7:00 am at Dubai Airport late May 2017 on my way to Larnaca, Cyprus. The gate was one of those where you are bussed to the plane parked well away from the building.
The practice at that airport is to check your boarding pass by two different stations before you are allowed in a glass pen to wait for the buses to be called in when everyone is accounted for. Judging by the number of passengers, the flight appeared full and boarding the wide-bodied plane had to be done in an orderly manner. Inside the glass pen was a solitary Emirates female employee who began to call passengers from the tail-end ‘Section F’ of the plane to proceed downstairs to board the bus. About 50 or so people came through and had their boarding passes checked one more time before descending the escalator.
She then called Sections E and D. With Sections C, B and A yet to be called when minor drama began to unfold.
‘Excuse me, pet’ a woman’s voice called out in a typical Mid England (possibly Birmingham) accent. ‘Somebody left their handbag behind’. As she uttered those last 5 words, she proceeded to provide the irrefutable evidence by swinging a smallish brown ladies’ handbag over her head and placed it, not so gently, back on the seat to her left. The very busy Emirates stewardess smiled sweetly and said: ‘yes, I am aware of that and it is being taken care of, madam’.
‘Have you called security, love?’ asked a gruff looking and gruffer sounding man sitting next to the handbag swinger. ‘It is being taken care of, sir’ replied the now irritated stewardess. ‘Yes but, have you called security?’ the assertive Mr. Gruff insisted. At this point, the stewardess decided to ignore them and carry on sending people down the stairs to their buses, most of whom were now wanting to be as far away from the developing drama as possible.
Undaunted, the woman picked the bag up again and swung it round her head and set down again. Simultaneously, Mr. Gruff began a monologue: ‘You should call security; who knows what’s in the bag? It could be dangerous, I was in Manchester last week’ he said with pride as though he single-handedly dealt with that tragedy at Ariana Grande’s concert.
Ok, suspicious packages should indeed be reported in crowded places like this. I am no explosives expert but, I know enough to say they should not be touched, let alone swung over the head then dropped roughly on a firm surface. Nor should the keen-eyed discoverer spread panic in one of the busiest spots on earth while continuing to sit next to the offending article.
In any case, if a ‘would be’ evil bomber wanted to cause damage surely, they would have acquired a container somewhat bigger than a lady’s handbag which can hardly be packed with anything more dangerous than a make-up kit and a set of keys. Besides, being a witness, if that’s what Mr Gruff was, to the awful suicide bombing in Manchester does not qualify you as an expert on all terrorist activities in public places.
Needless to say, the handbag turned out to be as innocent as it looked and the entire unpleasant experience was the creation of a middle-aged couple who enjoy morbid fantasy that involves as many irate and nervous passengers as possible.
I just wish the Emirates stewardess sought help to remove the offending couple from our flight instead of removing the handbag from the departure lounge.