Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Humiliation Level: High

Recently my grandmother went on a trip to Mexico. Before she entered the metal detector at the security checkpoint my aunt (who was traveling with her) told airport security that her mother had had knee replacement surgery. After my grandmother went through the detector which of course beeped, airport security pulled her aside and used a wand. And of course, it beeped at the knees. My grandmother pulled up her long skirt to reveal the long scars extending up each leg. Security said she would have to be checked in a separate room. My aunt insisted that there was no need, she had knee surgery. Security told her to step aside and let them do their job. In a private room my grandmother had to take off her skirt while three female security guards used the wand on her, which went off—at her knees. Then they would talk to each other, go outside and consult with someone else, come back in, and do it again. This went on for almost thirty minutes until she was finally let go.

What did they think? A 76 year old abuelita had a doctor insert explosives into her knees so she could blow up her Mexico lindo?

A friend of my mothers has a similar experience. Her father wears braces on his legs. He can’t walk without them. Each time he goes to the airport he has to take off the braces, put them through the machine and then crawl through the metal detector. No one is allowed to help him through. Is it so far fetched to let him sit down while the braces are run through the machine and then use a wand so he doesn’t have to crawl on the airport floor?

I understand the need for metal detectors. I want a safe and weapon-free flight too. But I also want people treated with respect.

When I go the airport all it takes is a smile and no one thinks twice to check my bags. It has been that way my entire life. In middle school when a pager was stolen in the locker room everyone was checked at the door, except me. I was furious. No one seemed to understand why. “But that means they trust you!” Maybe. But it also means that we were not all treated equally. And airport security doesn’t know me. They have no reason to trust me. Yet they do. In fact, they shouldn’t trust me. Both times I returned from South America I brought in items I wasn’t supposed to. Harmless items they may have been, but still not allowed.

The point is the security check points are no longer here for our security. They are now here for our humiliation as the disabled man crawls across the floor and the young white skinny girl walks through with her high heeled shoes on.

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