Sunday, August 24, 2008

Threat Level: Tiger Orange

I'm back in Ohio after an almost uneventful trip. Almost, because we had a minor adventure in Tegel Airport, before we ever left Berlin.

Tegel is set up as a 12-sided shape,(a dodecagon, my mathematician friend tells me). Each gate has its own waiting area. This is only feasible because Tegel is a quaint little airport with just over 20 gates in total. (Berlin has two other airports.)

Each gate has its own security checkpoint because that's what the geometry dictates. Centralization is a national pastime in Germany. Tegel is decentralized only because everything else is a mathematical impossibility.

So we're unloading all of our carry-ons onto the belt, and noticing that the security crew seems half-trained and uncertain, and trying to keep an eye out so neither kids nor laptops disappear - when suddenly the belt stops, and stays stopped, with our last two bags trapped inside the x-ray machine.

At first we assume the computer system has frozen up. I figure someone would try rebooting it, but no, the guards have called for outside help. And so we wait.

After maybe ten minutes, there's no sign of any tech geek. Instead, three burly, uniformed police officers appear. This is the first sign that maybe it's not a technical glitch after all.

On the x-ray equipment's screen, it's evident that the offending baggage is the Tiger's Bob the Builder carry-on. Inside it, you can clearly see the outline of the his LeapPad: a couple of batteries, some circuitry, and an irregular loop that connects the stylus to the rest of the toy. Here's how it looks in action, with the stylus cord clearly visible:

Unfortunately, I can't replicate the x-ray view. Just imagine it looks sort of like this, only way more threatening with its innards exposed:

And so we ask: What's the holdup?

"Wir warten auf den Hund." We're waiting for the dog.

Oh dear. They've called in the bomb squad - on account of my son, the Tiger.

As my sister later commented: "We know he can be a terror. But a terrorist?"

The dog eventually appears, frolicking around the equipment with his tongue lolling about. He seems completely unimpressed with the Tiger's foray into international terror. Then again, as any parent knows who's spent hours with a noise-making toy, maybe the LeapPad is the most dangerous item on board. So we unpack it, make it go doodle-doodle-doot, and repack Bob the Builder just as boarding begins.

It's not all that surprising that German airport security is just as paranoid as the American version. They've had over thirty years practice, ever since the Red Army Faction provoked panic in the late 1970s.

The rest of the trip was easy, including re-entry into the U.S., which always makes me nervous. No one confiscated our laptops at the U.S. border; we didn't end up stranded in O'Hare even though oodles of connecting flights were delayed. In Columbus, we managed to fit all ten of our bags into our old Saturn sedan without even having to strap one of the kids to the top. (I did have one carry-on under my feet, though.) To stay awake on the drive home, I ate not one but two Krispy Kreme donuts on the way home - one glazed, one maple frosted. They were divine.

It's great to be back.


Sugarmag said...

Hi Sungold! Great that you made it back with all your stuff in tact. Going through security with children is such a hassle, with everyone's shoes off, laptops out...ugh! I remember once when I was a kid coming home from Germany with my mom, someone had given me a doll that sings songs, she actually played little records that went in her back-it gave the security people fits!

Sungold said...

Oh boy, I can imagine what a hit that doll would have been with my friends in Tegel.

I always worry about losing a laptop as I go through security. There have been reports of thefts occurring. And when the Tiger was just a big smaller, I worried about losing him too. If we could just leave our shoes on, that would really simplify the situation for parents with little kids. The TSA is totally fighting yesterday's battle.