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Londinium 2006AD

I have been ‘on the road’ again since a few days after the New Year. Travel may seem exciting to some, but it does wear you down when you do it week after week. This is especially true when planning is impossible and you cannot say with any certainty which of several jobs will be next in line. You just adapt and make your arrangements on the fly.

That said, constant travel does lead to unexpected adventures and misadventures. I would count losing my glasses going through security in Toronto among the less exciting and more expensive of these. Although there are some weeks more to go on this jaunt, the event which most stands out happened before I even got out of the UK at the start of January.

Due to contract signings running late a couple layers up the food chain from myself, travel arrangements for my usual January gig backstage at the big Healthcare investment conference in San Francisco were last minute. Translation: they were so late the flights were almost unaffordable so I was booked on a simply ridiculous connection. I left Belfast on an evening flight which dropped me in Heathrow just as the airport closed up operations for the night. My New York flight was first thing in the morning… so I got to sit up all night in the main terminal.

Well, my slogan is “Have Laptop, Will Travel”, so after some help from friendly airport staff to move some seats closer to an electric outlet, I settled in for a long, long night of work. Time crawled by. Over the top of my screen I idly noticed a gaggle of armed police wander by and hassle a couple black teens whom I think were also waiting for a connecting flight.

One of the cops walked towards me. I naturally assumed he was going to act as a friendly face to London’s major airport; perhaps commiserate on my bad luck in being stuck there over night; or possibly warn me to beware of this, that or the other.

I was wrong. He planted himself in front of me in his best “Clockwork Orange” intimidation posture and proceeded to tell me I was guilty of theft. I looked at him blankly. Theft of services. I was plugged into the airport’s electricity. He quoted a section number I was purportedly violating. As I have lived in Belfast through troubled years, I know how to deal with this sort. You smile and you verbally give them squat to grab hold of. They want to provoke a response that will let them play cop.

This fellow was very obviously tired, bored and looking for someone to take it out on. I, being one of the few persons in the terminal was ‘it’. He went on. Not only was I ‘stealing services’. I was in violation of… of…. HEALTH AND SAFETY REGULATIONS! I did not have appropriate authorization from the Airport declaring my laptop was safe for use with their AC sockets, and if I were to get electrocuted they might be liable!

I quietly studied the hole in his head.

He ranted on that I was still stealing power as he talked. Actually I was concentrating on keeping up a fake smile and non-threatening eye contact so as to avoid serious trouble. I was also dumbfounded, but I snapped out of it and casually reached over and unplugged. Slowly. I was not quite sure of the stability of this character and he was, after all, an armed member of a society in which only his sort are armed.

With the offending laptop unplugged and as he had utterly failed to provoke any sort of lese majeste remark from me, there was little more he could do. He sternly told me he would let me off with a warning and then retreated and joined his cohorts. They had remained some distance away throughout. Backup I suppose. I might well have been armed with sharp verbs and poisonous nouns for all they knew.

The previously hassled white robed African teen was not far away and as our trooper stormed off we caught each others eyes. I shook my head. He wryly smiled back. Wordless understanding passed between us.

Welcome to 21st Century London.

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61 comments to Londinium 2006AD

  • Improbulus Maximus

    It just goes to show that cops are pretty much Nazi’s everywhere you go.

  • J

    Cops – it seems to vary wildly but I agree that bored ones are dangerous. On the other hand, hey, the guy was technicall right, no? Good job he didn’t see those contract cleaners helping you commit the crime, because it would have been bye bye work permit for _them_.

    Also franchises – they’re pretty bad. I tried to sit down in Heathrow not long ago, and found it pretty hard. BAA seems to have leased all the chairs to one of the many expensive and low quality food vending establishments. You can’t sit anywhere unless you’ve bought food in one of them, and they defend their little areas like squaking blackbirds in a hedge, flapping trays and J-cloths “You no sit here mister, customer only!” “This seat only Belle Italia, you eat croissant, must sit there look!”

    I’ve always found that sitting on the floor is a good yardstick for these sorts of places. How long can you sit on the floor before a bloke in a uniform moves you along? I remember sitting on the floor against the wall of a nearly empty Grand Central station, and being asked not to (with great politeness) in about, oh, 40 seconds.

    At Heathrow they may guard their electricity and chairs with all the zeal of a 3rd world police chief, but last I was there they at least let me sit on the floor.

