Safety first! D’accord, mes amis. But when cheese in your hand luggage is considered a terror weapon, things do get slightly out of hand.
Knowing the Rules
I’m flying quite often, and I do enjoy being alive. People that are much smarter and more experienced than I am have found out, that carrying more than 100 ml of a liquid in the hand luggage might interfere with my joy of life. That’s bad news.
So for a couple of years I’ve been packing willingly only teeny-tiny bottles of shampoo, body lotion, shower gel and other toiletries into my carry on bags. Not more than 100 ml per container, in total not more than one liter, all stored in a transparent, zip locked bag. To be taken out at the security check and sent through the x-ray device separately.
Got it, did it. A thousand times, uncomplainingly. When it comes to security, I deserve the nobel peace price in the category frequent flyers.
So while spending a couple of days in France, I shopped my souvenirs minding the fact that I had only hand luggage. No wine, no cognac, no luxurious body lotion. Only half a dozen artisan sausages and a variety of cheese specialties. I was flying out on a Sunday, my fridge at home would be empty, so I added a loaf of bread to my shopping. And then it was time to go to the airport.
At security I took out the transparent bag with my left over toiletries, took of my jacket and my belt. Holding my pants up with my left hand, I first pushed my small weekend suitcase in the x-ray thingy and then the tray with the small stuff.
Eventually I stepped forward through the arch that would possibly detect knives or guns – or some coins that I forgot to take out of my pocket. The arch didn’t reveal any of these, I was all clear – and eager to get my belt back to have both hands free to reorganize my stuff.
What Sort of Cheese?
“What’s this?”, asked the stern security lady standing next to the x-ray machine. She looked at a screen that showed in a very artsy, schematic manner the content of my board case. No wonder she had to ask, these pictures are of a lousy quality, all grey in grey and blurry.
“What do you mean?”, I asked back. “This”, the lady stressed and made a vague gesture around the cheese area. “Oh that, that’s cheese”, I explained willingly, while pulling the belt through the loops around my waist. “What kind of cheese”, she wanted to know. She seemed to be a gourmet, being that interested in my souvenirs. “Different kinds. Brebis-Pyrénéés, goat cheese…” “Take it out”, she ordered before I was done listing the other treats. “Why? Am I not allowed to carry cheese?” Irritated I rummaged around in the bag trying to fish the assorted cheeses out. “Not every cheese”, explained the lady, taking the transparent shopping bag of my hands, turning it from side to side. “Depends whether it’s hard or soft.” “Beg your pardon?” “Hard or soft. If it’s hard, there’s no Problem. If it’s creamy, you can’t take it on board.”
“That’s a joke, right? You’re kidding, right?” “No way. And this one”, she took out the big pyramid shaped goat cheese, this piece of French culinary art rolled in grey ash, “this one is soft.” “No! No, this can’t be true! This is considered cream? I didn’t know that.” I was desperate. The nice cheese – and this big pyramid wasn’t exactly cheap, either.
“Pleeeease, it’s a souvenir! You can’t take that away! Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!” I tried the getting-heavily-on-someone-nervs-tactics. Sometimes people give in just to get rid of you.
“Well”, she smiled, “I’m really sorry. It’s a shame, I know, but I’m afraid I can’t do anything. I’m working under camera surveillance. If I let you get away with it, I’ll lose my job”, she explained apologetically.
“But people do take food with them all the time!”, I whined. “Yes, that’s true. And if it’s in a sandwich, it’s ok. But this big chunk is cream and it’s more than 100 grams.” You bet it was more than 100 grams – I’m as much a gourmand as I am a gourmet!
If Life Gives You Cheese,….
Sandwich – hm – that gave me an idea: “I have a loaf of bread. If I make a sandwich, I can take the cheese?” “Yes, if it’s a sandwich, it’s no problem”, she encouraged me.
So I took out the bread loaf and violently teared it open – you cannot imagine how stubborn a bread crust is when you have only your hands to cut it. Then I stuffed the pyramid as deep as possible in the gap. It was far too small for the amount of cheese, and of course the pretty pyramid lost it’s dainty shape and was only a big mass of mess. About half of it fit in the loaf, the other half stuck out.
With the loss of it’s shape, what used to be an appetizing aroma seemed to have morphed into a simple stink. But it was a – however deformed – sandwich. “See, a sandwich”, I held the…thing up to the camera. “Ya, fine, and now go”, bade the lady farewell.
Once in the waiting area, I reopened the bread and tried to get what was left of the pyramid out of the crumb as thoroughly as possible. It was a sad, sad bread and cheese massacre.
Since the goat cheese had contaminated the whole loaf with its smell, I couldn’t eat it with any other topping. And my hands smelled of goat cheese for days, no matter how often I washed them.
By the way, all this happened before the series of terrorist attacks in France. As far as I know, none of these terrorists used cheese.