I spent the first fifty years of my life without ever being asked to ape the position in imitation of Christ as someone with a fat magic wand ran it, or his hands, over my body. In the past ten years this ritual seems to happen whenever I travel by aeroplane, or enter a court building, or enter a public building of some kind. I am amused to hear parts of my body where I think there is no metal make bleeps for the wand, or the searcher’s hands trying to search without touching my private parts. I am proud to think that the searcher is often someone recruited by G4S having undertaken a short training and a shorter examination of that person’s background.
In the first fifty years of my life I had visited courts, many times, even prisons and hard line communist countries. I do not remember being searched in any of them but perhaps I was searched in a perfunctory way by these places we associated with the deprivation of liberty. Being of whitish hue I was not troubled by the old “sus” laws. Since the events of the Twin Towers being regularly searched seems to be a normal part of my life.
There are rules which seem to apply everywhere about being searched. First, you must only pass a few words about the activity itself, in a technical sense such as “I think that beep is the buckle of my belt” or “I was sure that there is nothing in that pocket” as you turn out a long forgotten piece of plastic wrapping.
Second no irony satire or ridicule is allowed. The searchers are pleasant enough people when you talk to them about the contents of your bag or pocket or the weather but you must not, under any circumstances, make a joke about being searched. For some reason searchers are trained to regard jokes about being searched or the contents of a bag (yeah, that’s full of a nuclear bomb) as not only being in bad taste as far as they are concerned but also being evidence that the joker is some kind of terrorist threat. It must be the case that terrorists with nuclear bombs in holdalls deliberately joke about them so as to distract attention from themselves.
Third, if you have the foresight to wear shoes without metal reinforcements, take your watch and belt off and place it in your jacket pocket, before reaching the place where you are searched, remove your phone and coins from your pocket and carefully ensure that all liquids are less than 100 ml in containers of 100 ml in a clear plastic bag of regulation dimensions, do not worry; some other rule imposed by the searchers will surface and the machine will beep or you will taken aside to be anatomically searched by some x-ray which you will be assured is perfectly safe.
For all this searching it seems we are still in as much jeopardy, if not more, than we were on the tenth of September 2001. Perhaps one day I shall be searched as I enter my office or my home, or as I walk down along the street as a matter of course. With all this searching going on, who knows, perhaps one day we shall find Godot turns up, to help us in the search.