I had a really rough day on Thursday. I was supposed to fly back to Seattle on a 3:05 PM British Airways flight. There was some sort of mixup with my tickets and I ended up spending nearly 4 hours walking through the airport in a futile attempt to get them to make good on my old ticket. I ended up purchasing a new ticket and will have to rely on our corporate travel department to figure it out.
Within the space of 4 hours I ended up visiting 3 of the 4 terminals at London Heathrow (I say this to get your sympathy, not your admiration).
I had purchased T-Mobile wireless access in Terminal 4 which turned out to be totally useless in Terminal 3. While fiddling with my laptop I witnessed something that started out odd, turned funny, and may have ended badly for the subject of this post.
I was on the second floor of the terminal, and glanced up to see a guy carrying a guitar step off of the up elevator. He was wearing a down vest and a cowboy hat. I did find it strange that he didn’t have a backpack, messenger bag, or briefcase with him.
He took a few steps toward the seating area, laid the guitar down on one of the seats, and stepped in to a gift shop. I returned my attention to my laptop and thought nothing more of it.
A few minutes later he was back, and two police officers were giving him the once-over. He apparently lied to them about having stepped away from his guitar, because I heard one of the officers say that he had watched the suspect walk around the entire second floor. The urban cowboy didn’t realize that he had aroused their suspicions and apparently gave a glib reply. I saw him laugh a couple of times.
The officers got very serious and said “I’m not very happy with you right now, as far as I am concerned you could be a terrorist.” Cowboy still didn’t see how serious this was. He was asked if he had ever been arrested, and he was thoroughly frisked. He kept laughing throughout. I’m not sure if he was nervous or simply thinking that the response was disproportionate to the action. Either way, it didn’t help his cause. They made him take off his shoes and his vest and they even inspected each of his shoes with considerable care. They peered inside the guitar hole.
I didn’t stay to see how this all turned out but it was certainly interesting to watch.
Lessons learned so far:
- Don’t use London Heathrow.
- Don’t be a cowboy.
- Don’t leave your guitar laying around while wandering through the airport.
- Don’t laugh while being interrogated or frisked.