The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February 3, 2011.
My husband and I flew to Chicago last weekend. It was the first time I’ve been on a plane since full body scanners were installed at the airport and the controversy began over the pat-down of passengers who refused to go through full-body scans. A number of people have complained – and even initiated lawsuits – over the pat-downs they describe as an aggressive and humiliating violation of their rights and their privacy.
For several years now, I’ve had to go through the full pat-down every time I travel by air. Not because of any issues over a full-body scan, but because I’ve had a pacemaker implanted due to heart damage caused by chemotherapy years ago.
Because of the pacemaker, I can no longer go through the metal detectors at the airport security gates. I was a bit intimidated the first time I had to go through the procedure, but it was mainly because I was nervous about the whole thing and didn’t know exactly what to expect. The person doing the pat-down was actually very respectful, informative, and courteous. And gentle.
I was already more comfortable about the procedure by the return trip, especially after the friend I was traveling with said, “If I had known I was going to get such a nice massage at the airport, I might have gotten a pacemaker, too.”
I’ve flown a number of times since then, and have never had a problem or complaint. For the flight to Chicago last weekend, the agent who did the pat-down was as pleasant and professional as I’ve come to expect. She asked if I’d ever had it done before, and if I wanted to go to a private screening area. And even though I was familiar with the procedure, she explained every step as she went along, preparing me for what was coming.
Ever since I started hearing about the outrage against pat-downs following the installation and use of the body-scanning equipment, I had been wondering if people who refused to go through the scanners got a different, more aggressive pat-down than people who had pacemakers, artificial knees or hips, or other situations that kept them from going through the scanners or metal detectors. So I decided to ask about it.
“Is this the same thing you do for people who won’t go through the body scanners?” I asked the agent as she finished my pat-down.
“Exactly the same,” she responded.
That’s when I started to get angry. Not at this woman, or the people who created and implemented the airport security laws, procedures, and equipment. Instead I was getting angry over the people who are complaining, suing, and causing such a commotion about it all.
I don’t enjoy submitting to the pat-down. But I understand the reason for it and the need for it. It would never occur to me to cause any trouble over it, or to take out my feelings on the TSA agents who are doing their job, which is to keep everyone – including me – safe from terrorists and other criminals who target airlines. Those are the people who deserve our anger.
The reason my husband and I were in Chicago, by the way, was for a family visit, and so I could attend a bridal shower my sister-in-law was hosting for my daughter. My daughter and her fiancé flew in from Orlando, and their flight got into Chicago a few minutes after ours, and just a few gates away. So we were able to greet them right at the gate as they disembarked. That’s something we haven’t been able to do since 9/11, when airport security measures were drastically altered after the terrorist attack that started with the hijacking of four commercial jets.
As I watched my daughter and her fiancé get off the plane, I thought back to the days before 9/11, when anyone could wait at the gate for their loved ones to arrive. But I can remember back even further than that, when people didn’t even need to go through metal detectors before boarding or meeting planes. That was before bombs and hijackers necessitated stricter security measures, back in the early ‘70s. And now, more sophisticated ways of endangering planes and their passengers require more sophisticated procedures and equipment to prevent it.
I enjoy and appreciate the speed and convenience of traveling by air, but I also want to feel safe and secure. So I’ll put up with pat-downs and whatever else it takes to keep all of us as safe in the air as possible – including those who would rather fight about it than accept it.
© Betty Liedtke, 2011