Festive tourists ought to know their place

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
It'll be hell at the airports this holidays, so we're told. Better to stay at home, perhaps, than waste your precious lifespan standing in a security queue behind people who can't get their shoes on and off quickly or work out that studded belts will set off the metal-detector alarm.

Still worse are the fumbling inadequates who stop suddenly in front of you in the cattle-crush and bend over to rummage through their hand-baggage.

This is generally because they forgot to put the toothpaste-of-mass-destruction and the perilous tub of Ulay into a clear and "resealable" plastic bag.

Teachers in particular may find such queues a bit of a busman's holiday since so much of school life consists of patiently reminding dozy people to put things in the right place and observe pointless rules. As for teachers leading school trips, I draw a veil over the misery of trying to censor the hand-baggage of Year 10.

However, when I become Dictator of the Universe, things at airports will get even worse. I shall rule that nobody (over the age of seven) will be allowed to have a boarding card unless they can point at their destination accurately on a large globe or map next to the check-in. If a child of even halfway normal intelligence is going to a Caribbean beach or Spanish villa, then that child must be able to identify the island or the coast concerned.

Its parents - without conferring or copying - must do the same.

If a gang of lads are going to Prague to get stinking drunk on a stag weekend, each of them separately must step into the booth and point at the Czech republic, if not the precise location of the city. And if a lady is being whisked off for a romantic holiday in the Maldives, she must point to the correct island group or be left alone at Terminal 4 with a suitcaseful of string bikinis.

It could be that we will develop a touch-sensitive computer map or globe to speed up the process, but it may extend the delays a bit. Repeated random stabbing at the map will not be permitted, although we may in the initial period allow three strikes before you're out.

As time goes on, and geographical sophistication increases, we can make travellers supply three historical or topographical facts about their destination. For example, "It's in the Alps" or "Emperor Charles V was born here." As a final flourish, before you head for your gate you may have to utter three simple sentences in the main language of your destination.

Just think of the educational advantages, and the rise in respect for teachers of geography, history and languages who would be anxiously sought-after in the last few weeks of term. There might be some good holiday jobs, too, for young teachers paying off student debts, Every airport would soon have a classroom where, for a modest fee, travellers could dash in and say, "I'm heading for Domenica. Is that the same as the Dominican Republic?" or "It was a lastminute.com trip - not sure if it's Spanish or Portuguese they speak... Which is the one where you have to lisp?"

O brave new world. Merry Christmas.

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