If you have ever wondered what all those people wandering aimlessly around the airport in the limbo zone between check-in and security are doing, the answer may be that they are looking for somewhere to hide something. A pair of pliers, perhaps.
The predicament may be familiar. You have checked in, and bag-dropped. You are about to go through security, when it dawns on you that in your computer bag or handbag or pocket you have a pair of pliers or a corkscrew. This item will contravene airport security regulations, and some eagle eyed operative will confiscate it. “I’m sorry madam …..” your pliers will have to go in the airport staff Christmas party tombola.
You step back from the queue and consider your options. You could buy a jiffy bag, a roll of sellotape and a book of stamps and post the thing back to yourself; or rejoin the bag drop queue and try to check it in. But time is running out and you already checked-in a bag. An extra item of checked luggage will trigger a charge of at least £15, with an extra administration charge as a punishment for not doing it online.
You could throw it away. But you don’t like throwing away perfectly good things, even if they are not worth huge sums of money. A good pair of long-nosed pliers may not be expensive, but it is a good friend and does not deserve to be thrown away. It is not rubbish.
So you wander around for a while, trying to find a service desk where items such as your pliers can be left for you to collect on return. I was surprised to find that the airport in question did have such a desk, tucked away in the international arrivals sector. “Yes, you can leave them here,” said the lady at the desk. “I’ll just get the form. That will be £6.”
“The pliers aren’t worth £6,” I protested. “Can’t you just put them in this envelope, write my name and any other details you need on it and keep it in a drawer for me to collect next week?” No.
I stepped back and wandered around the limbo zone for a while, considering my remaining option. Where would make a good hiding place for a pair of pliers for a week, safe from cleaners, metal detectors and DIY enthusiasts?
My first thought was to drop the pliers in a lavatory cistern. Isn’t that where people in spy films hide weapons? Perhaps for this reason, the modern airport loo is boxed in: a safely sealed unit.
I noticed a restaurant with generously upholstered bench seating, bought a coffee and sat down with it in a secluded alcove. Without looking around to see if anyone was watching me – that would surely alert the CCTV scanners – I pretended to be using my pliers to scratch an itch in the small of my back, and slipped them down the crack between the back and the bottom of the seat. They disappeared from view and when I stood up to leave there was no sign of them.
“What time do you close?” I asked the man at the counter. “Nine thirty” he replied. This was awkward: my return flight was scheduled to land at exactly that hour.
I composed an email to my family. “This may seem a slightly odd request,” it began. Would whoever would be coming to fetch me, kindly come early enough to retrieve my pliers; third bench from the end, on the right, beneath a fake Dutch genre painting. Then I went on my way, plier-less.
For some reason my better half thought this request not slightly odd, but completely mad, and circulated my email to a wider network of family and friends all around the world, as all proof required of my long-suspected mental deterioration. And for a few days my pliers became a cause célèbre. Emails flew this way and that, filling the sky like starlings at dusk.
Why is Adam taking pliers on a trip to Ireland, a nephew in Australia wanted to know; they do have dentists in Ireland. How does Adam know the Dutch painting is a fake?
Now that my pliers had gone viral, I was tempted to tweet about them, but resisted: someone might easily go and steal the pliers before my return, calculating that they must be very good pliers for me to take so much trouble over them. The tweet/email trail might easily reach someone who knows someone whose sister in law works at the airport.
But no one did steal them, and when my better half put her hand down the back of the bench at twenty five minutes past nine, there they were, precisely where I had left them, to everyone’s amazement but mine. Cue joyous email to worldwide audience, keenly awaiting news.
Adam, like Greece, may have lost his marbles. But he has been reunited with his pliers.
Post script. My resourceful friend and cycling companion Paul faced a similar but more serious problem when he found his Swiss army knife in his pocket after checking in at Calvi recently. More serious because (a) the knife is worth more than the pliers and (b) he had no immediate plans to return to Calvi, so hiding the knife would be no use. Paul’s solution was as simple as it was ingenious. He stood beside the check-in counter waving his knife in a non-threatening manner until someone volunteered to pack it for him. The swap worked perfectly, and an enduring friendship may have been forged.