How scary can an e-passport machine be, really?

fear

The flight back from Malaga ended in a rather distressing experience at Manchester Airport.

Almost all of my companions on the aeroplane had not grown up with the internet and whilst technology to me, who had my own computer when I was 6, can sometimes be a bit daunting, to many of my fellow passengers such an exciting and innovative technology as an electronic passport scanner was as terrifying as a mysterious disease or venomous spider.

This isn’t a blog post about doom, so I shan’t concern myself with the idea that maybe these people are right to have such fears. Fear of something complex, especially if it uses your personal data, is understandable. Yet, sometimes we do get carried away with it.

Like in the queue for the e-passport machines.

These people had been contentedly sitting in a metal box in the sky for the last couple of hours, and they’d been perfectly fine playing candy crush on their iPads, arguing over the last muffin and dozing gently to the hum of the engines, but once their feet were on the ground and they had to wait in a queue for ten minutes they became much less bearable.

Jokes are made about the English people’s ability to queue, but I’m not so convinced. Whilst these men and women didn’t push or shove, they weren’t very good about making the experience a pleasant one. They just kept complaining.

The more complaints and worries were aired, the more people didn’t listen to the instructions, or read the instructions, or dare to just stick the damn passport in every way until it worked. I pitied the poor man standing at the front of the e-passport machines who had to repeat himself again and again in his loud, bellowing, increasingly desperate voice. At the back of the queue, the tension increased. More mistakes were made, progress slowed and the queue took longer.

Now I’m not going to say that getting through the e-passport machine is always a smooth adventure, it’s not, but it most certainly isn’t the end of the world. I couldn’t help but think that if there was less complaining and more listening then the queue would move much faster. Yet the queue was stalled by the immense fear associated with scanning your passport and looking at a camera.

When we’re emotional, especially when it’s a feeling like fear that we really don’t want to accept we feel, we react in some truly creative ways. I had underestimated the range of possible complaints. It’s alright complaining about the staff cuts and the impersonal nature of the procedure, but it’s unfair to also expect cheap air fares.

Complaining about immigration, then stating that you’d be better off in the immigration line because there are fewer people waiting in it, and then going on a rant about immigrants when you have a house in Spain also seems rather unconsidered. I found filling out the forms to get my Egyptian visa at Cairo airport stressful enough, I wouldn’t envy doing it with children or for a more complex visa.

Complaining that the queue was much slower now that the people had been replaced with machines also seemed naive. Unless of course you’ve been flying through Manchester Airport, from Malaga, and landing at a time where there was only one plane load of people to be processed, like ours, and only if you’d measured the time taken for the whole plane load of people to pass through passport control then could you really make a comparison. More likely, this wait was more acute because it was the only one currently being experienced. And dear man, you were at the back.

By the time the family ahead of me got to the front of the queue, the oldest lady, presumably the mother or mother-in-law of the chief complainer looked at the machine as if when she stepped into it she would be gobbled up.

I’m not saying only this one man was complaining, this was most certainly not the case, no, every conversation I heard was a complaint.

Why do we pick a fear and then exacerbate it?

I do not know, but I do know that fear stops us listening. Whilst I’m unafraid of e-passport machines or silence, I am afraid of many things, like being judged as not good enough, conflict, getting my interpretation of people wrong, and disappointing anybody.

Most of the time though, my problem is in recognising that I’m afraid. Fear often appears in disguise.

We rarely dare say to a family member or friend, is this you speaking, or your fear?

Which means most of the time, when if comes to working out why I’m upset or angry or suddenly having a rant about something I didn’t even know I cared about, I have to remind myself to stop and consider what else I’m worrying about. Fear makes me behave irrationally. It limits my ability to be creative and warm. It makes me rather a pain to be with.

This blog post is one big complaint, and I think it’s because I am terrified of life being swept away in mindless negativity. Quite frankly, these people were old. They were stood in the company of their loved ones and were ignoring each other. I waned to point out that standing in the passport control queue might not be the most wondrous place to be, your legs might ache, you might be thirsty, hungry and tired, but each minute that passes is another minute you’re never getting back.

Soon, you die.