  • Runs counter to the mythology of the “friendly English bobbie,” which I’ve known to be bullshit since my early years in London so long ago. And more menacing than the relatively harmless “PC Plod” stereotype native to the island too.

    Looks like London is ripe for the upcoming release of “V For Vendetta”… hope they’ve not watered it down.

  • Verity

    Why of course, J! It is the custom of all the desert dwellers to squat on the floor! The British airport police treat floor dwellers with respect and tolerance.

    I do think Dale Amon was wrong, however. I’m serious. There are internet cafes. At the same time, there are horses’s asses in police uniforms.

  • Mike G

    Here’s how to handle this in what little remains of a market society. Write to the president of the airline telling him that this sort of annoyance, interfering with your ability to use the time wasted in an airport productively, has convinced you to do less travel, in fact, you’re looking into a teleconferencing system for the whole company, they put you in charge of the task force after your experience. Then copy the airport, the police, etc. That last step is the part that might make this effective– people are less impressed by a letter addressed to them than by a letter someone else got which they were copied on and which they fear they might reap the consequences of. No, it probably won’t make a difference, but you might make them nervous that it might.

  • Humm that’s interesting. Most airports I’ve been in now actually encourage use of the outlets with wi-fi set ups and all. But then I’ve been traveling the pacific side and not the atlantic.

  • This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

    Heaven is a place where the policemen are British, the cooks French, the lovers Italian, the mechanics German, and everything is run by the Swiss.

    Hell is a place where the policemen are German, the cooks British, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, and everything is run by the Italians.

    Thanks for ruining a good joke.

  • Richard R

    You got off easy. Remember what they did to Nicholas Samengo-Turner

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2004/11/28/do2802.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2004/11/28/ixop.html

    He was found innocent of all charges, but it cost him 40k in legal fees and (he says) the biggest Formula 1 deal of his life.

  • Henry K

    Boo. Hoo. Those bully cops, “hassling” the poor “black teens”. Cry me a river.

    Putting your life on the line for public safety takes its toll — certainly more than a little jetlag. I hope you’ll cut the cops some slack.

    Going back to the “white robed” negro, I don’t know what the real issue was and evidently neither do you. But maybe he was a Muslim with a mouthful of hate. Kind of like Malik Zulu. Better to inquire than wait for busses to explode.

    Oh, and here’s the sensitivity training video for 2006.

  • Richard R

    You also might note this website, and the links from it…

    http://www.lhr-acc.org/complaints.htm

    I fly about 150k/year, and I work for a company that makes about 40% of the airliners that fly into Heathrow. If it were me, I’d let them know that they’re making their airport hard to deal with.

  • kate q

    Wow, J., Grand Central in New York? When did that happen?

    I practically lived there (commuting of course) for two years not long ago, and spent much time holding up walls and slouching against pillars. Nobody ever even looked at me funny. Though sitting on the stairs was apparently against the rules…which could have been the restaurants’ fault or else a fear of lawsuits.

  • anony-mouse

    Impressive. And yet the airport in one of the more socialist of the US states, Oregon, has free WiFi and, in the post-security central lobbies between the concourses, a number of comfy waiting booths with outlets liberally sprinkled between them.

    Related musings: I wonder which evil is lesser — English airport cops who are TOO nosy, or US TSA agents who don’t give two figs what you’re doing as long as you aren’t visibly programming a timer?

  • Rob Read

    Your on recorded CCTV, so is the rozzer.

    Put a FoIA/Data protection request in and get a copy of the tape for 10 GBP.

    Enclose said tape with complaint about officer.

  • You’re lucky they didn’t murder you when you reached for the plug. If they had we’d be ready about how the thugs thought you had a bomb, and all the goosesteppers would be posting comments about how it was either a tragic but entirely acceptable mistake by the oh-so-heroic police, or else you were actually a terrorist in league with the evil “desert dwellers.”

  • ZF

    I’m a police supporter whenever I can be, but sometimes they make it hard.

    One of the interesting things to notice about this is that the police don’t do it during the day, when there are plenty of witnesses around.

    I wonder why not? Maybe they do have supervisors, after all.

    That’s an encouraging thought, but also suggests that these guys are willing, if they need to, to make up a story about what you said to them, as long as the actual words can’t be caught on the tape.

    It’s also more threatening because they know they would have a hard time getting a court interested in convicting you for stealing 2¢ worth of electricity – they’d be bound to try to push you into a more compromising situation if they wanted to go anywhere with this. Their attitude is an implicit threat to do this.

