The Not So Friendly Skies….

First – let me say that this is not intended to spark political debate.  Especially with the anniversary of 9/11 upon us, I am not intending to revisit whether the policies for security prior to boarding an airplane are an infringement on our personal freedoms, or whether the TSA is big brother run amok.  If anything, my personal thoughts on the subject have always been that these new realities are a necessary evil, and this anniversary only reminds me again of all the reasons why I should just take a deep breathe and get in line.

However.

When your thirteen year old daughter has two titanium hips, this world of security precautions is a whole different ball game.  It’s not just waiting in the lines and then taking off your shoes and walking through the little arch way.  It means setting off the alarm and getting a whole lot of special attention.  Special attention as in a female TSA agent calling your daughter to the side, putting on a clean pair of rubber gloves, and then doing a thorough pat down.  And by thorough – I mean very thorough.  I mean all of the parts of her body that I’ve been teaching my daughter for years that she should not allow strangers to touch.  All the while, people are looking and wondering what this cute little girl could have done – or why she was chosen for such a through exam… and mom is standing by trying not to flinch as the agent is explaining “Now, I’m going to run my hand up the inside of your thigh.  I’m going to use the back of my hand.  Now I’ll do the other leg and then around to your buttocks.”  I’m grateful my husband wasn’t with us, because I don’t think he could have watched quietly… I think his instinctual response might have been stronger than any rational understanding of why this was required.  And Caitlin?  Well, you can imagine how much this thrills a thirteen year old.  She just loves when strangers stare at her… and boy, having somebody inspect her whole body in public?  What could be better? Not.

After Caitlin’s first hip replacement – we flew once or twice that year.  And it was hit or miss as to whether she would set off the alarm.  Sometimes, she walked straight through with no problem.  But now with both hips, and with many airports installing ever more sensitive equipment, I think it’s fairly certain that airport “special attention” is her reality for the rest of her life.  After our last flight, she begged me to contact her surgeon and get one of those cards.  You know – those cards that you can supposedly get from your doctor to prove that you have had implant surgery?

Well, I checked with the TSA and found some information on this very subject.  Sure – you can present such a card.  But it won’t make a bit of difference.. and they explain with some compelling examples why they will still search you.  However, they do offer some tips on how to work with the TSA agents to make the process less public and more comfortable for you.

My daughter didn’t really need those tips – because she pretty much figured out on her own that she could by-pass the whole alarm and public pat down by identifying herself as having hip implants and then asking to go through the total body scanner.  Now, once again – I have to say that I’m not really about arguing whether these are an intrusion on privacy.  I’ve done enough research to feel that the machine do not pose a marked health risk.  All I know is that without any prompting, my 13 year old marched right up to the TSA agent, spoke to her quietly, was passed through the scanner, and was waiting for me five minutes later when I finally made it through the line.  No gloved ladies feeling her up and down in public.  This was so much easier.  Now, we even know the list of airports that use this technology – and might just use that in directing our future travel. 

For her – there is no argument, no political debate.  She didn’t get a choice about having arthritis – or having metal hips. And in her world of maneuvering everyday life with arthritis – this is sort of small potatoes compared to some of the other things she endures. But for this choice, this one opportunity to decide how things will go down, it’s not a tough one.  Body scanner all the way.   The thirteen year old has spoken!

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