Sunday, June 3, 2007

Airport Security

English Midlands, circa 1980

The Rummidge literary conference described in the opening sections of David Lodge's comic novel Small World: An Academic Romance is over, and the professor from Euphoric State is off to another:
A small line of people standing by for seats on the flight to Heathrow looks anxiously at Morris Zapp as he marches up to the British Midland desk and dumps his suitcase on the scales. He checks it through to Milan, and is directed to Gate Five. He goes to the newstand [sic] and buys a copy of The Times. He joins a long line of people shuffling through the security checkpoint. His handbaggage is opened and searched. Practised fingers turn over the jumble of toiletries, medicines, cigars, spare socks, and a copy of Hazlitt and the Amateur Reader by Philip Swallow. The lady making the search opens a cardboard box, and small, hard, cylindrical objects, wrapped in silver foil, roll into the palm of her hand. "Bullets?" her eyes seem to enquire. "Suppositories," Morris Zapp volunteers. Few privacies are vouchsafed to the modern traveller. Strangers rifling through your luggage can tell at a glance the state of your digestive system, what method of contraception you favour, whether you have a denture that requires a fixative, whether you suffer from haemorrhoids, corns, headaches, eye fatigue, fatulence, dry lips, allergic rhinitis and premenstrual tension. Morris Zapp travels with remedies for all these ailments except the last. [p. 102]


  1. Yes, indeed, and I've at least two more excerpts to share, including the funniest passage I've found yet in the six novels of Lodge that I've read so far. Look for "Swallow in Turkey," coming soon.