This year I have had the pleasure of flying to Chicago, Washington DC, Vegas, and, in a few weeks, Honolulu, which has lead to a barrage of frequently asked questions, “How do you fly? Do you take your scooter? Do you remain in it on the plane?”
Here’s my lengthy response:
Going through airport security is the hairiest part of the trip, which I’m sure it is for hundreds of thousands fellow passengers, too. Being in an electric scooter, I get to bypass the standard metal detectors – to avoid setting off all kinds of alarms.
Going through a wider opening, I’m told to where to stop and wait for a female security personnel to come over. Knowing what is coming next, I swallow my sense of personal space and dignity, hold out my arms and smile. The woman in rubber gloves proceeds to thorough feel me up: along my arms, down my neck, back and sides, down my legs and inner thighs, under my butt and around my boobs. And that was before the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new procedures…I can hardly wait to experience the enhanced TSA pat-down and feel up! What more is there to be patted down?
The thing that really disturbs me is, while having my personal space invaded and my scooter being swabbed, that all of my belongings are sitting unattended on the the scanner conveyor belt – available for anyone to grab and walk off with – my money, my travel information, my iPad, everything.
At the O’Hare airport in Chicago, I undergo the pat-down in a glass-walled room. One time the woman even took off the small, traveler’s pouch I had around my neck. In that moment, I had no ID, no money, no personal information, no communication device. I felt completely vulnerable.
Having survived security and with the worst over, I now breathe a sigh of relief and head for the boarding gate…
Typically, I can drive my scooter right to the plane’s door before sending up a little prayer, Please return my “legs” in usable condition. Airline ground crew then takes my scooter and stores in the bowels of the plane with the rest of the baggage.
Meanwhile I’m triple-strapped onto an aisle chair – a skinny chair on wheels, very much like a furniture dolly. All tied down and unable to move, I feel like Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.
With my arms crossed in from me, an airline staff member tilts back the chair and wheels me on board. Going down the aisle, if thighs are overhanging, it’s an instant weight loss program!
Having made it this far on my journey, I can now sit back and relax. An adult beverage would be most welcomed; however, my scooter is now stored below and I will not have free access to a washroom until we land, my scooter is brought up and I’m deplaned, last. Longer flights with a middle-aged bladder are definitely water torture!
On the flight home from DC this summer, desperation was near. I got the flight attendant’s attention and said I needed to go to the bathroom. Much to my relief, that plane had onboard wheelchair – very much like the aisle chair, but collapsible to stow in a small compartment.
Of course, using the thing provided entertainment for the other passengers, but I didn’t it care. The flight attendant wheeled me to the tiny bathroom. I stood up, he moved the chair out and closed the door. I had no fear of falling because there was no room to fall!
Despite the indignities endured, I am glad I am able travel independently.
Let’s see whether I’m as cheery after I experience the new TSA groping, err, pat-down procedures for the first time in a few weeks…If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.