  • bob mologna

    I’m going with the “all cops are assholes theory”. British cops are not as bad as US cops but they are still bastards. The best I’ve encountered are in the Republic of Ireland. They still move the rural gardai to the cities at Christmas because they know they won’t enforce drink driving laws against their neighbors. Take their keys, yes. Arrest them, no. It’s kind of like Andy ?Griffith.

    I had an… er, unfortunate incident in London where I was incredibly inebriated and tried to hit a policeman with a pool cue. They maced me and took me to Queen’s Park police station. The next morning they offered me a cup of tea and breakfast (yes to the tea, no to breakfast). If this had happened in the US I probably would have been shot and there is no question but that they would have beat the shit out of me (I speak from experience here).

    The detective taking my statement the next morning pointed this out to me and I had to shamefacely admit that he was dead right. Wait a second, my anecdote make British cops sound pretty nice… Only by comparison to the bastards we have here though.

    Most of those who put on that uniform either become assholes, already are, or soon change professions. I’ve known a good few.

  • Neo-andertal

    Paul said:

    This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:
    Heaven is a place where the policemen are British, the cooks French, the lovers Italian, the mechanics German, and everything is run by the Swiss.
    Hell is a place where the policemen are German, the cooks British, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, and everything is run by the Italians

    .

    Your vision of Hell wouldn’t exactly impress Dante.
    How about this.
    Hell is a place where the policemen are North Korean, the cooks are Mongolian, the lovers strict Wahabi’s, the mechanics Somali, and everything is stolen by Nigerians.

    Now that’s hell.
    Fried Yak blubber anyone!

  • veryretired

    You get linked by Instapundit and this is the kind of asinine comment thread you put up. Pathetic.

  • Frogman

    My experiences of Heathrow:

    At check-in for a connecting flight to New York, an incedibly hateful female Security guard stopped my family for a “security check”. My 5 year old daughter had a stuffed “Care Bear” toy about 5 inches tall. The bitch cut the toy open at the seams and spread the stuffing out for “inspection”, then stood and stared at my wife and me to see if we’d react. We were too dumbfounded at such behaviour. Nothing else was searched.

    Second trip, watched another cow of a security guard open two small pillboxes belonging to an elderly woman (French, I think), and made a great show of rolling each pill over and about on the counter for inspection with a flashlight.

    Third trip – A young dutch couple in front of us had a baby, perhaps 4 or 5 weeks old. The baby was removed from it’s wrappings, and all the wrappings and baby’s clothes meticulously searched. Again, nothing else was searched, including the two laptop bags carried by the couple.

    In all instances, the attitude of the security people was hostile, challenging, DARING someone to offer the least objection.

    Those incompetents don’t qualify to clean the loo, much less work airport security. Petty failures whose only pleasure in life is in trying to torment someone else with their “Authority”

    And as for the usual “Its for your own protection” – Bull-shit !. These clowns weren’t interested in weapons or contraband, just in trying get themselves off by harrassing anyone who came within range.

    For close to 6 years now, I’ve gone to considerable effort to ensure I NEVER land at Heathrow. If I need to go to the UK, I fly to DeGaulle or Brussels and take the Eurostar.

    F

  • Well, actually, I believe you did pay for the electricity.
    You paid for a service from an airline that pays for the terminal. This “contract” includes the use of the terminal and it’s facilities for the customers of the airlines in the terminal.
    I am assuming that you were beyond the security checkpoint, and that area is not open to the public – only paying customers (e.g. people with a ticket).
    Therefore, it was not a “public” outlet, it is a semi-private outlet, provided (in part) for the use of the airlines customers.

    The bobbie was wrong.

    I believe arguing with him would have resulted in jail time.

  • bob mologna

    Veryretired: it doesen’t seem very different from the usual comments to me…

  • Robin Goodfellow

    Let’s do some math!

    Hrm, my laptop can run for about 2.5 hrs off a ~52V-AH battery (i.e. 52WH), which works out to just about 20W continuous power. So, let’s adjust it for higher power usage while plugged in and build in a comfortable margin, say 100W continuous power while plugged in for J. Average Laptop. That works out to 0.1 kWH/H. Assuming you were to use said outlet for, say, 10 solid hours continuously that would work out to 1.0 kilowatt-hours. According to the intarweb, electricity prices in the UK run at about 7.5 pence per kilowatt-hour. So even if someone sat there all day the most they could “steal” (keeping in mind that they paid a considerable sum for a ticket already) would be maybe 5-10 pence.

