Nobody enjoys going through airports. Despite the miracle of air travel for the masses and the systems for funnelling the right people into the right places being a magnificent example of engineering and system design, it is basically impossible to board a plane without being intensely frustrated.
Modern security is just as torturous. Remove your shoes, remove your belt, take your laptop out of your bag (presumably because x-ray machines can’t see through canvas) and so on... the rigmarole and security theatre is the perfect example of how no one individual is behaving malevolently, but the system of rules everyone has to follow, albeit for well intentioned reasons, results in a Kafkaesque nightmare.
Perhaps one of the most bewildering rules is “no liquids” - and yesterday a man called Simon Perry decided to test exactly how the rules apply. He noted that the rules say no liquids, but wondered what would happen if his liquid... was solid? Simon decided to freeze a Diet Coke to see if it could get through security. Because surely - according to the rules - it should be fine?
Simon told me how he came up with the idea: “After going through security we were talking about the monopoly that the shops have in the airport for selling drinks and it just occurred to me that only liquids were banned, a frozen drink isn’t a liquid.”
And so yesterday Simon headed to Heathrow to catch a flight to Los Angeles with his experiment in hand.
To ensure the Coke was solid when he reached security, Simon packed the bottle in a larger block of ice he had prepared at home (pictured above). The idea was that before going through security, he would remove the frozen coke from its icy tomb, but there was a bit of a problem:
“There was nowhere sensible to dump the ice apart from in the sink in the toilets. I got a bit worried that it might turn out that ice was a good way of transporting explosives safely and if they saw a huge chunk of it being disposed of it may set off a security alert. So I just found the cleaning team and told them what I was doing.”
So what happened when Simon got to security? Did the Diet Coke get through?
“I was planning on just leaving it in the bag. They ban liquids so no need to declare it”, Simon said, “However, on putting my bag on the security conveyor I was asked ‘any liquids, any drinks?’ so I had to declare it of course. I said something like ‘no liquids, but a drink in solid form’, which seemed to confuse [the security person] and he asked me what I was talking about. I showed him the frozen drink.”
I asked Simon if he was worried about getting arrested at any point - as after all - airport security aren’t particularly well known for their sense of humour. “I thought it very unlikely - people must accidentally bring drinks in all the time and it’s a coke, not a threat, and I was following all of the published rules.”
Sadly though, it turned out that there would be no Diet Coke Break at 30,000 feet unless Simon was willing to splash out in the Duty Free:
“He told me that it wasn’t allowed so I asked under what grounds, given it is not a liquid. When he said I couldn’t take it I asked if he knew that for sure or just assumed. He grabbed his supervisor and the supervisor told me that ‘the government does not classify that as a solid’. I decided to leave it at that point. I expect they’re probably wrong to take it from me. They’d probably not seen it before, didn’t know the rules, and being a bit of an eccentric request, decided to act on the side of caution. They didn’t spend the time to look it up.”
Simon tells me that he has separately been told by security in the US that frozen liquids are allowed over there... perhaps suggesting that British security needs to chill out a little?
Still, it could be worse. He could have tried to take a “Pass The Bomb” game with him.