In case you were wondering what happened to all those wretched souls who were formerly employed by the East German Government in the infamous Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, aka The Stasi, I think I may have located several of them now doing their thing on a sub-contractor basis in Airport Security. Most of them are to be found in the USA putting on weight as part of the Transportation Security Agency, an adjunct of the Department of Homeland Security. Organisations which are there ostensibly to protect the citizens but which make a bigger contribution in terms of generating a sense of paranoia that whoever our current enemy is might be about to blow us up. Meanwhile, freedoms are gradually chipped away, things get ridiculous, and we all sigh.
I had dutifully put my bag and laptop into separate trays to be passed through the x-ray machine, and asked whether it was required that I should remove my shoes. No, I could keep my shoes on but I must put my watch in the tray as it would alarm the metal detector. I had never been told to do this by other functionaries and expressed surprise as I had first-hand experience of my watch not setting off the metal detector.
"Ah, but it's plastic," I said.
"Bot it iss a votch!" replied the Fraulein functionary.
"Yes. It's a plastic watch."
"Bot it iss a votch!", she urged.
"Plastic. Won't set off the detector."
"Bot it iss a votch!" The functionary's eyes narrowed, and I started to feel uneasy.
"OK. It's a watch. It's plastic." I sighed. I could see the Fraulein begin to look around her as if to summon the armed guards and thought better of any further discussion. A votch is a votch, after all, so I put it in the tray.
"Und your belt." She said through clenched teeth, eyes glaring.
"I'm not wearing a belt." Fraulein Votchspotter made no attempt to lift up my shirt and check, however. I raised my eyebrows and beamed at the Fraulein, passed through the metal detector unbeeped and unmolested, and my trays sailed through the x-ray machine without comment.
The irony is that in my typically absent-minded way I had forgotten that there were items in my bag that I really should have packed in my suitcase, rather than risk confiscation:
A Swiss Army penknife, a small spanner, a small pair of pliers, a miniature screw driver, a small pair of scissors, a miniature Swiss Army penknife, and various other items that might come in handy including a piece of string, a spirit level, metal tape measure and two torches. Any of which could be used by even a semi-skilled ne'er do well to cause unrest of one kind or another, but none of which were detected by the vigilant Fraulein Votchspotter or the expensive equipment.
Ho hum. I suppose it's all worthwhile...