    Britain must surely be the safest place in the world to have the police actively pursuing such minor “crimes” (having solved all other more serious crimes, of course).

  • Exguru

    I slept on a bench once at a railroad station in Newton Abbot, which may be in Devon… There was a wildcat strike and all trains just stopped, in 1954. They could have done it to punish U.S. tourists for enjoying the recently devalued pounds. Here’s to ya, Sir Stafford Cripps!

    You were wise not to utter a sound, if it would betray an Ulster accent.

    Britain is still in its “Get out of here, you brute” phase. Those guys will be Saviours of your country when the guns begin to shoot. Be glad you live in a land with too many police rather than not enough.

  • Remember that every watt powering the laptop eventually heats the building, reducing the need to heat it in other ways by that amount, and thus is not stolen but returned to the airport.

    In addition, the heat of your body is contributing absolutely free heat to the airport’s coffers.

    All in all, they probably owe you money.

  • Kirk Parker

    Verity,

    Somehow you missed the part, right at the top, where he said the airport was closing up for the night. I assume that included the internet cafes, too.

  • Dale Amon

    Yep. Even the Starbucks coffee near where I was sitting was in suspended animation: I think the late night coffee pourer was off sleeping in a chair.

    I really, really have come to loath Heathrow. I avoid connecting through it if at all possible.

  • Heh! And to think, I spend hours and hours at Dubai airport, not to mention Kuwait and Doha, and have not been hassled once by a local policeman despite behaving (in typical Western expat style) as if I’m in my own living room. In fact, the agents of Arabian dictators seem on the face of it to be far less twattish and far easier to get along with than any British copper I’ve had the misfortune to deal with.

  • guy herbert

    Britain must surely be the safest place in the world to have the police actively pursuing such minor “crimes”

    It is quite possibly the safest place in the world for the police. You are pace some comments on this thread, quite likely to be prosecuted if you are unthreatening but difficult, insufficiently respectful. In safe places, that is. An air of unpredicatable menace and aggression, providing you aren’t doing anything obviously seriously wrong, may be your best defence against interference.

    The police have a very wide discretion in how they do their job – which, given that almost everything is now a crime in Britain, is perhaps a good thing. But it also means they (and the Met in particular) are very easily side-tracked by understandable self-interest, into emphasising the less dangerous and unpleasant roles of bureaucratic enforcement, security theatre, and political intimidation.

    Dale’s tip is a good one.

    The days when an educated accent could be guaranteed to get you better treatment are gone: you might be lucky and get old fashioned deference, or you might get someone who thinks his respec’ requires him to show he’s more powerful than a snob.

  • Your controlled demeanor was a useful model for remaining safe. I’d have been sorely tempted to get back in his face. And I’d’ve gotten in biiiiig trouble.
    thanks for showing how it’s done.
    Oh, and with regard to another comment, the answer to “may I search your ….” is “no”, or “no thanks” or “am I being ordered to do that?” “I’d like to say “no”: is that a problem?”
    Never never ever say “yes”

  • Frogman: I doubt if I would have been able to remain calm in the ‘pillbox’ episode – even if I were a witness. New gloves, sterile surface, masks. How would they like it if I asked them to lick the table…or my finger? You can see the trouble that would cause. I would be in the “Marigold Room” as soon as you can say “cavity search”.

    “These gloves clean enough for you, Sir?”

  • Rob

    Depending on where the incidents occurred, the “security” people in Frogman’s story may have been private sector contract staff rather than state employees. Incidentally, I’ve found the ones at Gatwick to be worse than those at Heathrow.

    This speaks to a trend which has been worrying me for some time now, i.e. an increasing tendency for low-level employees in private enterprise to assume for themselves the power of the state, usually on dubious grounds of security. This is most common in airports, but I’m increasingly encountering it in banks, hotels and other places.

    I’m not really sure where this line of thought is taking me, just yet, but there seems to be something in common with Dale’s story, in that people are assuming dubious authority in connection with things that are none of their concern.

    And getting in our faces.

  • J

    Kate q. I got moved on in Grand Central about, err, 13 years ago. I daresay it was just a bored cop late at night, not that I tried again.

    To all those saying that the electricity stolen was trivial – completely missing the point. The airlines and airports together provide business class lounges for exactly these sorts of situations. The provide comy chairs, electricity and internet, and snakcs and coffe all through the night. If people can get those anywa, why buy the business class tickets?

