Tourist's cold feet set alarm bells ringing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 12:00am

There are some things you just wouldn't do. Taking a pair of battery-powered electrically warmed shoes on an aircraft would be one of them.

Alarm bells started ringing when X-ray screeners at San Francisco's main airport spotted wires emerging from the shoes in the carry-on luggage belonging to a passenger on a flight from China.

The Shanghai resident was boarding a connecting flight to New York when the screeners spotted a pair of self-heating shoes.

The airport was evacuated before the shoes were declared safe.

We can't help wondering why bomb squad officers, on discovering the facts, still felt the need to blow them up in a remote area of the airport?

The reason given was to avoid any further confusion.

Bomb-disposal: 'Thank you young lady, your teddy bear does not appear to contain any explosives.

'However, we will just blow it up to make sure no one else makes the same mistake.'

Airports around the world have been on a heightened state of alert after an alleged attempt by Briton Richard Reid to blow up an airliner late last year with explosives packed into his trainers.

Legal experts warn that Reid may use as his defence the fact that he was trying to ignite a pair of Semtex-powered explosively warmed shoes before he was overpowered by crew and passengers.

Of course, the crucial question that news reports have failed to ask regarding the Chinese passenger with the heated shoes is BUT . . . WHA' . . . DUH?

What did he think he was doing? Where was his brain? But more importantly, what are battery-powered electrically warmed shoes and where can we get a pair?

Speculation around the office is that perhaps he is some kind of mad inventor who was travelling to the United States in search of a sponsor for his 'Richard Reids'.

After all, the Japanese don't have a monopoly on inventing useless rubbish.

However, first we must ask why he thought he would be able to climb on a plane with such a suspect item in the first place.

Let us assume our Chinese passenger was travelling with his brain.

Surely the first thing to cross anyone's mind if their hand luggage contained batteries, wires and shoes would be, 'Ah, airport security'.

We will concede that this situation could pose a dilemma for the innocent passenger.

How do you approach airport security and tell them you might pose a security risk?

Passenger: 'Excuse me officer, even though I look like a perfectly innocent traveller I could, in fact, be a security risk.'

This admission will usually be followed by a 48-hour detention in a toilet cubicle and full body cavity search.

The dilemma is two-fold for passengers sporting a beard or a suntan. If you have both, then our advice is to stay at home.

This brings us to the next mystery: where did our passenger get the shoes? From a bearded, suntanned street vendor or was he sitting at home thinking: 'My chilblains are playing up something rotten, I wish I had a pair of . . . now wait a minute.'

Giving it some thought, it wouldn't be too difficult to make such a device.

All you need is two kettle elements, some wire, a 12-volt battery, some electrical tape and a pair of shoes one size too big. Tape elements to soles of feet, attach wires to elements, put on socks, put on oversized shoes, run wires up from heel to 12-volt battery taped to ankle and hey presto, instant security scare.