A women in uniform outed me at the entrance to the Olympic Park yesterday. I am a Body Shop shopper. I’m proud of it. Mostly. Well, not when a bizarrely attractive girl in army fatigues asks me to open my bag because the X-Ray has shown there is “liquid” in my bag.
The liquid was Arber Hair and Body Wash, one of the company’s biggest sellers for the reconstructed male. It was on special at £6 (around R349.99, if my bosses are checking my expenses). I needed it so I could use it in the showers at the gym so kindly provided by the London Games organisers just outside the Main Press Centre. The gym is awfully close to the Thames Bar, and one should always earn one’s post-work beer. But back to the body wash, and the strange shame I felt as private whats-her-name made me lift the little brown Body Shop bag out of my backpack and waved it around for all to see. “You see, sir,” she said lifting the offending liquid up in the air, “this is 200ml, you’re only allowed 100ml.”
I didn’t realise I this was an airport, I almost but did not say because while she was not armed, she had two big arms. Then she delved deeper into the paper bag (one day someone will invent a manly bag for hygiene products, one that shouts “not afraid to be clean, and macho about it” and not, “did you go shopping for your missus, mate”) and her face changed as she felt the body sponge I had bought to go with it.
She pulled that out, waved it around and said, in a voice that would have turned Prince Harry’s hair blond: “Oh, you can take this in, sir! This is okay!”
Yes, private, but what fun can I have in private washing my privates with just warm water and no Arber smelly stuff to make me feel like a real man should.
Her colleague took pity on me and ended the public humiliation, putting both in the paper bag and saying he would keep them to one side for me until I left the Olympic Park. “But we’re going to stop this from tomorrow,” he said. “We have to get strict on this. You know you can’t bring this much in.”
I didn’t actually, but I suppose I should have. There’s a list of banned items on one of the somewhere … ah, here it is … yup, the first one is “Liquids, aerosols and gels in quantities greater than 100ml.” Then there’s “CS or pepper sprays”. So far, so good.
“Firearms and ammunition (including replicas, component parts or any device suspected to be a firearm).” Even better. “Alcohol.” Ah. Damn. “Tents, placards, spray paint or any other item which could be used to the venue or sabotage property.” I have a pen.
“Walkie-talkies, phone jammers and radio scanners.” Gosh.
“Personal/private wireless access points and 3G hubs (smart devices such as Android phones, iPhone and tablets are permitted inside venues, but must not be used as wireless access points to connect multiple devices).” Oops. Better hide that.
“Items too large to be electronically screened.” My ego? “Pets or animals (excluding service animals).” Stuart Hess doesn’t have accreditation and chafes on a leash.
Security at the 2012 Olympics has been good-humoured, for the most part. Polite, easy and quick. The army personnel drafted in at the last minute to fill in for the mess left by G4S, the security company, are impressive in their discipline and enjoyable by their nature. It makes something of a mockery of the statement to Monocle magazine by Mark Hamilton, the MD of G4S’ Olympic operation, when he said: “The 2012 is a relatively small part of our global work.” Apparently it was too big for you to do properly, Hamilton, but I’m pretty glad you did. Your employees aren’t half as good as the army are at making security seem like a duty and not a chore.
I walked away from the security check point and smiled. I already missed my gel, but they hadn’t managed to pick up the Body Shop deodorant and face cream inside. Christ knows how much of a fuss private whats-her-name would have made then.