Giant on the move
My son, the terrorist
My abiding memory of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City – just a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. — is of removing and putting back on my heavy winter boots several times a day at security checkpoints.
The experience of my wife and son at Qingdao airport yesterday, however, suggests that even security precautions can sometimes go a little too far.
After spending a couple of days at the seaside in the city that will host the sailing for the Beijing Games next month, three-year-old Max had packed his bucket and spade along with other favourite toys in a little plastic suitcase for the journey back to the Chinese capital.
Having successfully negotiated the metal detector, he was with his mother waiting for the bags to reappear from the X-ray machine.
“You have a weapon,” the female security guard said to my wife.
Sal, I must stress, is largely a law-abiding citizen of the People’s Republic and has no previous record of involvement with gun-running or hijacking. She adopted the internationally-understood facial expression for confusion.
“You have a weapon,” the security guard repeated and, as if to clarify, pointed at a poster on the wall that pictured an array of hand guns and an AK-47. “We have seen it.”
Still confused, Sal opened Max’s suitcase for inspection.
Casting aside the Woody and Buzz Lightyear action figures, the Kung Fu Panda DVD and several Disney-themed colouring books, the guard seized upon Max’s bright red and orange plastic water pistol, raising it triumphantly into the air.
“You cannot have this,” she said with a certainty that brooked no argument.
Not wanting to upset Max before the flight, Sal gestured for the guard to quickly put the 10 yuan toy out of sight, which she did.
The skies above China were safe once again.
Picture of an unorthodox police drill in Taiyuan this week by REUTERS/stringer