ray machine looking like I was wearing a beach cover, my ladylike dress, minus the belt, demoted to what my Grandma Lena would have called a shapeless schmatta.

What ever happened to airports?

When did they turn into glorified bus stations?

They used to be so glamorous. Romantic. Mysterious.

They used to be the setting for women in cunning hats and three-quarter length gloves dashing lightly into the arms of men who looked like Gregory Peck. All the men wore suits, with very white shirts.

We all know what happened, why it is that airports have come to acquire the charm and efficiency of a hospital waiting room during peak flu season. What happened, of course, is the awkward marriage of two contrasting isms: egalitarianism and terrorism. Today, flying is far more affordable for far more people and it affords far more opportunities for a lunatic with an agenda to render the experience deadly.

But knowing that is one thing; accepting it is another. And the night before I went to Amsterdam, draping my clothes on the bedroom chair, I was still pretending that a flight to a foreign country was an occasion, as opposed to an ordeal.

The cabbie who drove me to the bus did, in fact, look a little like Gregory Peck.

Advertisements

5 Responses to “on the Heathrow Security line”

  1. charlotte bowmer Says:

    I know, and always SO early in the morning!!

    • whatiwaswearing Says:

      And all those unpromising corridors you go through. I still remember when the Pan Am terminal opened at JFK in New York; it was a real event, a futuristic building with soaring side wings. It was all about the adventure of flying.

  2. Sonia Says:

    Loved it! But maybe wear a track suit for the flight next time?

    • whatiwaswearing Says:

      A track suit. I envision one of those pink velour Juicy couture numbers. But not on me: I think you have to be a Russian trophy wife to get away with that, and carry a pink Kelly bag. Yappy small dog optional.

  3. Sophie Says:

    No, no, no, never wear a track suit! My mother in law always dresses up to fly, and invariably gets upgraded. (Not that I can ever imagine you in a track suit!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s