Airport security is something I endure. I used to work for the systems that support security at Seattle Tacoma Airport, and I know well what problems can go wrong and why the different procedures are in place. Most passengers just enter the time-warp starting when they park or get dropped off and ending when they finally escape with their suitcases.
The craziness that happened on 9/11 put everyone in America on alert. Innocent people were killed because no one in the country was paying attention. But I have to admit, some of the people working security are just jerks. When a family shows up with two people in their 80s, sure, they have to go through security, but some common sense should be shown. Where are the security managers when handicapped people are treated like my parents?
My in-laws are the sweetest people imaginable. You can tell they are nice; they were married 69 years when my father-in-law passed away this year. Before he died, his youngest grandchild got married last September. So I imagine this last wedding was one of the last happy occasions he experienced. Anyway, he called us and said, could we travel with you?
My husband and I, of course, agreed. How could we say no? Our major contribution to the trip was driving them around Cleveland, Ohio, then taking them to the airport. The airlines and airport porters were very happy to help us with two wheelchair-bound seniors.
With two airline porters pushing two people in wheelchairs, “yelling make way, make way”, and the two of us pulling their carry-on bags following, we were like a line of semi’s on the highway, charging through and causing everyone to turn their heads or scramble out of the way. We were invincible.
There’s even a special line at the airport in Cleveland for people in wheelchairs to go through security and if you have special permission, you can accompany elderly without a boarding pass beyond security. We were beginning to feel unneeded by then so of course everything started to go wrong.
First of all, they separate me and my husband from our parents in order to explain all the permission thingy for accompanying our parents to the airplane and showing ids and going through the metal detectors and taking off our shoes and dumping our coins and the whole caboodle. Then both parents are separated from each other to go through separate security lines with the airline porters.
When we get through security, we wait and witness how they are treated. My father-in-law is able to walk through the metal detector unassisted, but takes five minutes to unload his pockets. He’s beeped and has to return and remove his belt. And again to remove his watch. He is easily reseated after he slowly puts everything back on. We check that he has everything and find he’s lost his boarding pass. At this point, my husband tries to go back and find the boarding pass, and the security people won’t let him and won’t help him, it’s not their duty. He manages to find it under someones bag on the scanner conveyor belt.
My mother in law requires a walker because she’s entire unstable on her feet. She explains this. So several people have to help her stand. So she’s standing there wobbling back and forth when they tell her she has to raise her arms over head. She can only raise her arms halfway up due to arthritis. The lady security guard tries to enforce policies that aren’t going to happen, telling her you have to put your arms up with my mother-in-law arguing she can’t and ready to fall and nothing to help her stand. This goes on for about five minutes while we worry whether we’re going to reach the airplane before take off after all.
My mother-in-law is finally released from her body search. We find her bag. She is shaking, and needs her tissue to blow her nose and can’t find it. I retrieve it from where it fell and fit mom’s feet back on the wheelchair foot rests and check she doesn’t require the rest room.
Meanwhile my father-in-law has put everything back but discovers his telephone is gone from his telephone holder. So we start asking security people “where is his telephone?” No one knows. No one will look. My husband eventually yells loudly enough at several security guards and they finally look, but it is gone.
Terrorists are real. Crazies are real. People can get access to dynamite. People take weapons of all sorts to the airport–guns, knives, mace. The airport has to take away all of it, check to see if they are wanted by the police, disarm bombs or potential bombs and still keep customers happy.
One of the reasons I took up writing fiction was to speak for those whose lives are uncomfortable or who aren’t given a voice. I write science fiction because I like to highlight the many ways science is working to improve people’s lives, while showing places where science and technology could aid people.
When I spend time with my in-laws, I think, what aids could science provide to make them more stable. What would happen if they never suffered from arthritis or memory loss. And I wonder how it would feel to live a long time without everyone waiting upon you-how would society differ without families, without money, without care, or if we decided on equal rights no matter the circumstance or if we decide to watch expenses rather than care about people.
When I go through security with my in-laws I think, why isn’t someone with a little judgment watching what is going on with the clerks that have minimal training? Half of the facility at Cleveland was reserved for my in-laws to get through security while everyone else was crammed through the push and shove lines. If someone had thought about the needs of the handicapped, it wouldn’t just be the vacant area that is used to help them. If someone had thought about the needs of the handicapped, they would have found a way to pat my mother-in-law down without risking a bone shattering fall that would likely have killed her in 6 months. Why separate the trusted caretakers when they could have facilitated removal of items likely to set off the alarms and made sure they had them when they were finished?
I appreciate the work the security people do, but they were hired by the people of this country and should be service oriented as well as security oriented. Any signs of power games should be stopped by management.