ON YOUR travels through America this year, Valerie Goff of Oxford advises you not to incur the wrath of airport security staff. She was six months pregnant and travelling from Washington Dulles airport to London with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter when she ran into what could have been a very sticky situation.

'I checked in and then proceeded to the security checkpoints pushing my daughter in her pushchair. Once there, the guard indicated that my daughter would have to get out of her pushchair to walk through the metal detector, and that I should fold the pushchair so it could go through the X-ray machine.'

Ms Goff complied. Her daughter then asked her why she had to get out of the pushchair and why the pushchair had to go through the X-ray machine.

'My answer - and I recall this verbatim - was: 'So that man can make sure it (the pushchair) is not a bomb or something'. By now we were through the metal detector. The security guard stepped in front of me and told me I was not to proceed further.

'I asked why and I was told I was a security risk because I had been making jokes about bombs. At first I was puzzled by this, but then I realised that he had overheard my explanation to my daughter and considered it 'a joke about a bomb'. It was, of course, no such thing; it was a reasonable answer to a reasonable question.'

Despite explaining what she had said to the guard, more guards and two police officers were summoned and Ms Goff was told she was 'officially detained' until the matter was investigated by the airport's FBI man. She explained once more what she had said and the police officer reluctantly agreed that it was not a matter for the FBI and that she could leave.

'One of the security guards then said he hoped I'd learnt a lesson. As I pushed my daughter down the concourse I looked back to see the security people laughing.'

There are two observations to be made. First, never mention the word 'bomb' near an airport security checkpoint. Second, why isn't the security this tight on the roads around Miami airport?