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Monday, April 16

Reading over the shoulder and the fun at the airport

I am one of those people who reads over someone's shoulder and that's probably quite rude. I can't help it. I'm not nosey, per se, just easily captivated by things I can read. I like words, so when I see them I want to know what they say. I have reasonable vision (by which I mean my eyes, rather than my grand designs for the world) so can often make out stuff over someone's shoulder, which is only going to encourage me to do it all the more, I fear.

I've probably been pissing off the guy next to me on the plane by craning to see what is on the page of the copy of the Daily Mail that he's been reading, which is irritating, since the Daily Mail seldom has anything on its page that I'd prefer to be reading. I guess it's a case of any old port in a storm. The storm in question is the bit on the plane where they don't let you use your electronic items, which is kind of annoying, since this tablet PC is pretty much my entire entertainment/distraction/work zone for the purposes of this flight.

The guy next to me sort of got it own back by peering at my device as I was using it just now, but I've turned the screen away so he probably won't be able to read this, and I suspect he's more interested in my lithe fingers as they sail over the keyboard that I think I wisely bought when I got the tablet. There's a lot benefit in using it as a pure touchscreen device, in some situations, but I don't think I could use it for more than a few hundred words per week without the dinky little keyboard that I'm now using, a keyboard which got me into trouble earlier on.

I am a fairly seasoned traveller when it comes to using Heathrow Terminal 5. I take a pride in getting through the system quickly and painlessly. Sadly this didn't happen today. Part of the problem was the attitude of the staff, who were being pretty stroppy and inefficient. I think their stroppiness came from the general hassle they were getting from the public as queues were moving slowly, and I think queues were moving slowly because they were too busy being stroppy to make it work well. A vicious circle.

I've now got a bag that contains all the lovely portable devices that you get these days. All these light devices are wonderful examples of how you can carry the world with you in a few grams. A mobile phone, well two; a tablet PC; a laptop; a Kindle; a keyboard for the table; an iPod and of course some actually books and pads, just in case... I've got them all. You have to take the laptop out of the bag in order to go through the scanner, and I did this in one quick moving, scoffing at the other people who were seemingly unprepared for going through the conveyor belt.

My laptop came through, but my bag was held. I was told I had an iPad in it. I let that go - it's a Samsung Galaxy Tab and I chose that instead of iPad for cultural reasons, though I'm finding it hard to refer to it as a tablet or tab and keep wanting to call it my iPad, which is annoying me. I was also told to take out my Kindle. I don't think these things have had to be scanned separately before, but I complied.

Then my bag went through again and the tablet and the Kindle came through too. These latter items passed, but the bag was held up again. I was told it had a flat thing in it, quite solid. I was thinking it might be a book or something, but then they said it might be a keyboard. I told them where it was located and they ran it through again. I protested slightly that it was just a bit of plastic, but they said it had circuit boards on it, which is fair enough. I think I was being a bit defensive as I felt they thought I was hiding something and I wasn't. I also let them search the bag, because to be perfectly honest, I have nothing to hide and just wanted to get the thing over with.

On third scan, the keyboard and my bag came through. I asked the operated - "are you happy now?".

You will probably read that question the way he did, because you think I was cross and expect that I had my "tone of voice" on. I didn't. I was being quite calm and compliant, slightly sheepish about forgetting the keyboard and generally aware that they're just doing their job. The operator had a go at me: "You don't know the rules we have to go through. There's no need to be unpleasant to us."

I had to explain. "No. When I asked if you were happy, I meant it as in 'is everything now ok?' I don't do sarcasm." Actually, I think I called him sir, not in an obsequious way, but more in the way you might call a barman sir, or someone you meet in a lift.

I was pretty pissed off after that. I feel like they didn't make their rules clear enough. Since when does "please take laptops out of the bag" mean "and also anything with a keyboard, or maybe anything with an LCD or anything flat that some dumb twat with an X-Ray machine cannot identify.

I was also in a bit of a mood, because my bag, with all my metal items, wallet, coins and portable devices, weighs a ton.

Still, I have learned a new lesson about what to take out when I go through a scanner.


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