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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Trouble in St.Thomas

I'm killing time staring out the window at the planes dawdling around the tarmac. I snap a couple of photographs through the glass wall at a deserted set of airplane steps which look good against the clear blue sky, when I hear a couple of angry voices shouting. Then I realise that they're shouting at me.

"You can't take photographs here!"
"Oh, OK. Why?"
"Because they'll take your camera."
"But why?"
"Because you can't take pictures here."
"I get that, but why?"
"They'll take your camera"
"Yes, but I'm asking.."
"Stop taking pictures!"

I smile winningly, and move a little closer to the departure gate staff who have chosen to bawl at me. I speak in my softest, most friendly way:

"Here's the thing", I say, "Them taking my camera is the punishment for breaking the rule. The rule is that I can't take photographs. I'm just interested in knowing the reason for that rule."

They look at each other with incredulity. Like I haven't been listening.

"No pictures. They'll take your camera."

I point my finger at them, just like Spenser does in the books, and say "Gotcha" and wander away. To the other side of the lounge where I arrive just in time to see three large men in dark blue combat trousers tucked into very big stompy boots, baseball caps, mirrored shades and t-shirts with the catchy slogan "CBP FEDERAL" on the back in big yellow letters, oh, and guns - they're all wearing automatics, batons and mace on their belts. They're talking to a man who is sitting in one of the moulded plastic chairs with everyone else. No. They're not talking to him, they're talking at him. They're voices get louder and one points his finger in the mans face while the other two shift their weight and position a little in a way that old martial arts geeks like me know as taking a subtle combat stance. The man, still sitting down, shrugs.

By the time I have angled myself into a slightly better position from which to observe this, he's pushed up against one of the gate desks and is being handcuffed. Now he's being marched away, as the three men literally yell "RELAX, SIR" at him, while pushing him along and making him fall over his feet, their hands shoving him by the small of his back. Clearly well trained in the ways of being dickish.

There is a girl standing next to me watching. She giggles nervously. Me, not so much.

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