Emotional danger in travelling by plane

“The choice between an idyllic drive to Rockhampton or a relaxed airplane flight should have been an easy one. What could possibly go wrong…”

I never expected to provide fodder for an airline security program but that all changed on the way to a funeral in a regional Australian city.

I arrived at Brisbane airport with good cheer and a song in my heart, which is not hard when you have been a musician for 55 years. If that appears irrelevant, then bear with me. We all imagine how we appear to others. I imagined myself as a dapper grey old chap, nudging 63, the complete antithesis of airline security silage.

The check-in staff were the epitome of niceness: “Ok sir, you may take your heavy items, (musical stuff), out of your plastic bag and here is a free bag so you can carry it on board. You won’t need to pay for extra luggage.” (Was I being coddled because worse was to come?)

I could have hugged that sister in uniform, but it was a false sense of security.

Next, onto the security clearance, where three other sisters were taking no nonsense and that very morning, they’d all burnt their toast.

“Excuse me sir, is this your bag?”

Yes it contains musical equipment.

“We didn’t ask for your input. I am sorry but we need to investigate it………. no, don’t touch it!”

“Stand back, you are breaking regulations, stand back”

“What are those small items?”

I explained that I had 15 mouthorgans due to a hobby of playing guitar and mouthorgan for 55 years.

“We don’t want your input………we are investigating your baggage.

“So all those things are mouthorgans?

“And what is this apparatus?”

I droned on about how you play two instruments at the same time, using a mouthorgan rack.

“Stay away, keep clear, don’t undo the bag.

Cartoon by Pete Sanderson actually resembles his old dad.

Cartoon by Pete Sanderson actually resembles his old dad.

“And there is something here shaped like a large knife, several knives?”

It’s a music stand.

“The shape of several knives.” (They were discussing among themselves how knives could be folded to look like a music stand.)

It might look like several knives when folded up, but if you don’t fold it, you can’t carry it. I assure you it is not a knife.

“We don’t want your help, stand back.”

I was providing cheap, free, pre-flight entertainment, but was it being filmed and why hadn’t I driven to Rocky? Seven hours of bliss with duck feeding at Gympie and the best country meat pie at Miriam Vale.

Trying to justify their heavy approach, I decided they probably needed material for a reality television show but it was stressing this grandpa.

Old people can annoy airport security  without really trying

I could almost hear the nice airline lady calling my name, “Mr Sanderson, please board the flight to Rockhampton.” And she was calling.

Here were three women who had watched too many training videos. I nervously looked around to see if a camera was trained on me. Would my fame spread beyond the airport PA system?

“And what is this,” continued Bertha, with the distinct smell of burnt toast emanating from her clothing.

My big mistake is probably repeated by many of Australia’s elderly………..no matter how young in heart we feel, no one wants to admit they are an old grey grott who collects funny stuff that annoys airport security.

Which loony would pack 10 blues harps, in small cases, with some extra harmonic minor ones.

In the 70’s I pretended to be a trendy muso, zipping around the country, playing my own compositions at music venues, never challenged because I had an air of confidence, and youthfulness. Back then I had belongability but now I verged on wobblability, with no excuse for this collection of accoutrements.

I was snapped back to reality by Agatha.

“You haven’t answered the question: What are these metal things? ”

Well that is a capo which allows you to change the key anywhere on the neck of the guitar, I will show you. (It looked like an imported weapon that is probably banned in Australia but no explanation was working.)

“Don’t touch anything, it hasn’t been cleared. Stand back.

“We need to run it through x ray again.” Another frenzy of x-raying began, for the third time.

By this stage my arthritis sms’d me that I’d forgotten to take my tablets at 4am. I didn’t have joint pain in the 1970’s when I flew to Cairns to play at a folk music venue.

It took almost 15 minutes to get through that overly-workshopped web of musical ignorance and overacting.

But the compensation was that I had become a household name around the terminal. Next, an airline lady wanted to drive Mr Sanderson all the way to his plane on her golf buggy thingo, because she appeared to love old people and I seemed like a quivering wreck. The pilot was glad I was alive, but I wasn’t so sure.

I fell into my seat, with breathing difficulties and severe back pain. By sitting away from everyone else, I was able to achieve an aviation first, bursting into tears before push-back or turbulence.

The hostess gave me orange juice to wash down several painkillers.

Suddenly it dawned on me, I had better get cheerful because you don’t walk into a friend’s funeral looking worse than the relatives.

I could have hugged those ladies but they might have called security. Next time I will drive.

About John
John started out as a cadet in 1970 at Bundaberg News Mail, continuing as a feature writer at Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, then began producing regular freelance articles for the Sunday Mail and New Idea. Later he took up science writing for Qld climate, water and soil scientists. Whimsical stories and humorous bush poetry is his current passion.