    So, the airport needs to enforce these things for market segmentation reasons. I’m never happy when the police start enforcing business interests, but there’s no point be capitalist and thinking it won’t happen.

    I would have course have done exactly the same thing, but if you are going to be ultra-principled about it, then it _is_ wrong. It’s their electricity, and they can put any bizarre restrictions they want on it. Someone walking across my field doesn’t cost me anything either, but I can still tell them to “get orff moi land” if I’m in a bad mood and feel like it.

  • Perhaps the cop was giving you a subtle warning in case you were to report the hassling of the black teens. (Maybe you not only glanced but in fact stared? )

  • mike

    “Oh, and with regard to another comment, the answer to “may I search your ….” is “no”, or “no thanks” or “am I being ordered to do that?” “I’d like to say “no”: is that a problem?” Never never ever say “yes”

    And have you had the opportunity to try doing just that gerald?

    “An air of unpredicatable menace and aggression, providing you aren’t doing anything obviously seriously wrong, may be your best defence against interference.”

    That sounds about right to me; not whether you say yes or no, but how you say it. Less Professor Snape, more Tony Montana.

  • GCooper

    Dale Amon writes:

    “I really, really have come to loath Heathrow. I avoid connecting through it if at all possible.”

    Agreed. Heathrow has to be one of the most uncongenial airports in Europe – a filthy tip, staffed by officious cretins. I feel ashamed whenever I go there.

  • Joshua

    I would have course have done exactly the same thing, but if you are going to be ultra-principled about it, then it _is_ wrong. It’s their electricity, and they can put any bizarre restrictions they want on it.

    Right, but not the point. I don’t think anyone’s denying the ownership of the electricity. What’s being asserted is that the cop in question was using the electricity “theft” as an excuse to bully. He wasn’t doing his job and mainting order/enforcing the law – he was abusing his position for personal gratification. At least, so Dale describes it.

    The provide comy chairs, electricity and internet, and snakcs and coffe all through the night. If people can get those anywa, why buy the business class tickets?

    For the same reason people pay 10times as much for first class tickets. In first class, you also get coffee, snacks, a movie, headphones, a seat, etc. The difference is the quality of said coffee, range of selection of snacks and drinks, quality of meal, and, most importantly, comfort of said seat and amount of space around your feet. Sitting bunched up in a waiting lounge seat with laptop balance on knees is not the same thing as being provided with a table, a nicer chair, coffee service, etc. I admit I haven’t done a market study, but I doubt the airlines lose any money because people like Dale set up shop in the main lobby.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Heathrow is awful: smelly, congested, the staff are often rude and dumb, and now this. I marginally prefer Gatwick and Stanstead, although in the latter case, the low-cost airlines there treat their customers like retarded teens half the time. Flying is no fun anymore.

    It makes a mockery of all those ads you see encouraging folk to use wireless applications in certain parts of such public places.

  • GCooper

    JohnathanPearce writes:

    ” Flying is no fun anymore.”

    I doubt you are old enough to remember when it was (and I don’t mean that unkindly). I certainly don’t, because I suspect you have to go back to British Imperial Airways days to get to when you weren’t treated like a bloody nuisance by all concerned.

    Small planes in strange places can still be fun. But that depends on having a strong nerve.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    GCooper, I am 39 (the Big 40 approaches, arrrghh) and I recall that flying in my 20s was quite enjoyable, though undoubtedly not as fun as in the era you mention.

    My dad (ex-RAF) used to fly a bit to Canada on large piston-engined planes called Stratocruisers, complete with a bar, sleeping compartments and ravishing stewardesses. Let’s hope these new mega-large planes coming out will fill such a gap in the market. The fact is that flying is a bore and a chore for all but the super rich. It need not be that way, even if one allows for the security issue.

  • Dale Amon

    I find Dublin’s airport and Shannon to be not so bad and if I had a car I’d drive there for the Aer Lingus flights which are cheap and friendly.

    On one memorable flight, as a member of an Irish band, one of our number was placed with a liquor cart in hands reach… we nearly had to carry him off the plane 😉

  • “Less Professor Snape, more Tony Montana.”

