It turned out that the poor fellow had a bit of an embarrassing moment on his latest business trip. After tripping down the stairs at the airport, he ended up walking around the terminal with a zipping tear all the way down his trousers. The worst thing is that he did not even realise some of his intimate body parts were in full display until much later – and no-one really bothered to tell him, either. It is not common for important individuals to board business class flights looking as described. I could well understand why my respectable co-worker was so painfully embarrassed.
Visibly relieved by my assurances that his respectability had not suffered a blow from such a minor incident (at least in my eyes), the colleague asked if I, anjči, ever had an embarrassing airport moment. I thought hard. Most of my frequent yet brief appearances at various airports are relatively uneventful. I mean, I follow the Departures sign, stuff all my un-bagged possessions into a mandatory "single piece of hand luggage", take the mini laptop from its case, casually toss the transparent plastic bag full of liquids inside a tray and waltz right through security.
Casually toss the transparent plastic bag full of liquids inside a tray and waltz right through security.
Suddenly the memory of a truly embarrassing moment emerged out of the depths of my mind and into the light of day. How could I ever forget?
I was planning yet another London-Riga flight about a year ago when a Latvian friend of mine called. She needed a favour. Latvia has developed remarkably in the recent years as far as the variety of consumer goods is concerned, but the situation is still far from perfect. And one thing apparently missing in the local market is quality lubricant liquid. I will not go into much further detail than this. Let's just say that car lubricants have never really been a problem in Latvia.
Since Latvia is still sort of home, I usually don't bother bringing even toothpaste along – which meant that I could stuff a full plastic bag with goodies for my friend. I went shopping the night before and thinly packed five 100 ml tubes of top quality lubricant liquid inside. I mean, I love my friends. They truly deserve the best treatment.
And so I arrived at Stansted the following day and did what I always do at airport security – casually tossed the transparent plastic bag full of liquids inside a tray. After which I crossed the security gate and took the plastic bag right out – before anyone had a chance to pay attention to its peculiar contents.
Except I didn't. My laptop was resting quietly on its case next to my jacket, but the plastic bag was gone. I hope it wasn't eaten by the security scanner, I anxiously thought as my eyes zoomed around in search of the bag. Of course scanners do not eat personal lubricants. A security officer suddenly emerged in front of me – smiling from ear to ear. My little bag was in his hands.
Sometimes you just can't wait to leave that airport behind
The moment that followed must have lasted a lifetime. It seemed to drag on and on, and, despite having arrived over an hour in advance, I suddenly feared losing my flight. Typical airport officers do not care about the passengers' liquids. But this one seemed to care a lot. He looked carefully through the plastic. He checked every one of those obvious labels. He shook the bag to turn the tubes around and read down to the instructions. He then looked at my reddening face, smiled again (not sure what was so funny?) and asked – as security guys do – if the liquids were mine.
To which I nodded. No guy in the world would believe my little "deprived-friend-in-Latvia" story. Or the fact that such basic necessities of life as personal lubricants were still not on mass sale there. Yes, sir, the liquids are mine.
As destroyed as I was at that stage, it was the officer's next question that killed me off completely.
"Do you mind if I test your liquids?" he said. As casually as if he was asking if it was raining outside. Swinging in his hands a year's supply of highly interesting female products – the only liquid luggage of a young woman travelling to Riga for two nights. In front of a growing group of passengers looking curiously at us two.
Testing hand luggage liquids at an airport usually merely means scanning them through a special machine. But it was already too late to think. I cracked up. My laughter must have reached the farthest corners of Stansted's security area. Passengers and staff were eyeing each other, unsure what the source of such emotional expression of joy was. Some watched me in sympathetic silence. But I was fine. Trust me, I was fine. I was just imagining an airport security officer methodically “testing” each one of my famous liquids.
"So have you ever had an embarrassing airport moment?" my favourite colleague was looking at me intently. As my mind was winding back a year, I had completely forgotten that he was still standing by my desk.
I shrugged and smiled. "Sort of", I said, "But it's a bit of a long story".