You would not believe what happened to me on the day we departed Australia for Kathmandu.
We got to the airport with plenty of time and decided to get a coffee at the cafe and wait there until Singapore Airlines check-in opened.
After we ordered our coffee the lady said it would be ready in 10 minutes, so we went and sat down at a table with all our bags.
At this time we noticed the check-in had opened and thought we would rush over and get in first before the queue got long.
We quickly got all our bags together and because we were going from Brisbane (very hot) to Kathmandu (freezing), we had all this extra carry-on luggage including thick scarves and big snow jackets with us.
In a hurried moment we thought we would leave the snow jackets/scarves hanging over the chair and our carry-on bag under the table at the cafe because it was only a very short walk away (you could see the coffee shop from the counter) and we were already weighed down with our trolleys, scarves and bags.
I told the coffee lady we would be “back in a sec” to get our coffees and belongings.
When we got to the check in, we handed over our tickets and passports and mine was quickly checked in and I had my e-ticket.
But when the lady got to processing Rabindra’s passport details, they couldn’t find him in the system because he has one of those old non-chip passports so you manually have to type in his details and he also has an amended date of birth page which always causes confusion.
The lady tried it three times and every time failed. She called her supervisor and he told her to repeat the process.
She was really slow and typing with one hand (I was like WTF woman can you try a bit faster you are starting to piss me off)!!
Anyway it really started to stress me out that Rabindra’s passport details were not working and we had been there for more than 20 minutes.
I stayed with Rabindra to try and explain to the woman about his amended DOB page because she wasn’t listening to Rabindra properly.
A little while later I turned around to the coffee shop and noticed a big commotion happening.
The FEDERAL POLICE and SNIFFER DOGS were gathered around the coffee shop and everyone was looking around wondering what was happening.
It didn’t take me long to realise that the centre of the commotion just might be that my pink designer bag in the coffee shop could be the result of all the SHOCK, ALARM and HORROR and that people might think there was a BOMB IN MY BAG.
I ran over in a hurry and saw the officers who started to question me if it was my bag and why I wasn’t with it.
The officers told me that a member of the public had reported an unattended bag and thought it was highly suspicious.
I said yes it was my bag and NO I AM NOT A CRAZED TERRORIST WITH A BOMB IN MY BAG.
I tried to explain to the officers that I told the coffee shop lady I was walking over to quickly check in and that I’d be back. (The coffee woman did not pass this on to the officers, trying to avoid getting involved I suppose).
The officers took me away to a special classified area and did swabs of my bag and quizzed me on a million questions about who I was, where I was going, who my partner was, where we lived, what was I doing in Nepal, what job did I do, who I was staying with in Nepal,
what my favourite food was, etc etc (well maybe not that last question).
They said I better co-operate fully OR quote… “You will not be travelling anywhere mam except to a JAIL so please co-operate”. Unquote.
Those words struck volts of fear down my body.
All I could think was, how is this happening to me?
I am meant to be starting the adventure of a lifetime, the journey I have been waiting more than 3 and half years to do, to visit my Nepali family and finally get the acceptance of our relationship that I’ve so desperately wanted.
But instead, only some hours from the time I am meant to be stepping onto the plane, I am being interrogated by federal police, being threatened with being arrested and ending up in the four walls of a jail cell with other ‘potential terrorists AKA innocent, dumb girls who get arrested at airports’ and not enjoying my butter chicken and rice and movies en route to Bangkok.
It was turning into a complete nightmare and they even said that if I don’t go to jail, I could still end up with international criminal record and a whopping fine.
When I told the officer I was a journalist, he said “how could an educated, young woman not know that this was a very serious offence?” CUE me giving the officer my very sad, stupid face. (I could not feel any shitter than I was already, thanks a lot mate).
They told me that if I was in India and that happened, the police there would take the bag outside and blow it up straight away.
Well the truth was, I had heard of stories about unattended bags in airports but I am not an accustomed international traveller and it was just a fleeting moment of forgetfulness… and bad luck that someone rang the police.
I spent 45 minutes with the officers and apologised 1000 times about how silly and naive I was, that I honestly thought I’d be 5 minutes but my partner had experienced problems with his old passport and that’s why I had taken so long.
They were actually really nice guys in the end and had a laugh with me, told me to be more cautious in the future and to enjoy my trip to Nepal.
They finished by saying that all my details were on federal records noting that I had received an official warning about my little experience at Brisbane International Airport and that if I did it again, I’d be in big, big trouble.
Trust me mate, it will never happen again. The stern warning and shock was one thing, the embarrassment was another thing.
Through the whole ordeal, Rabindra could see what was going on but I had motioned to him to stay over there and not come near me (it would complicate it more and stress him out as well).
When I went over and told Rabindra everything, he couldn’t believe what had happened but we kept saying how lucky I was.
I was still a bit shaken up and somehow calmed my nerves before we got to the gate.
As we were waiting for our flight, an important notice was being made over the speakers.
“Passengers are reminded that you are not to leave bags unattended at any time. Passengers may face criminal convictions and fines.”
I looked over to Rabindra and we couldn’t stop laughing.
I’m sure the officers had organised that little message and directed it squarely at me and I don’t blame ‘em.
Silly. Stupid. Dumb. Naive.
Yep, that’s me!
ENDNOTE: as an endnote to this story- when we flew to Delhi and Bangkok airports, these security messages were broadcasted every few minutes!!! Well, maybe that was my paranoia but it certainly gave Rabindra and I a laugh every single time 🙂
Flying into Kathmandu