    That completely depends on all kinds of circumstances. I once had the whole gate security squad crawling around me in Detroit, over a mountaineering carabiner which I’d retired and was using as a key-fob. Flew that thing all over for years — pre and post-9/11 — but it just got on some bitch’s nerves that day. I grabbed it right out of her hand, took my keys off it, and dropped it from shoulder-level on her steel sorting table.

    Here they all come, crawlin’ & starin’ while I’m telling her what an idiot she is.

    Just about then, two National Guard guys stroll by with their M-16’s, and the gate-kids think they’ll menace me with it all. Me: “What — you’re going to shoot me now? Just shut up.”

    Nobody knew quite what to do with me. They called a sheriff to arrest me: he heard the story, looked at the gate-bitch like she deserved, told ’em all he wasn’t interested in arresting me, laughed at the National Guard guys on his way past ’em, and that was it. I headed down the hall screaming abuse at them. (I mean abuse. I was sparing nothing on anyone.)

    I’m pretty sure that the whole difference was in the fact that it was about 6:30am and the place was jammed. They just did have time for rolling over someone like me (ready to make ’em go through every little step) at that hour. Somewhere in their little walnut-sized brains, they figured out that there was nothing actually dangerous about me: I was just pissed-off and their best move was to let me jet on out of their faces. At some less busy hour of the day, it all might have been very different.

    The whole truth? The “Tony Montana” thing is never a safe bet. You can take a chance, but that’s what you’re doing and it’s best to know that, all the way.

  • John Ellis

    ” Flying is no fun anymore.”

    All the damn proles with their cheap flights to Malaga, I suppose..;-)

    Seriously, if you support the tax breaks (you guys might say “absence of av-gas tax theft”)and economic model that allows as many flights to be flown as the market will bear, I guess you will have to live with the consequences.

    On the topic of the original thread-starter, I commiserate with him. Armed Police now, because of the terrorist threat we are all supposed to be quaking over (frankly, just flying itself scares me more than enough – bombers are a tiny additional threat). But scary even when unarmed, because of the massive weight of law standing behind then if they choose to be officious.

  • eh

    Well we’ve read the blog, we’ve read the comments. Are you going to complain to BAA as per the above comment, are you going to spend a whole tenner on a FOI request?
    Are you going to make this a story, use the opportunity as an eager MSM (eughh, scary)trainee journo might? Or are you going to sit in front of a screen and moan?

  • Joshua

    I doubt there’s really anything for him to complain about. The cop was just being an ass; he didn’t break any official rules. I took this post as simple anti-gratuitious-displays-of-authority venting…and enjoyed it.

  • stephen ottridge

    I always travel with my Swiss army knife tucked inside my checked suitcase, no problem you’d think. Except on one business trip the leg from Managua (Nicaragua) to San Jose (Costa Rica) was by private chartered plane. We had to carry our own bags and go through security of course. The gleam in the eyes of the Nico that discovered my knife tucked in the suitcase was piercing. Actually he wasn’t bad about it, a compromise was reached, the knife was handed to the pilot and I got it back, just, when we landed in San Jose, the pilot had forgotten about it.

    The third world seems more civilised than the first world.

  • Well, its not really up to the cops to decide whether or not people can plug into the airport’s sockets, is it? That strikes me as the owner’s call, not some thug with a badge.

    And I would go further to say that, in the absence of signs prohibitng the practice, the presumption in a place open to and intended for the use of the public should be that the public can plug in.

  • mike

    Billy Beck: well that’s just a great story! Needless to say it would take something a bit more offensive than a key fob to achieve the full Tony Montana effect!

    “The “Tony Montana” thing is never a safe bet. You can take a chance, but that’s what you’re doing and it’s best to know that, all the way.”

    Oh sure, I agree common sense is called for – yet when the police stop you or ask to search you, you are pretty much at risk in some sense anyway – as Dale’s story and the other stories linked to here show.

    I generally don’t shout and scream at people but occassionally I do try to grin and say ‘OK’ like Al Pacino and look at their name badge as if I’ve made some sort of wacko decision to hunt them down later.

  • joel Hammer

    Maybe the cop had to hassle you to avoid the appearance of racial discrimination after he had hassled the black guy.

    Here in the USA that is a real problem. They keep track of those statisitics and use them against the police and, God help us, the high schools.

