The Threat of Dehydration

Vending Machine in SeaTacVending machine in Sea-Tac with sign saying “Don’t even think of taking this stuff on the plane.”

Things appear to have settled quite a bit in air travel, though flights through Heathrow are experiencing minor delays due to the added security measures. We were delayed out of Seattle by about half an hour, and again out of Heathrow by about the same amount – which is lucky because initial estimates were for us to be delayed to Vienna by more than an hour.

Getting through security is no more or less difficult that it was before. I was liberated of a 4 ounce container of hotel moisturizer that I’d forgotten to remove from my bag. The inspector, however, having found this threat to our safety, neglected to check a whole other section of my carry-on. This allowed me to proceed to the boarding area carrying other implements of terror – a travel size tube of toothpaste, a sample size container of moisturizer, some fruit, and a protien bar.

Once in the boarding area, it’s possible to buy all manner of things, unless you are flying on British Airways. If that’s the case, the folks in the duty free won’t sell you booze or cosmetics, though you can buy some cosmetic items in the regular store. I chatted with the gal at the coffee stand who told me that she’s doing okay because people buy their coffee and drink it in the airport, but that the duty free store is taking it on the chin. “Airport employees used to be able to buy stuff there, too, and we can’t anymore. And The Body Shop in the main terminal was closed for a week. They really got hit bad.” A man in the duty free shop got a bit snappish with the nice lady behind the counter because she couldn’t sell him a bottle of whisky. He left the store muttering.

There’s an additional paperwork check as you board the plane, but there’s no additional baggage check. This means that if I’d purchased a liter of water from the shop and tossed it in my carry-on with the other contraband I was carrying, I would have remained hydrated and not had to pay four dollars for a bottle of water once in Heathrow’s Terminal Four. The staff on BA is not stingy with the drinks, but it is not the same as having a bottle to take hits off whenever you’ve got the notion.

Once in Heathrow, there’s another clearance. This seems odd because you’re actually getting off a long haul flight. This leads to a pile of eight ounce plastic water bottles and other odds and ends at the security gate, never mind that those items were handed to the passengers by the airline staff. A woman in front of me was being patiently lectured by the screener about how she could not take her carry-on with her. This was causing some confusion because she had arrived via long-haul flight and couldn’t understand why, if she could take it on her last flight, it couldn’t go to the next one. Heathrow has its own restrictions, you see, so if you’re arriving from Dubai, for example, and transiting to Paris, you need to be prepared for Heathrow’s restrictions, not those of the Dubai airport.

You can still shop duty free in Heathrow unless you’re traveling to the US. This is a pity as I won’t be able to load up on scotch, which I love, when I fly back home again. Most of the things I’d want to buy have to travel as checked luggage. I didn’t make the effort to find out how business is on the promenade in Heathrow, I was too busy listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Devils and Dust on the iPod.

You can take your iPod and this is good news because I did a supremely nerdy thing and enjoyed it tremendously. I loaded up a bunch of NPR podcasts before flying – this allowed me to listen to last week’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! while winging my way over the Alps to Vienna. Entertainment is critical when you’re stuck in that no man’s land of transit. Especially if you can’t shop.

Transiting Heathrow is just fine now, I’m here in Austria to tell you that. Your fellow bleary eyed passengers are a surprisingly patient lot and everyone appears to be taking the new measures in stride. There’s no denying that in many places, the “security” is a bit of a joke. It’s transparently clear that this “no liquids” measure is not sustainable or really all that enforceable. After all, if you’re more than willing to hand over your moistureizer, are you really a threat?

Also, because I slurped down so much water all at once in Heathrow, I had to keep getting up to use the loo on the flight and we had to stop three times on the drive home. What a nuisance.

[tags]flying, TSA, carry-on bags, Heathrow[/tags]

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5 thoughts on “The Threat of Dehydration

  1. Reading this is therapeutic for me….I blogged last week about my escalating fear of flying…and that was just from Arkansas to South Carolina. I have several much longer trips coming up this year, including one to Europe, and I am trying to dial down the panic. Your calm and wry observations reminded me that thousands and thousands of folks are still flying safely every day. Life goes on.

  2. You’re GONE?!?! NOOOO. I’ve been BURIED under work for weeks and am just now this holiday weekend catching up on blog-reading. Here I was hoping that by some miracle you might be joining me at Grace’s WoolfCamp in a couple of weeks. Oh crap. I didn’t know you’d already left. 🙁

    Not that Austria’s not wonderful, of course. 🙂

    P.S. And I love, “Wait, Wait…”–although I only hear it in the car. For some reason, we can’t pick up NPR in Sacramento inside the house.

  3. K: It’s easy to get caught up in the paranoia around flying. People quoting that statistic about how it’s safer to fly than drive are right, but not helpful, plus, it’s a FEAR, it’s not rational. I was fairly relieved to find flying long haul/transatlantic was a fairly normal experience – as normal as it can be, at any rate. And while I was wrapped in paranoia, loads of families with little kids boarded the plane. How’s that for perspective?

    Marilyn: Two words: Streaming audio! The show is archived online at the Wait Wait site.

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