You don’t need to be told how different airport security is today from what it used to be. Controversies about that subject are constantly in the news. But my jaw dropped when I read about the problems Cheryl Morgan had taking her Hugo home from Aussiecon 4. She really experienced something I only vaguely worried about when I flew home with a Hugo from another Aussiecon 25 years ago.
I transported my Hugo to the plane in a carry-on bag after deciding it would be safer there than in my suitcase. In 1985 security checkers inspected passenger carry-ons with an x-ray machine at the entrance to the boarding lounge. I knew my hunk of solid metal shaped like a mortar round would show up quite spectacularly so I went through the line rehearsing an explanation for the guard about my “literary award.” But I need not have bothered, and my pride suffered a little when he looked up and said, “Oh, you’ve got one of these too.” The guard had already checked in Charlie Brown with his Hugo for Locus and Fred Pohl with a Hugo he’d accepted for Jack Williamson.
Today’s scanners display an even more impressive image of the Hugo. Unfortunately, the guards are not in the least jolly about it.
Cheryl Morgan had a horrible experience a few days ago trying to depart Australia with her Hugo packed in checked luggage:
Firstly the check-in lady did not pass my comments about the Hugo in the bag on to security (the Thai Airways staff admitted to this). Secondly, having found the Hugo (which I must say lights up magnificently on the scans – I saw a print-out), the security people did not check with the airline, they called the police. And the police, having got involved, were determined to treat the whole incident as a potential terrorist threat.
There’s a lot more detail on her blog, all of it adding up to a nightmare.
Cheryl was finally turned loose. She made her flight in spite of everything and wrote afterwards, “Thankfully all my fears came to naught, and the suitcase and Hugo arrived safely at baggage claim in Heathrow.”
It may not always be true that all’s well that ends well, but Cheryl and her Hugo having reached England together it’s a little less problematic that as word of Cheryl’s predicament spread someone allegedly contacted Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos, designer of this year’s Hugo base, asking if he could make a replacement. He told his Facebook friends, “Cheryl Morgan’s Hugo Award may have been blown up at Singapore airport….” I swallowed the hook long enough to e-mail Cheryl and ask if she’d subsequently discovered damage to her Hugo.
Cheryl cleared things up directly. “You’ll note that Nick also mentioned Singapore, while my post mentions Bangkok. You may want to Google the Australian term ‘larrikin.’ Alternatively you may just want to kick Nick’s butt next time you see him.”
Larrikinism, I now know, is the name given to “the Australian folk tradition of irreverence, mockery of authority and disregard for rigid norms of propriety.” One might say larrikin is the mundane Australians’ word for “faanish humor.”
One last note: The Aussiecon 4 committee offered to have the Hugos shipped and almost half the winners accepted, whether to avoid security hassles or just yielding to the convenience.