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2006-11-28 We're suffering from the Paranoia Virus

As I stepped into my private jet, my pilot asked me where exactly in Wicklow I lived, so he could oblige by flying directly over my cottage.

 

It's far from private jets I was reared, but it was truthfully the only way The Celtic Tenors could perform a concert in Waterford at 9pm, and sing at Bertie's Ard Fheis in Dublin an hour and a half earlier at 7.30pm. A far cry from my usual travel plans, as we exited Dublin airport via a side entrance - no security checks and a fast car waiting.

 

A week later, on a business trip to Amsterdam, by now well aware of the new stringent changes in air travel restrictions, I arrived fully prepared, with my toiletries dutifully packed into my resealable see-through plastic bag. Annoyingly, my bag was too large, and I was presented with a smaller model. As my carry-on bag was thoroughly searched, security personnel confiscated my shower gel (over the limit), and my 125ml shampoo (100ml is allowed), even though it was only a quarter full! My resealable bag wouldn't reseal, and so, next to be flung mercilessly into the wheelie bin were my deodorant and toothpaste.

 

Are we soon going to see security staff at airports with fly-away hair, blemish-free skin, sparkling teeth, and smelling like a Parisian parfumerie, benefitting from millions of confiscated toiletires? Or perhaps we will witness a rise in alcoholism amongst airport staff?

 

I moaned at how ridiculously over-the-top the new regulations had become and how airlines were simply too paranoid. Was I expected to spend an hour at home with my chemistry set of 100ml bottles, measuring out my shampoo, lotion and gel allowance? "Don't blame the messenger!", the invasive rummager retorted, visibly weary of complaints. I had broken the law, I was being punished, and my personal hygiene was to suffer as a result. Is body odour going to become a problem on flights? Tomorrow I would return from my overnight trip - unshaven, unwashed and smelly - resembling a much more dodgy and shifty terrorist-lookalike than I had set out.

 

I abhor violence, and constantly muse on the futility of war, and how the world never seems to learn from the lessons of history. I have no intention of blowing up the plane which transports me, but somehow the powers-that-be don't trust me. They trust no-one. I am all for increased security, but haven't the terrorists secured a victory in creating a new wave of paranoia across the globe?

 

Paranoia is "excessive or irrational anxiety concerning one's well-being", and it looks like the P-virus is spreading worldwide. Are terrorists gloating in remote hideouts, or in our midst, sniggering at the collective paranoia of the Western world? Perhaps extremists are cashing in and investing in a whole new range of travel-size toiletries or in re-sealable plastic bags. Baby foods and medicines are still permitted on board flights, so surely all it takes is one asthmatic `suicide bomber' who needs his essential `explosive' medicine? A fundamental extremist who is willing to kill thousands by flying a plane into a building would not think twice about bringing his innocent baby on board, equipped with baby's `explosive' apple pure.

 

When will it all stop? When did it get this bad? Airport shopping will suffer. Holiday purchases too - no longer can we bring home a bottle of Tuscan Chianti, or a pot of Andalusian honey. We need to allow even more time to pass through security, even for local flights. With the newly improved N4, will the Dublin/Sligo flights suffer too? We may need to allow up to three hours for that once- attractive thirty-minute flight. It all seems irrational and excessive, and more about applying rules for rules' sake. Yes, a private jet is the only way to travel.