Crabby Old Lady returned home Tuesday afternoon from an overnight trip to Washington, D.C. believing that air travel can now be categorized as passenger abuse.
The so-called security measures are arbitrarily applied, inadequate for catching terrorists anyway and neither airports in general nor the security checks take the needs of elders (or parents with small children) into account. Stupidities abound.
There was a time when Crabby was capable of traversing mile-long airport corridors hauling enough luggage to carry her through three extremes of climate during a two-week trip along with a hundred pounds of video cassettes and all in high-heeled shoes. Crabby is no longer that spry young thing and she never noticed during her heavy travel days the number of stairs there are with no escalator or elevator in the obvious vicinity.
It appears that people of any age in wheelchairs are well accommodated at airports, but those who are slow or who have difficulty on ramps and inclines while pulling their bags along are left, but for the kindnesses of strangers, to struggle on their own.
As hard as the stairs, ramps and distances are for elders (and Crabby can’t imagine doing it all while wrangling a kid or two and an infant together with their accoutrements), it is the least of her current complaints.
The security system is a disaster. First, they have no imagination. One guy - one guy - boarded an airplane several years ago with a shoe bomb, so now shoes are the only consistent check, although it is applied idiotically. At Reagan airport, a security officer required a woman to remove her toddler’s shoes, for God’s sake. An old man was having a helluva time bending over to untie his shoes. [NOTE TO ELDERS: wear slip-on shoes when traveling on airplanes.]
In Portland, a security guard told Crabby she had to throw out the contact lens drops in her coat pocket. When Crabby complained that she needs them for dry eye during the flight, he relented but insisted they must be stowed in the little plastic bag, and placed in her travel baggage, but only – get this! – until she cleared security. Then the bottle could go back into her coat pocket.
Huh? When the man wasn’t looking, Crabby stuck it back in her coat pocket anyway while she was still in the security area and guess what? The plane didn’t blow up.
Don’t get Crabby started on the liquids-in-a-baggie requirement. She had duly packed them as required only to find that her baggie was larger than regulation size. Passengers, Crabby was informed as the security person handed her one, may use only the smallest baggie available, so she had to ditch her specially purchased tiny toothpaste, mouthwash and plastic bottle to which she had transferred some of her moisturizer, to fit the rest into the dollhouse-size baggie.
Crabby is now wondering if the Transportation Safety Administration, which devises these regulations is in cahoots to improve the revenue of miniature toiletries manufacturers. Crabby had to re-purchase everything at her Washington hotel at astronomical prices compared to her local drug store chain.
It’s not the money that bothers Crabby; it’s the stupidity of it. Did Crabby feel any safer for all this? Not a whit. She was singled out to have her bag searched and it was done in such a superficial manner that she could have had a pound or two of explosives and the security officers wouldn’t have noticed.
And finally, since boarding passes for return flights are no longer issued at the originating airport, Crabby had an annoying incident on her trip home.
At the airline counter, an attendant who, in the entire transaction never uttered a word, pointed Crabby to the ticket kiosk. She explained that her ticket had been purchased by a third party and therefore her credit card would not work; he would need to issue the boarding pass. He pointed at the kiosk. Crabby explained again. The man pointed at the kiosk again. Crabby resisted, he insisted.
This continued, as passengers behind Crabby muttered in restlessness, for about ten minutes. At last, the man took Crabby’s drivers license, punched his keyboard a couple of times and handed Crabby her boarding pass. Why couldn’t he have done this in the beginning?
It’s not that any one of these difficulties is important. It is that in the aggregate, in the space of one trip (and it’s always this way), the irritation and tension they cause travelers is exhausting and unnecessary.
One airline wants to see your picture ID not only in security, but when boarding the plane too. The next one doesn’t. At the Washington airport, Crabby’s water was confiscated; it hadn’t been in Portland. These rules all come out of the same federal agency; why aren’t they standardized? Inquiring Crabby minds want to know.