  • Nil

    I feel your pain. The last time I was in Heathrow I had my bags and person searched for explosives three different times. The first occured in the ticket line when I apparently was carrying my bag in a way that struck the security agents as suspicious. They pulled me aside, looked over everything in my bag and then swabbed it for explosives. No big deal, it happens to me all the time in airports; that’s what I get for looking “threatening”. The second occured at the security checkpoint where I had my bags searched once again, but not swabbed, and also then had my shoes taken off and tested for explosives. The last time happened right at the gate for the plane. While lining up to board, the agent decided to pull me aside and go through the ENTIRE routine again; bag and shoes search and swabbed. Now granted, I guess I happen to fit the “terrorist” profile. I was travelling alone, I am a tall and athletically fit twenty-something male and also happen to have an ethnic look to me. But three damn times? I felt like I was trying to enter some secure military compound, not just catch a flight back stateside.

  • Nil

    I feel your pain. The last time I was in Heathrow I had my bags and person searched for explosives three different times. The first occured in the ticket line when I apparently was carrying my bag in a way that struck the security agents as suspicious. They pulled me aside, looked over everything in my bag and then swabbed it for explosives. No big deal, it happens to me all the time in airports; that’s what I get for looking “threatening”. The second occured at the security checkpoint where I had my bags searched once again, but not swabbed, and also then had my shoes taken off and tested for explosives. The last time happened right at the gate for the plane. While lining up to board, the agent decided to pull me aside and go through the ENTIRE routine again; bag and shoes search and swabbed. Now granted, I guess I happen to fit the “terrorist” profile. I was travelling alone, I am a tall and athletically fit twenty-something male and also happen to have an ethnic look to me. But three damn times? I felt like I was trying to enter some secure military compound, not just catch a flight back stateside.

  • EH

    There IS something to complain about. The policeman. Generally the Brit police are very strict about who they let carry guns, and especially in the aftermath of the shooting of an innocent man last year a complaint against this policeman would at least go on his record; better he might be relieved of firearms duty. He might of been in a bit of a bad mood this time; what happens when he has a really bad hair trigger day? Here complaining might be your duty,( I have already logged an enquiry with the airport authorities; action from Dale would have greater impact.)

  • gravid

    Dale, loved the comment about not giving them squat to hold on to etc. I am always polite with those in uniform that are armed ( as they all are in NI). Whether it gives me any advantage or not I think that it always pays to remain calm. I used to get pulled over at vehicle check points everytime I was out in my father’s car once I passed my driving test. Being calm and polite meant i never got any trouble fomr them. Apart from being kept waiting for 30 mins and over on occasion. They were just waiting for a young longhair ( quite the opposite now)like me to “lose it”. Airport security have opened up my camerbag and taken off the end caps of lenses and looked through them to make sure I wasn’t smuggling anything as well as being verbally outraged at my case having padlocks on it. I have spent a night in heathropw and a night in lima airport….I prefer Lima. The cops don’t hassle anyone waiting.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    John Ellis, what are you on about? I certainly don;t object to cheap airlines and mass travel – I object to the cattle-like treatment of the public as a result. That’s all.

  • ThePresentOccupier

    One thing that struck me with this nasty little tale…

    The description of the behaviour was initimidating, as in deliberately designed to put an individual in fear of imminent violence. That is an offence in itself – it’s called assault.

    Fat chance of getting the POS prosecuted for it.

  • Joe B

    First post ever on the ‘net. Former NY’r, hated the local cops, with a few stellar exceptions. Moved to suburban Maine. Cops nearly as bad. Moved to rural Maine. Got a license to carry a concealed handgun, for 20$. Cops polite, not interested in causing trouble. Seems to be two main reasons: 1) Because of the small population they can’t hide in the masses. You know where they and all their family live.

    2) Guns everywhere. Can’t be carried loaded in vehicles, but ammo can be in easy reach, to accommodate hunters. How aggressive would the Brit cop be if he thought you might leave and come back with a gun that will drop a grizzly bear in it’s tracks, as well as bring a dozen friends, similarly armed and skilled at shooting moving targets.

    3) (ok, I know I said 2, consider this artisitic license)Here,everyone has police band scanners, and on a
    remote rural road a 2am, the cop may find his backup will take the form of private citizens who heard the call for help and leapt into the breach. This apparently was the case when hundreds of gang bikers tried taking over a local, and isolated restaurant. The police responded with 4 officers, who where about to get seriously hurt when the local boys showed up armed to the teeth and anxious to pound anyone from away who wanted to hurt their local lawmen.

  • ThePresentOccupier

    Daft question, and going slightly OT – “Can’t be carried loaded in vehicles” – how does that tally with CC? Do you have to unload every time you sit in a car?

