Why I Never Fly

You have all encountered the recent story of the 95-year-old woman reportedly forced by TSA to remove her adult diaper before boarding an aircraft. The comment thread on that post by Jonathan Turley brought out two kinds of posters: the nut-cases who thought it was great that the TSA applied its criteria to literally everybody, and the human beings who understand the futility, absurdity and cruelty of forcing a near-centenarian to disrobe merely to board an aircraft. The latter commenters usually had stories of their own. Here is one of them, from “Rick L.”; I am posting his entire comment to make sure I do not leave out anything:

This treatment is not new and has been going on for several years. Five years ago we traveled with my 75 year-old mother-in-law, a polio survivor, from Salt Lake to Ontario, CA. Due to her post-polio syndrome condition she wears leg braces and uses a walker and was using one of the airport provided wheelchairs for transport to the boarding gate.

When we got to the TSA line, you would think she was Osama Bin Laden himself. She was asked to get out of the wheelchair (theirs, remember), stand, take off her leg braces and go back through the scanning contraption – alone, and without the walker or anyone assisting her. Mind you, if she takes off her leg braces she cannot stand upright, either with or without any assistance, and she certainly cannot walk. Their solution to achieve airline security was to create a physically impossible situation for the passenger to comply with. Total idiots with no idea of physical limitations of individuals in her situation and the daily trials they endure.

Fortunately, a TSA supervisor with an ounce of common sense was finally summoned to the scene. He closely inspected the removed braces, questioned her for several minutes, and had a TSA agent push her again through the scanner.

The lights still flashed and the alarms rang, but I think they finally became frustrated with the situation (now going on for nearly 20 minutes) and could see that she really didn’t pose any threat. Her leg braces were apparently not of the explosive variety they feared and we were finally allowed to pass.

Maybe the TSA of five years ago was the kinder, gentler, variety, as we did find someone who could think through a situation and not insist on blindly following a set of rules for which there is often no reasonable solution. Except to not board the flight.

Sounds like it is worse today.

As many of you know, I wear a gigantic orthotic boot on my right foot. If I remove the boot, I cannot walk… at all. Senescence is full of unavoidable indignities inflicted by old age itself. I have no intention of paying an airline to inflict an avoidable indignity upon me for no better reason than that I am a cripple. I deal with my condition every day I live on this earth: if they cannot manage to treat me civilly for the few hours we come in contact, well, then, fuck ’em dead, I will not come in contact with them.

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Comments

  • Bryan  On Tuesday June 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    This happened at my local airport and people are really annoyed locally because we are both a tourist area, and an area with a lot of retirees, mostly former military. The airport is actually on Eglin AFB and uses the Eglin runways.

    We have a lot of people with metal in them, as well as on them with so many veterans who have picked up shrapnel or who have internal rods or plates. The body scanner should be able to show what is necessary.

    The particular victim was actually returning to her home to die among her ancestors and be buried in the family plot. She didn’t need this crap, and no one is safer because of it.

    • Steve  On Tuesday June 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      Bryan, my late father carried a tiny piece of shrapnel contributed (if I recall correctly) by a gunner on a German aircraft at Normandy. It was too small and too sensitively placed to be worth having removed, but I have no doubt it would have set off the detectors if Dad had lived to fly today. My uncle Wesley wasn’t so lucky: he had quite a bit of metal in him from his parachute descents behind German lines. No way could he have passed the detectors today. What an insult to them, or to those like them returning from today’s wars, to be treated like terrorists by people not fit to polish their boots.

      And then there’s me. I’ve never been in a war, and apart from dental work, I am not full of metal. But I certainly have a boot. There’s not a lot of metal in it… most of the structural strength is in some very hard, fairly thick, slightly flexible plastic that surrounds my foot and ankle, effectively clamping the foot in a certain position relative to the leg. It works. With it, I can walk… a few halting, clumsy steps at a time, preferably with the aid of a walker or (at a minimum) a quad cane. With it, I function in the world. Without it, I can only hope I’m in the chair I want to be in, because I’m certainly not heading anywhere else.

      Being treated as a potential terrorist is an indignity. Being so treated because one is crippled is an outrage. And so I will not fly until the likelihood of such treatment drops to near zero.

  • MandT  On Tuesday June 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Only in America: busted for a loaded diaper.

    • Steve  On Wednesday June 29, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      Ain’t that the truth, MandT! There are intrinsic limits on my mobility because of my disability… and then there’s this. I am not happy about it.

  • c  On Friday July 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

    About 4 years ago at Dulles airport, I was in line behind an elderly woman in a wheelchair. While not actually paralyzed, she did have a walker attached to the wheelchair, which I presume she used to sready herself when moving to another chair or to a toilet. She also was firced to walk through the metal detector without her wheelchair or the walker and without the aid of her travel companion or anyone else. She managed, but it took her several minutes and she was very dangerously unsteady. I think it was a minor miracle that she managed to get through without falling and breaking a hip. What the h___l where they thinking? (assuming they were thinking at all)

    • Steve  On Friday July 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

      c, I am convinced it is all about the cruelty. Cruelty garners attention. Attention suggests that someone is doing something about a problem, and that the problem itself is real.

      I mean, jeez, one might think, if they’re forcing total cripples to stagger through their gate without their normal assist devices, airline terra-ism must be really, really bad, requiring extreme measures to protect our safety!

      Gawd, I hate the cruel bastards who see their jobs as an opportunity to inflict cruelty… I can only hope they live to an age at which they are as crippled as the people they abuse.

      Meanwhile, I shall not fly.

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