I HAVE JOINED THE GREEN movement
and am proud to say I am now a “Green Man”. This amazing
transformation has little to do with my enduring interest in the
Incredible Hulk – I mean how do you suddenly burst out 10ft
tall, turn a bright bilious green, and still have your clothes on,
squeeze into public phone booths, and get to keep your girlfriend?
I got into a rage once and realised my shirt was rather tight. But
that was because cheap cotton shirts tend to shrink.
My remarkable change
has to do with airports. There I was at Hongkong Airport, heading
to immigration, when a hand grabbed me and I felt something plunge,
recklessly, into a formerly private bodily orifice. “Oh!”
I said, in shock, appreciating for the first time how a woman must
feel being accosted by a brute in a dark alley without having had
time to put the right make-up on. What was this place anyway –
an airport or a boarding school?
Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor
Share This Page
My ear was ravished
by a thermometer and I was powerless to resist. People watched and
did nothing. It was quick, rude, and unfulfilling. I doubt I would
have recognised the perpetrator in a line-up – he had on a
mask. The official waved me on. Later in Bangkok I deplaned to find
myself in the churning vortex of the Terrified-Doctors-At-The-Airport
Convention. They were a friendly bunch and were eager to learn everything
about me. "Do you have a …a…?" one gentleman
asked, pointing to his throat. Of course I have a throat. I nodded
my head vigorously. Eager not to waste a free consultation or appear
to be dismissive, I went on to narrate to him a string of perplexing
ailments – a lower back problem, a bent clavicle, insomnia,
migraine, an ingrown toe-nail, recurring nightmares and problems
with my inner child. "Okay, okay," he said, "welcome
My ear was ravished by a thermometer and I was powerless to resist. It was rude, quick and quite unfulfilling.
But there was one
more hurdle. My ear tingled. Nothing happened. Instead I was shown
a white line on the floor. On one side was a potential 10-day quarantine
with pretty nurses cooing "Khop khun kaa", and
on the other, Thailand, with crazed whistle-blowing policemen, fearsome
traffic, pollution and… I had to force myself to concentrate.
Positioning my feet, I took a deep breath and, at the signal, shot
out of the starting block. A thermal imaging camera whirred and
my picture flashed on the TV screen. It was green. GREEN as the
army’s underwear. And glowing. Suddenly it dawned on me why
US immigration terms visitors "aliens".
Aliens are taking over our airports. Who says travel is
uninteresting? I opened the International Herald Tribune at my Bangkok hotel to see a prominent ad inviting participants
for the “8th World Aluminium Conference” in Montreal.
What could be more trendy or riveting? I’m not sure what an
aluminium conference is but I imagine it involves aluminium bricks
arrayed in a circle attempting to communicate via e-mail, telepathy
and MSN. This would probably be followed by a binge at a lap-dancing
establishment. And yet another news item. A couple in China blessed
with a bonnie baby boy decided to immortalise two historic events
of our time by naming their child Saddam Deng Sars. How this boy
is ever going to get into the USA in order, over time, to acquire
a deeper appreciation of Freedom Fries (as French fries are now
called at Congress) and a respectable nickname like Bob, beats me.
Suddenly it dawned on me why US immigration terms all visitors "aliens". Green men are taking over our airports...
He is not alone.
Sars is a solid, hewn-from-oak Norwegian surname. People called
Sars have for generations been building ships and arm-wrestling
reindeer. Now they find themselves ostracised. Well, I can understand
that. Reindeer can smell pretty awful. There is even a Sars Institute.
Perhaps Saddam Sars will be accepted by a fine Oslo university after
which he can return to his native land and stun his family with
his newfound skills. I’ll bet they’ve never arm-wrestled
a panda. The problem is, by then, there may be no airlines, as we
know them, to transport Saddam. The International Labour Organisation
told the BBC recently that SARS (not the Norwegians) will cost five
million tourism jobs, several of these in the airline sector. Travel,
they say, is being replaced by the Internet, and shopping by phoned-in
The only way to
stop the rot is to get out and start travelling. Get bums in seats.
At check-in ask for a segregated seat with space to swing a cat
by the tail. Make sure your cat has a security sticker before boarding
and tape the tail to prevent any mishap. Hotels are going that extra
mile too. In Hongkong the JW Marriott had staff wear bright yellow
smiley-face badges that declared they were "fever-free".
Now you know. Get out and go green before it is too late.
More on HK and
SARS at HKunmasked
Also see HK Department
of Health and the US Center
for Disease Control.
Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor