Bit of leftover business from last year’s AMT – following AMT329, Phil in Pennsylvania writes:
Helen, answer me this: why didn’t you smack Olly for his idiotic suggestion that people should let their children ride baggage carousels at airports?
Maybe I did, but you couldn’t hear it on the recording…
I’m a “below the wing” worker for a major international airline, so half my job is taking bags off planes and delivering them to the carousel. Every day I see the address tags, straps, buckles, locks and strings getting pulled into the small gaps between the steel plates on those carousels. How is a child’s shoelace, or the drawcord on their hoodie, or their finger any different? I don’t believe in putting children into protective bubbles, but I also believe that parents shouldn’t act like complete morons just for a laugh.
Although, to be fair to the parental Manns, in this case it was the child Olly being a complete moron, to their consternation.
Phil also provides the inside scoop on what the baggage carousels are really for:
Your answer to the baggage carousel question left out a couple of reasons for the existence of carousels: tracking and security. At every step of the process, we use handheld scanners to read the tag on each bag, so we always know where it is. Going on the plane… scanned. Coming off the plane.. scanned. Delivered to the baggage carousel… scanned. If all the bags were just dumped into a big pile, it would be awfully hard to properly scan them.
Also, the area where we drive the baggage carts and deliver the bags to the carousel is a secure area. We pull up to the carousel, open the security doors at either side of the carousel, scan the bags and put them on the carousel. Once all the bags are unloaded, we close the security doors again. (One of my coworkers is now the subject of a police investigation because he didn’t fully close one of the doors a few nights ago. That’s a major you-can-be-sacked sort of mistake.)
Those doors are only just big enough for the bags to fit through, although a person could squeeze through if they tried. But what if the door were big enough to drive a whole cart through? Far too easy for people to wander through, far too hard to secure properly. So, the carousel’s real purpose is to deliver the bags to the passengers while keeping the passengers (and terrorists) out of the secure zone where the planes operate. And then let the airport workers sit in the back, undisturbed, so we can listen to podcasts while we wait for the next plane to arrive.
We can definitely endorse that last reason.
Also, it’s not just us being given the scary once-over by immigration officers in American airports – and it’s not just the American officers who are scary. Noah in San Francisco writes:
A few years ago I (an American) was flying into Gatwick. I was coming to London representing my art gallery for an art fair. When I asked by HMS Customs if I was there for business or pleasure, I answered “Business” in a proud fashion. I had never traveled for business before and was feeling quite proud of myself for doing so. I was, in the blink of an eye, an “international businessman” — but when I looked up to see the eyes of the customs officer, did I realize my grave, grave error. He had the look a starved jackal gives a frightened sheep. The ordeal that followed — what’s the nature of your business, who are you traveling with, just exactly why are you conducting business on our territory and thus clearly depriving others of work — was thorough, exhaustive and exhausting.
I explained everything: the fair was advertised all around London on large banners, advertised in all the current newspapers and magazines; nothing was done in secret, this was a well-publicized fair. He wasn’t having it, and after reappearing after 30 minutes, escorted not only me, but my fiancée and young sister to airport jail! We were thrown in the tank, questioned separately (my fiancée and sister were in separate queues and answered that they were there on please, only making matters worse). I think my sister got the worst of it as she got her diary read and passed around by several customs agents. I MAY have made things worse by answering the question: “Have you ever been searched by this before?” with “Well, once in East Germany in 1987, but it only took half the time.”
My fiancée (and now wife (and mother to my kids)) would insist I was being remiss if I didn’t mention the kind gentlemen jailer who fed us a seemingly endless supply of strangely-delicious triangle sandwiches.
A few hours later, we were released sans passports. Sis had to pickup our passports at the airport the next day, along with sincere apologies from the higher-ups at HMS Customs.
End of Cautionary Tale.
Could’ve been worse, Eric. A friend of mine, on his way back from a holiday in Florida, was held for several hours on suspicion of being the Atlanta Bomber.