Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My own experiences with airport security

I've never had issues getting through airport security. TSA agents were always  kind and concerned with my well being. If anything I wondered if they're being too delicate with me to assure everybody's safety. They always checked my waist and back with the back of their gloved hands. They patted me down thoroughly but always asked for any sensitive areas on my body to avoid. They always talked me through the whole procedure.  I guess if you consider that there are disabilities where this process l may be painful or even run a risk  of injury it makes sense. On the other hand you have to ask- will this be a failproof way to detect chemicals and explosives and guarantee safety everybody on board. If there are places that they will not get to check, how can they be certain of anything. Most of the times they don't even make me take my shoes off after realizing that it's a difficult and time consuming thing for me to do from the wheelchair position. Especially since they know that somebody will have to help me put them back on after my legs become too tense  and too spastic for me to do it myself. While they swipe the exterior of my frame and wheels, shoes and gloves, they never force me out of it. They never take it apart or x-ray it, remove the Velcro cushions or other things that may come of. Doing a really thorough inspection of every person with a disability would probably require a lot of time, manpower and knowledge that they don't have. There would be no way to streamline the process in a reasonable and predictable way. A lot of people would end up missing their connections if you were to conduct every test known to humanity on every person boarding a plane. But, I guess, the same could be said about able bodied people taking a flight. Are we really that much safer if in places without scanners all they end up doing is having passengers go through a metal detector and taking their shoes and belts off. To do it properly I guess you'd need them to strip, maybe reviewed by a doctor? You'd definitely need a medical practitioner to shed a light on the needs of all the different types of disabilities. Sometimes I think that all those security procedures are there more for our own peace of mind, so we feel safer rather than actual, effective safety. Death in a metal can many feet in the air is a very graphic concept. But have we really been going about it the right way? Have air catastrophes really been such a frequent problem? I want us to consider what we sacrificed and if in return what we really got was safety.Is a plane less safe by design than mass transit? We've had incidents with metro systems in Europe quite recently, how can we protect everybody there? What makes air travel stand out I guess is the number of potential causalities at once. Not that it happens that often. My brother always says he'd much rather pay some handsome fees than have to put up with the humiliation of airport security we've come to accept as normal. I'm always very patient with TSA agents. I know they are just doing heir jobs. There's a lot of waiting- as people go through detectors my wheelchair won't fit. So they put me by a little open area cut off by tape or ropes to form a square as I wait for an agent of a proper gender. Shoes  may or may not go off, depending how determined the agent is and a few minutes later, minutes of feeling and swabbing the worker assisting me pushes me further to the gate. Note that it takes longer to get there in a wheelchair, not only because carpets are pretty much everywhere, but because I can't use escalators that take you quickly to the destination . Wheelchair elevator are always in the furthest corners of the airport and getting to the gate feels like taking a long detour. I wrote this piece after reading about a 12 year old girl detained when some of the tests for chemicals came back positive. She was in a wheelchair and about have some type of a procedure. Her story caused outrage. I can see how this is stressful and scary on anyone and more so a child. But I can also understand how within the system we've created everybody was doing their job. And what happens if one day terrorists do use a child or a wheelchair, even for a test run because someone was not thorough enough. Can you imagine the outrage then?

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