We recently went on a family trip. It’s easier now that our children are older. All they need is their screens and some sugar and they are good. We bring our 15-year-old’s wheelchair, that he uses occasionally, to make it easier getting through the airport. Adding to the stress of travel is the anticipatory stress of going through security because of my son’s feeding-tube supplies and medications.
On the first leg of our trip, I made the security people aware that I had medical liquids in my backpack. They took my son’s wheelchair and simply let the bag go through the machine – it was so easy. What a relief! I was not so fortunate on my return flight. I was alone with my two eldest sons on the way home.
Again, they took the wheelchair through. But when I told them I had medical liquids, they pulled me aside and looked at the contents: three cans of formula and a small bottle of liquid medication. I was given a choice. They could open the cans of formula to test them; but then I would not have formula to feed my son. Or they could search through my bags and thoroughly pat me down. Really? I’m just a middle-aged lady trying to get from Point A to Point B.
I had no choice and felt like a cornered animal. They searched through everything in my backpack and purse. Then I had to submit to the pat-down. They called a woman TSA officer over to do the honors. I wanted to cry. I stood there as she explained what she was going to do. She patted down my body and checked the waistline of my pants. Normally one to find the humor in things, I could find nothing funny about this. I had to take off my shoes again to be checked. I quietly cooperated when what I really wanted to do was scream. Other passengers tried to avert their eyes but gave me pitying looks, glancing between me and my child in the wheelchair.
It was such an indignity and a dehumanizing experience.
“What’s dehumanizing?” my disabled son asked as he listened to me complain to my other son when it was over and we were walking to our gate.
“It’s when someone makes you feel like you are not a human being, but like an animal or an object,” I told him.
I realize we have an enormous country with thousands of airports. And ever since September 11th, authorities have tried to do many things to make air travel safer. Some things simply give us the illusion of safety. The TSA workers are just doing their job but they do not make me feel any safer.
Some people may say I should just avoid flying. I tolerate the basic stupidities everyone must go through to get where I want to go. I leave my liquid deodorant and hair gel in my checked luggage, even though I think it’s pointless. I can’t do that with my son’s medical supplies. It’s the senselessness of a one-size-fits-all screening process that sends me over the edge. Are the skies really safer with random, inconsistent screening?
There must be a better way.