Now, I know that I have been a persistent champion of increasing wine consumption in our industry, but there are limits as to how one should do it.
Frankfurt Airport security staff and police have no doubt seen many things over the years but surely nothing quite like an incident that took place on 8 March.
The airport’s police department reports the extraordinary story of a 67-year-old pensioner from Baden-Württemberg, east of the Upper Rhine, who was bound for Bangkok. As he passed through security, the alert staff noticed that he had two 750ml bottles of wine in his hand luggage – rather more than the 100ml limit for any liquid, aerosol or gel (LAG).
Advised by the security staff that he could not take the bottles onboard, the pensioner considered his plight. His suitcase had long been transported deep into the bowels of Frankfurt Airport, en route to his plane, so repacking was not an option. Handing them over to security staff for disposal seemed a terrible waste, in wine parlance wholly unpalatable. The wines were a gift to his hosts in Bangkok, the pensioner argued, could the staff not make an exception? Rightly, they declined. The bottles had to be handed over, to be poured away along with other confiscated wines and spirits.
Now, these were fine wines not quaffers. But that didn’t stop our hardy (not Hardy’s, he was German not Australian) pensioner. And so, he quaffed them. Both bottles. That’s 1.5 litres. The equivalent of a magnum.
Rather than see them consigned to the Frankfurt drains, the frustrated, wine-loving passenger drained them himself. The man from the Upper Rhine had opted to down a wine. Two in fact. And he did it in pretty impressive time by all accounts (though one gets the impression that if he’d brought some cheese, crackers, ham and olives in his hand luggage, he may have taken time to set out a table cloth and dine in style on the security counter).
The security staff watched, transfixed, this considerable feat of consumption take place in front of their eyes. As he finished the second bottle, the pensioner handed the empty containers over and headed towards his flight. By the time he reached his gate, it was clear to the airline staff that he was not so much an OAP (old-age pensioner) but an IOP (inebriated older person). They duly barred him from boarding the plane.
As his original journey clearly wasn’t going to plan, the pensioner decided to embark on another. An urgent one, in fact, as nature was calling. According to Frankfurt Airport police, the man opened a locked security door via an emergency button in his increasingly desperate search for a washroom. Next stop, it transpired was the tarmac, and while the pensioner was by now probably capable of taking off without an aircraft, airport officials decided they should put a stop to his proceedings. As he was now “uncooperative” (though, surprisingly, not unconscious), staff were forced to call the Federal Police.
The pensioner, now considerably the worse for wear, was duly taken to the airport’s on-site police office where a breathalyzer showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.96 grams per litre (yes, they found some blood), about as far above the German drinking limit as the man’s plane was now above the country.
After a three-hour sobering up in the police office, the pensioner was escorted landside, where he asked for directions to the taxi rank. A taxi to Baden-Wuerttemberg would cost around €150, he was told, why didn’t he take public transport instead? “I have already wasted so much money today, a taxi fare is no longer significant,” he told the officials.
Alas, that’s not the end of his unfortunate spending spree. According to police, the man faces a fine of up to €10,000. And so ends the strange but true tale of a slightly blundering but benign badass from Baden-Württemberg, a temporary Rhein-stoned cowboy, an old-age, wine-loving pensioner who showed at least that he was no old LAG.