While sitting in the aeroplane waiting for it to take off, I was casually watching the loading of passengers’ luggage into the underbelly of my jet. I suppose I was actually looking for my own suitcase to satisfy myself that it hadn’t got lost on its journey from the check-in counter. It should have been easy to see as I had tied a bright green ribbon onto the handle.
As each bag progressed along the conveyor belt that stretched from the linked trailers to the luggage storage area under our seats I looked for the ribbon, but it was not to be seen. In my mind I assumed it had been part of an earlier load, so I settled back into my seat and opened the novel I had brought with me.
Then all of a sudden it dawned on me. I sat bolt upright and looked more closely at the loading operations below my viewing window. This time I was looking with much closer scrutiny than I had adopted a minute or so earlier. Still no green ribbon to be seen! And I now knew why. I wondered how long it would be before the airline company sent in their heavies and quietly, yet forcibly, removed me from the aeroplane. How embarrassing, I thought.
It was then that the announcement was made that confirmed my fears. Our take off had been delayed due, supposedly, to the late arrival of a connecting aeroplane that had passengers booked on my flight. I knew I could explain away everything if given the opportunity, but my mind kept taking me back to earlier that morning when I had packed my bag and tied the green identifying ribbon around the handle.
Whenever I go interstate I always take my travelling alarm clock and make sure I pack it in between the clothes. A previous clock suffered a terrible fate because I had thrown it in at the last minute and the ‘not-so-gentle-ways’ of the airport handling staff had resulted in my need to purchase a new wake-up reminder. So down in between the shirts and the socks I poked the new alarm clock along with my mobile phone charger, another item I considered fragile. Just before the final zipping up, I had decided to have a glass of fruit juice.
Going to the fridge, I noticed on the second shelf four of my favourite treats, firmly wrapped in their thin plastic film. No! I thought, I can’t just woof them down because I wouldn’t be home for over a week. But then, I reasoned, I was the only one in the house that loved cold sausages and a week, even in the cool confines of the fridge, might see them in the bin before my return.
An instant decision later and I had them in my hand. I would take them with me and enjoy them later in the day at my destination. As I sat in the aeroplane, I knew that decision was the cause of the trouble that was about to descend upon me.
I had stuffed the snags down in the same area of the bag as the other items I wanted protected. Now as I sat in seat 23F looking franticly out the window hoping for even a small glimpse of my green ribbon, I could see in my mind the x-ray picture of my bag with the identifying tag that matched the one on my ticket.
Inside the bag were four sticks of gelignite connected to what seemed to be a wire fuse, detonator and timing device. I could envisage this shocking find by the jittery security personnel would cause at least half the airport to be evacuated, flights to be cancelled and travellers to be severely inconvenienced. An army robot would be brought in and when it got close to my bag, its handlers would manoeuvre its TV eye to enable it to get a close up of, not only the suspicious object, but the number and name on the attached airline tag.
I knew I was in serious trouble and would probably be exposed as a terrorist. I had no hope of expecting the authorities would believe my story as the robot would be given the command to take my bag to a safe place where it would be automatically detonated. Any evidence that might be left after the explosion would only confirm their fears. A mangled clock and electric wiring. As for the snags, they would have disintegrated and cooked beyond recognition by the fire that ensued.
Sweat beads were forming on my forehead and I could feel my underarm deodorant breaking down under the perspiration strain. It was then that the three men in suits entered the cabin. I could see the hostess pointing down to where I was sitting. They were making their way down the aisle. This was it. I was about to become headline news and all for the wrong reason. Would anyone ever believe my story?
The men sat in the empty seats behind me. The cabin door was closed and the aeroplane started backing across the tarmac. I couldn’t believe it. All my fears had been for nothing.
It just goes to show how simple it is for us to create imaginary situations that cause us severe anxiety and undue worry. On reflection, I can see how my waiting time could have been spent in a much more positive way. But then, it is easy saying things like that with hindsight.
What we need to do of course, is to recognise situations that occur over which we have no control and deliberately try and avoid the onset of anxiety. This will no doubt add to our life span and save us changing shirts more often.
I’m Peter Mack and that’s the way it is.