I have been waiting on my baggage for two hours now. The flight in from Amsterdam had been delayed and when we disembarked and finally made our way to baggage reclaim, we were told of even further delays due to some alert or another. By now most of the folk on the flight have collected their luggage and left, although I haven't.
I'm kinda nervous and surreptitiously wipe sweaty palms on my trouser legs. I am calm on the exterior. I mean, the game is live and there is no opt out now. I had prepared myself mentally and this was my decision. I'm stuck with it for better or worse now.
I sit in a corner of the baggage area with eyes closed, the information desk having long since told me that my bags were in a 'holding' area where they needed to be checked for 'security purposes'.
I take deep breaths and pay attention to what I am feeling.
My meditations are interrupted by my name being called. I open my eyes and see two people with official airport tags around their necks standing in front of me. I follow them into one of the rooms and sit on the chair that was indicated for me.
"We believe that you may be bringing illegal items into this country and we are going to conduct a search. Is there anything you wish to declare?"
"Err", say I, "I've got about 1kg of tobacco, but Brexit hasn't yet kicked in, this is personal consumption and that's ok isn't it?"
"That's not what we are talking about. Stand up please."
A team of two proceed to check my person. They get me to take my jacket off and one is going through my pockets whilst the other is patting me down.
"Ugh, what a mess", says the one who was going through my pockets. In her hand is a rather soggy package which she pulled out of my big pocket.
"That's my lunch", I say.
The official is holding it up with just the tips of her fingers and a look of disgust on her face. The baguette has a couple of bites taken out of it and is wrapped in cling film. The thing is that the mayonnaise - which was liberally applied - had seeped out through the wrapping and made a mess in my pocket and this has now got on to her hand.
"Hand me a paper bag", she says with some annoyance. Her colleague does so and she puts the baguette in it and places the bag alongside my other items - phone, cigarettes etc. Off she goes to wash her hands.
Meanwhile, another team of two have removed everything from my small suitcase and are using all sorts of scanning devices, meticulously checking each pocket, each crevasse, each possible hiding place.
My heart is thumping so loud they must be able to hear it. Yet I am able to maintain my presence, to continue breathing, to acknowledge the fear and panic but not allow either to dominate.
They convene amongst themselves and then decide to strip search me. Man, having someone stick a finger up your backside is a complete transgression, but I don't make a fuss - no point!
"Right", I say, as I buttoned up my shirt and stand fully clothed before them, "You have kept me here for a number of hours, have gone through everything and found nothing. Is there anything else you want from me?"
"We apologise for your inconvenience sir, but I am sure you understand our need for keeping this country safe from drugs and weapons".
What is one to say to this formulaic drivel except "Yeah, I guess"?
They escort me out through the green channel and I get the bus home exhausted and relieved.
Once inside my room, I fish out the baguette and take off the cling film. It's a right mess, with mayonnaise everywhere and it looks pretty unpleasant. I am chuckling now as I separate out the two halves of bread and scrape away the mayonnaise with a cloth. I then scoop out a thin top-layer of bread and set it aside.
It was worth the adrenaline rush. My calculated risk was that the baguette would appear so unpleasant that it would be overlooked as a place of concealment. This was spot on.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this little adventure, drawn as it was from my imagination as well as from my observed experience 😉.