IN LOCKED-DOOR meetings around the world, airport security staff are secretly being trained to spot jokes. The move is an attempt to fix the problems caused by the current global policy in which anyone who says the words “bomb” or “gun” must be arrested.
Regular readers may recall this columnist causing a stir at airports with sentences such as: “I’ve only just beGUN”.
A man who made a joke at Boracay airport in the Philippines last week was charged with “Unjust Vexation”.
Hey! It’s us passengers who are suffering Unjust Vexation.
On this page on Monday, we wrote about the UK’s Paul Chambers who wasn’t even at an airport when he texted a joke to his girlfriend and was arrested.
Now thousands of angry people have texted Paul’s message to their friends in a protest. Even CELEBRITIES are backing him (see Twitter message below from comedy actor Stephen Fry offering to pay his legal charges).
A shocking example of unjust vexation took place in South Africa last week.
A security officer at Bloemfontein Airport asked Charmaine Hugo, 50, what she had in her suitcase.
“Clothes and things,” she replied, according to press reports.
They asked the same question repeatedly and she patiently gave the same answer.
When asked for the umpteenth time, she said: “Okay, a machine gun and a bomb.” Anyone with the tiniest sense of humor would have done the same.
She was arrested. Her lawyers and the prosecutors agreed that she was quite clearly not dangerous and had been simply pushed into making a joke by virtue of possessing a curious quality called “humanity”. But airport police opposed giving her bail.
This sort of thing makes airport authorities look stupid and evil, which of course they are not (yes, I am waving a little flag that says “possible ironic tone here”).
That’s why there are discussions afoot about fixing the problem. A source tells me that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority issued written instructions to airport screeners telling them that they were now allowed to differentiate threats from non-threats using the same words.
The use of the word “hijack” is illegal, the document says.
But if a passenger says: “Hi! Jack!” to his friend, you don’t HAVE to arrest them.
But you should give them a stern warning. The document says:
Inform the person that he or she could commit a serious offence saying such words at an airport.
This is bad news for the UK, where Jack has been the most popular name for years.
Everyone in the UK has changed their name to Jack, including the monarch (now “Queen Jack”)
I guess the message here is that if you have a friend called Jack, you should always refer to him as “Jill”.
Brief Guide To Jokes For Airport Security Staff.
1) Jokes often begin with “knock, knock”.
This is NOT A THREAT OF ASSAULT.
2) Jokes often mention light bulb removal.
NO DAMAGE airport facilities is implied.
3) Jokes often raise the mystery of why a certain chicken crossed a certain road.
“The chicken is an avian suicide bomber crossing the runway to inflict maximum damage on aircraft” is NOT among the many answers to this question.
In the meantime, if your name is Jack and you plan to visit Canada, call yourself Jill.
That applies to you too, Queen Jack.
See list at the end of this posting.