Code Red in Charlotte

January 1, 2010

Queen Charlotte at Charlotte Airport

I’m zonked! I’m out of it. It’s 6.02am, except it’s not. A few hours ago it was midnight. And now it’s not. You’ve all had New Year and me, I just keep running away from it. I don’t want to. I’m looking forward to 2010. But I’m travelling backwards in time.

I left home at 7am, now it’s 6am back in London. But I’m at San Francisco airport waiting to meet my sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and mum. They’re all coming back from Canada. I’m here and they’ll be here in half an hour and then we’ll race off to their home and hopefully make it in time for New Year. But I’ve already missed two New Years, what if I’m whisked back in time again and I miss a third?

You’ve had New Year. So’s Charlotte. that’s where I was… how many hours ago? Everywhere’s a different time zone in this country. I’m like Dr Who and Dr Where. I thought my flight from Charlotte to San Francisco was only two hours. I forgot I was crossing another three time zones.

I have been flying now for three days and two months. Non-stop.

I flew with US Airways. It sounds like a National Asthma Campaign but, honestly, they are an airline.

When I can afford to, I fly Virgin. They’re swanky. US Airways isn’t.

The main difference is the stewardesses. On Virgin they’re, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, pornographic. On US Airway, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, they’re more likely to be photographed for Saga magazine. Both airlines have stewards but they just fuss about.

Have I offended enough people yet? Am I behaving out of character? I’m jetlagged. Zonked! Not here. Travelling in time.

Charlotte airport was a bit of a shocker. I had to collect my luggage, go through passport control… (“What’s your job?”, “I swing my pants!”)… through customs, and then I recheck my baggage in. All quick and easy.

Then I go with my hand luggage to Zone B to check in for the domestic flight. Through security, take off my shoes, jacket, belt… I have no shape. My pants fall down.

Once through, I sit on the other side, and put my shoes etc. back on. And that’s when the world goes crazy. I stand just outside the security zone and one of the guards shouts “Code Red”. Word passes round quickly, from one guard to the next… Code Red, Code Red, Code Red… then sirens and red flashing lights. Shutters slam down at the entrance to the security checkpoint. I’m told to stand where I am. Everyone else is told not to move. A man emerges from the nearby Starbucks holding two coffees and he is told not to move. And we all stand there and wait.

I don’t know what’s happening, but, just for a moment, I do think I am going to die.

Amazingly, there is no panic. We all just stand, dead still.

One security guard, the one who told me to stand still, is about five yards away from me. He is holdng his hands up, indicating to everyone that they should not move. He is also trying his best to smile. but this doesn’t work. I think he wants us all to relax and believe that all is ok. But his smile gives him away. It’s fixed and as the minutes pass I notice his forehead slowly bead with sweat and then the beads trickle down towards his eyes.

I think bomb.

And then it passes. We are told to carry on and everything goes back to normal. No explanation. I didn’t ask for one. I found the bar and had a beer. And I was glad I’ll see in 2010.

Happy New Year everyone. Have a peaceful one. I need sleep. x


16 Responses to “Code Red in Charlotte”

  1. Samantha said

    Happy New Year! (Ahh!..Scary stuff there for you!) Hope you managed to have a good start to 2010!

  2. Andrea said

    That was quite possibly your most entertainingly written blog post ever. So: glad to see you’re starting the year on a high :-). And very glad you arrived safely. Especially after your Code Red. Happy New Year and have a fab holiday. xx

  3. Andrea said

    PS Was the Code Red due to a Christmas ornament in your hand luggage?

  4. Simon Hickson said

    Happy New Year Andrea and Samantha. And thank you Andrea for such extravangant praise.

    I did not have a Christmas ornament, in my hand luggage, or down my pants (people reading this in the future- I am not being perverse- this is where terrorists have taken to hiding their bombs). And no, bombs is not a euphemism. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a bomb is just a bomb.

  5. Andrew said

    Don’t swing your pants at a US of A airport, you will set off the smouldering underpant alarm. Best be quiet and retiring, like John McClane. Yippee ki yay mutha ucka and a happy new year.

  6. Melanie said

    Well, since you ask, yes, you have offended someone. I am not able to say if you are acting out of character but you manage to combine simple old-style sexism with newer ageism in one sentence. The sexualisation of an entire fleet’s female cabin staff and the dismissal of another’s as sexually unattractive to you on the grounds of their age is something you perhaps ought to have kept to yourself. Equally, i imagine the male members of cabin crew would not be pleased to hear your appraisal either. Will you be sharing your views about the cabin staff that serve you with your sister, niece, and mom? You will be able to stress the importance of sexual attractiveness in women to them.

  7. Simon Hickson said

    Hi Melanie,

    I’m sorry I offended you. The sexualisation of Virgin cabin staff, particularly on a pornographic level, is something that was first put into my mind when I saw an act called Pam Ann, played by the comedian Caroline Reid. So, I’ve sort of pinched it. Not that I’m making excuses. Context is everything, and if I offend I am always happy to apologise.

    At no point do I dismiss the cabin crew of US Airways as sexually unatractive. I just point out that they are, well, older. Attractive, and sexually attractive, is not determined by age. And, sexually attractive and pornographic are really quite different areas.

    The “out of character” line is a little in-house in that it plays to people who know who I am and what I have done. For ten years I performed comedy on a childrens Saturday morning TV show. Friendly stuff, gentle and (usually) inoffensive.

    Asking if I have offended anyone yet is, I hope, an indicator that I am being a little tongue in cheek and that I may not quite mean whatI say. Though I’m not making excuses. Offense is offense. I’m sorry.

    Yes, I do share my views with my mum and my sister. They read my blog too. I won’t share these views with my niece. She’s 11 and too young for such humour.

    If you work for US Airways please be kind to me on my return trip.

    Best wishes,


  8. Andrew said

    Melanie, I object to your use of the term “Male Members”, when referring to cabin crew. Some of them are quite nice. As for “Newer Ageism”, thats just a noise. I like the sexualisation of an entire fleet though, sounds exciting. Bye

  9. Samantha said

    You’re in trouble again Simon! Oo-er! I’m on your side, I know exactly what you mean.
    BUT I think maybe you should have said… the Virgin stewardesses are and I mean this in the nicest possible way, pornographic. On US Airway, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, they’re GILFS (to someone anyway). Both airlines have stewards but they just fuss about and would make good porn models(to someone). 😉 That includes everyone in the same way, so it’s fair!

  10. Samantha said

    I honestly mean no offense to any airline staff, I love you all whenever I fly…We are all just trying to be lighthearted and silly. x

  11. Simon Hickson said

    I think Samantha sums it up well… lighthearted and silly.

    I quite like getting into trouble though. I feel like a naughty schoolboy.

    I too like airline staff. They work hard and have to be good communicators and people people. And they’re all sexy, men and women. Heck, even baggage handlers turn me on. x

  12. Simon Hickson said

    Or should I say BHILF.

  13. Samantha said

    Ha! BHILF!! Ha Ha! That will amuse me next time I’m at a airport (I don’t like being in trouble, I’m a goody goody generally, but perhaps this is my 2010 behavior, I quite like it!)

  14. Lesley said

    Too funny. Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

  15. Andrea said

    Hi Melanie – as someone who knows Simon’s tone of voice, and Simon personally, I can assure you he was just being silly and humorous in this post and not willfully sexist or offensive. He is absolutely not that kind of person. Trust me. I’m a woman, I should know.

  16. Andrea said

    PS I once stood next to Al Gore at a baggage carousel. I didn’t handle his baggage, though.

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