The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Travelling light

As you are probably aware, terrorists in the UK have been plotting to blow up many US-bound airliners using liquid explosives. Consequently, security has been greatly tightened on all flights out of the UK, but especially those destined for the United States. All liquids, lotions, gels, creams etc. are now banned from cabin baggage. The only exception is baby food and formula, which you'll probably have to taste to prove they're edible. I saw a notice to this affect at the US airport I arrived at, so it appears to be a new universal rule.

For the US flights out of the UK, however, no hand baggage at all is allowed. The only exception here is one clear plastic bag with your travel documents, wallet, and keys, as well as the minimum quantity of prescription medicine (non-liquid) and hygiene items needed for the trip. That's it. No exceptions. You could buy non-liquids after passing through security and get them on the plane, provided you had the receipt. So, everyone in the waiting area was on page one of their book.

Now as someone travelling with N>>1 children, and used to shlepping several heavy bags containing: tallis & tefillin, laptop computer, cameras, food for the trip, entertainment for the children, changes of clothing for the little ones, this was a little daunting. But, like the restrictions imposed by keeping Torah, it was actually quite liberating and enlightening.

For one thing, there was little chance we'd forget anything on the plane. Disembarkation was faster since there was nothing for anyone else to pick up either. And it was great for working on your bitachon (trust in G-d). Would the airplane have kosher meals on board? Would your stuff survive the trip in the hold? Would the children drive you crazy? Or even sit in their seats without bribes?

For us it worked out just fine, but I can imagine any series of possible disasters, especially if we'd had to make a connecting flight. Still, I'll have to give some serious thought to how much to take on board next time.


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