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Published January 27, 2009 More Info »
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Published January 27, 2009
A while ago, I was living in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working on a documentary.  The weekend that I want to tell you about, I was at Belfast International airport.  I was flying down to London to do some work for the weekend.  Belfast to London is a short flight.  It takes the same amount of time to get through all of the Customs and Security checkpoints as it does to actually fly to London.  <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> I got to the airport 2 hours early.  I arrive early, because on my last trip I was detained for some time (a couple hours) because it just so happens that I look uncannily similar to some IRA asshole that is on some no-fly list in the U.K.  He’s wanted for questioning, and they keep trying to ask me the questions…  Check- in takes about 20 minutes.  I go and get into line at the first checkpoint. <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> “Owpen da camra cawse boss.” Is what the security guard says to me.  The Belfast accent is one of the thickest brogues in the U.K.  If you can get a handle on the Belfast accent or the Scottish equivalent in Glasgow, then you are all set for travel in the U.K. <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> I open the case, turn the camera on, take my mics out, take the batteries out.  They go through all of my equipment, which I expected.  That is why I got there 2 hours early.  And I can’t really blame them.  My cases for travel are big chrome metal boxes.  If I saw someone with big metal boxes getting onto my plane, I’d wonder what was inside. <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> Moving on.  Checkpoint one took about a half hour.  I go through the area of the airport with all the shops, bookstores, pubs, etc.  I don’t really stop, except to buy a newspaper.  Next checkpoint is to enter the actual gate/ departure area.  The line is pretty long.  I wait about thirty minutes again.  I go through the same search again.  It doesn’t bother me.  <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> When all is said and done, the walking, the waiting, the searches, etc., it takes about two hours to get to the gate, where an annoyingly pleasant Irish lass named Michelle informed everyone that the flight was delayed for 2 hours….  I thought this was a shuttle flight.  I thought there were supposed to be Belfast to London flights leaving pretty much every hour.  I was wrong.  <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> I sat there for a few minutes.  I was  bored bored bored.  I got up and went to the pub in the departures area.  A half hour and three Guinesses later, I decide I want a cigarette.  I take one out and am about to light up, when the bartender says “Oy!  No smokin’ mate.”  Come on….  An airport is the one place you should be allowed.  And, besides, when I was there just a few weeks ago, smoking was allowed.  AND, this is Europe.  I thought you could smoke in church.  I bet you could smoke in an emergency room.  I bet they smoke while pumping gas, and they probably ash into your tank. <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--> So, I’m tired and reaaaally want a smoke.  I look at the exit.  You can leave the departures area through a series of automatic sliding doors.  There is an hour and a half until the flight boards.  I’ll have to go through security again.  Screw it.  I pick up my bags and exit the terminal.  The second I hit that cold Belfast air, I light up.  It was a good smoke. <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> Then, it happened.  Someone exited right behind me, and my bag on my shoulder was partly in the door.  It kept the door from closing by breaking its safety laser thingamagig.  I duck into the exit. <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> Standing between the two exit doors, I wait for someone to open the next door from inside the Departures area….  A flight must have just landed…  A wave of people come through the doors.  I casually, and off to the side go against the exiting traffic, and let myself back into the terminal, ultimately skipping customs, security, etc…  I hope Belfast has done something about this fairly obvious security flaw.  I was just a dumb kid at the time, not entirely understanding the possible ramifications of my actions, but it was kind of funny in a scary way. <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--> <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->