Travel: The Toe Cap Boots

2022, May 15    

This travel story is a trip back in time to one of my many 'interesting' experiences with Turkey, and how wearing the wrong footwear really can put a dent in your day...

During a repeat visit I had previously learnt that my flat-soled shoes were no match for snow and ice (something which amusingly I hadn't expected Turkey to suffer from), and that in order to walk up the remarkably steep streets next to the office of my client I would need to wear something more rugged.

With my footwear collection being that of work shoes, simple trainers, and toe-capped boots, the latter seemed the obvious choice for this task. Being black in colour they also fitted nicely with my suit and so wouldn't stand out when walking around the client site. In theory, a good plan that would tick all the boxes.

You may at this point think there was an issue with the client, perhaps getting on-site, perhaps my choice of footwear being frowned upon, however you would be incorrect. I wore my shoes through Heathrow without issue, and even after making easy work of the streets in question I had no issues going through the metal detector on the client site each day.

Where could the difficulty be you ask...

After finishing my week-long engagement my taxi dropped me at the airport ready for the usual scrutiny of my luggage. For reasons unbeknown at the time the airport had opened additional smaller entrances to get people security-checked before making their way to the innards. No big deal, or so I thought.

After placing my laptop and travel case on the x-ray belt I proceeded through the metal detector only to set it off. Confused, I checked my pockets and my waist, no objects and no belt. I stepped back and tried again when instructed, only to hear the dreaded beep once more. At this point my facial expression became a mix of confused and embarrassment, as I couldn't determine why I was setting the machine off.

As an armed security guard had now taken a keen interest in me I found my face feeling hotter than the sun, only to be waved through the machine again. As expected, one more beep. I attempted to discuss the issue with the few staff that were there, only to find that none of them spoke English (not ideal for my situation).

As the staff grew more concerned and the security guard now had a face of serious distrust (and his hand on his weapon), I finally determined what it was that was setting the alarm off. The boots I was wearing (as you may have realised from the title of this story) had steel toe caps fitted. Foolishly, after realising this (and smiling because I was an idiot), I immediately reached for my shoes and started undoing my laces.

In the next few seconds I was treated to the automatic file that had been resting across the chest of the security guard, now pointed directly at my head. Some shouting subsequently followed in Turkish, along with a call on their radio. Concerned that at this point a fast action might result in my untimely death, I slowly looked at both the security guard and the two members of staff at the x-ray machine, while slowly pointing at the toe of my right boot.

Sadly, this still was met with confusion from them. In what I can only describe as 'trying to look as innocent as possible' I proceeded to slowly undo the lace on my right boot and to subsequently remove it. With the gun still pointed firmly at my head, I slowly pushed the boot through the metal detector for it inevitably to beep. At that point my finger slowly pointed at the boot and then to the x-ray machine, with the slow nod that I prayed would be understood as me asking for them to x-ray it.

Thankfully the security guard placed my boot on the belt for the x-ray machine, and as I watched it go through I also watched the faces on the staff look both confused, annoyed, and relieved (impressive to pull off). I was then waved at to take off my other boot, to stand, and to place it on the belt. As my other boot went through I remember hoping that they actually had decent x-ray machines and could tell it was just a piece of protective metal.

As the security guard lowered his gun I was waved back through the metal detector, thankfully without a beep this time. An angry member of staff handed my boots back to me while another member of staff arrived. A quick exchange took place in Turkish before the new arrival informed me that I should never wear these boots through the airport again. As my heart rate finally came down from the danger zone I proceeded onward to the gate, after drinking one too may to calm my nerves.

The moral of the story, toe capped boots are not your friend at an airport, ever.