    I doubt that the individual in question would have been so aggressive – but that goes for most of Britain now. I firmly believe in Heinlein’s (I think?) assertion that an armed society is a polite society. I’m not big on being polite to thugs purely because they have a bigger stick than me – I want some politeness too.

  • Joe B

    Sorry about that Occupier, CC is exempt. Handguns can also be carried loaded in a vehicle if in plain sight. The law seems mostly designed to prevent road hunting, rather than protecting us from ourselves. I have always thought it was Heinlein who authored the quote. I don’t know about polite, but an armed society at least has a chance to be an equal society.

    In NY guns, especially handguns are objects of status, awe and power. Cops get a power rush from their exculsive “carry anywhere” status yet most of them barely know what end the bullet comes out of.

    Up here, a gun is like a chainsaw. Acting tough with a gun will get you laughed at, and eventually called out to demonstrate your skill. Lack of same will leave you permanently disgraced in the eyes of everyone, including women and kids. JB

  • Trackback’s not working from my site so: there you go

  • Daveon

    I had exactly the same thing from a manager in a Starbucks in London recently, same comments about health and safety and “their” electricity.

    I unplugged and using the WiFi emailed their customer services people and moved to another Starbucks.

    By the time I had reached the next Starbucks I had a written apology and received a non-trivial amount of free coffee and muffins for my trouble.

    I think people need to get less anal about this electricity thing.

  • Paul Marks

    As Christopher Booker pointed out in last Sunday’s “Sunday Telegraph” many of the “Health and Safety” regulations are from European Union directivies – and, sooner or later, they will be enforced all over the E.U.

    Even in Ireland?

    Yes, just as Ireland is not immune from statist ideas (remember the smoking ban idea, how many people used to say “it will never happen here” in the Republic), it is not immune from E.U. directives.

    Certainly British officials (inculding the new style police) are more friendly to statism in general that the officials of some other nations – but “willing or unwilling” the officials of the various nations will start to enforce the regulations sooner or later.

    Even having a population overwhelmingly against the “modern world” is no protection in the end.

    The little island of Sark stood against modern “human rights” (i.e. statism), but just two rich men (the Barclay twins) were able to demand that the European “human rights” laws brought “democracy” to Sark.

    Democracy as in lots of “modern” officials and regulations of course.

    The old world where people (as indviduals, and as members of families and other associations of civil society) where allowed to live their own lives, is believed in only by libertarians and “Tory anarchists” (the cathedral city of Peterborough, only a few miles from where I write this, had no real government till the 20th century – but I doubt that more 1 in a 100 of the population of the modern city know this).

    In a world where “conservatism” is led by people like George Bush and David Cameron freedom is not going to return.

    “But surely the present situation is not sustainable” – I agree, but that does not mean it will be replaced by greater freedom. Things may simply fall into chaos.

    And as every libertarian knows chaos is the opposite of the freedom we want (a libertarian may want anarchy, although many of us have doubts about that, but no libertarian wants chaos) as it means a radical disrespect for private property – both of our own bodies (i.e. rape, slavery [it is often forgotten that slavery is, in fact, a series of common law crimes] and muder), and of our goods (via theft).

    Under statism we have lawless police (or rather police who think that statutes and other regulations are the law) and in a situation of chaos we have many private people acting as the state’s “official bandits” (to use the old Chinese term) do.

    The voluntary order of civil society is lost in either situation.

  • ..loved the comment about not giving them squat to hold on to etc.

    If you deal with stupid, venal bureaucrats with power over you regularly, you learn how to behave pretty fast. For instance, I am always polite and friendly when going through the “non-EU nationals” queue entering Britain. I smile, answer every question they ask me as succinctly as possible, and don’t volunteer anything in addition, and I do this however gratuitously rude they choose to be to people like me who are just going about their business. It is fine to think about how much you despise them, you just don’t show it in any way.

    As for power outlets in Starbucks, I find that Starbucks are generally pretty good about providing power for customers to use. I don’t know if they have a policy on this, but many Starbucks have plenty of power outlets in conveniently located places which are clearly meant for the use of customers, and I can think of one or two (the one in New Oxford Street for instance) where you will often find at least half a dozen people will laptops plugged in. I did once encounter staff who told me to unplug, but that was a one off in a newly opened store.

    Of course, if they would provide free (or even cheap) WiFi, then they would sell me a lot more coffee.