Monday, June 20, 2011

No Mingling in Iceland!

Or Sub-title: “Why Me?”
Yes, even on the best of trips, the kind that ‘don’t get any better’ something can happen to take that perky “Miss PR”  smile off my face.

This time it happened in Iceland.
Map picture
When you fly Iceland Air to Seattle from Europe, as we have twice done, you stop in Iceland. (BTW, Iceland’s a good airline – and it had the best one-way fare price that we could find from Europe.)

Last year's stop was unremarkable. This year's won't soon be forgotten.

I can finally write about it now, nearly a month later, because I've quit chanting, “I never want to go back.” and I am beginning to see the keystone cop humor of the experience.

It all began  . . .

When going through Passport Control from one plane's gate to the other, an attractive 30-something blond in a form-fitting uniform flashed a big smile at me and said, as if I had won a prize, “You’ve been selected for additional security screening!”
cretan peoplenplaces 014
So I flashed a big smile back (similar to the one at the left) and said to myself, “My lucky day!”

We followed her down the escalator to a cordoned off holding area where I and a handful of others would be checked. (Joel was allowed to come in.)

From armpits to arches, breasts to buttocks I was rubbed, patted and 'wanded'.  Guess I was ‘dusted’ too because I had to sit and wait for something they got off me to be tested.

“You may go,” announced another form-fitting uniform with a bright smile.

We started to leave. . .

“Oh no,” said another, with a little less smile, “you are not free to go, you must follow me.” When we asked why, still smiling, she said, “You are not allowed to mingle with the other passengers.” 

(Okay, did I miss something or had I just gotten off a flight on Iceland Air from Paris, where security had deemed me safe? Joel, by the way, could have mingled but, being the good guy he is, stuck by his outcast wife).
We were taken to another secure holding area where we joined (I counted) 20 others. Most of whom looked like us: middle-aged, Anglo-Saxons heading to the US. It was here we would wait until another uniform came to lead us to the flight – we wouldn’t be allowed to leave until they came to get us: 
No restroom run.
No souvenir shops.
No food purchase.
No Mingling!

Our detention. . .

. . .livened  a bit when an older lady began sobbing and moaning  – bringing a swarm of uniforms to quickly lead her out of the area.

When the couple across from us, again politely asked why we were being held, the smiling uniform said it was the United States who made them do it. Her explanation tapered off, she shook her head and looked at the floor.

Finally another uniform arrived and called out for those heading to Seattle. A young woman and the two of us were led through the swarm of passengers at our gate and told to sit in yet another secure area between the crowd of our soon-to-be-fellow passengers and the plane.

I was relieved to see the sobbing lady now calmly sitting with her traveling companion.  The five of us boarded the plane before the other passengers were allowed to approach it.

I wanted to believe this 'early boarding' was an attempt to make us feel special. . .but I suspect it was to keep us from mingling for five minutes longer.


  1. Are you sure you were in Iceland? It sounds like China.

  2. The first time we stopped there I had (silly me!) thought how little there was to do in their airport; a couple of shops and one cafeteria was open. Guess I should have enjoyed them that time, because I sure didn't get near them this time.

  3. Jackie, I had a similar experience in Germany. We were "stuck" on a plane going to the U.S. but the computers were down and we could not get U. S. clearance so the plane could not take off. The stewards on the plane finally explained that EACH person going in to the U.S. had to be screened and approval supplied to German officials before we could go. I don't think it was Iceland. I think it was the good 'ole USA.

  4. I am with you on that . . . but it always seems that I am the one that gets the 'additional screening'invite. . .maybe I am too short!

  5. Oh Jackie, so sorry to hear about this. I'd be very upset myself. I have friends with similar experience elsewhere. They think its because they have similar names to some of those in the watch list.


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