There are a couple of certainties in my life. If I want to travel, I need to fly. If I fly, I need to go to the airport. If I want to get to my airplane, I must go through a TSA security checkpoint. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
Like most people who travel with an insulin pump, my stress level rises as I approach the TSA checkpoint. My normal strategy is to stick my pump inside my waistband and wear a shirt long enough to hide it from view. If I see that I will be screened with a traditional metal detector, I rejoice because I have a good chance of walking through it without alarms and therefore no pat-down. Occasionally I set off the alarm and I’ve never been able to figure out why sometimes it alarms and usually it doesn’t.
If I see an advanced imaging technology scanner, I know it is a certainty that I will have to declare my pump and receive a pat-down. Some TSA personnel will tell you that you can wear your pump through the scanner, but I choose to follow the directive of my pump company that the pump should not go through the scanner.
I hate pat-downs and feel somewhat violated by them. I have been lucky that every pat-down agent has always treated me politely and I do my best to relax knowing it will be over soon. I live in total fear of having the horrible TSA experience that fellow Type 1 Kelly Kunik experienced in April of this year.
I once flunked the swabbing of my hands and that resulted in a search of my carry-on luggage as well as an extensive pat-down in a private area. Oops, I mean an area behind a partition although I think they also searched my private areas. Rumor has it that hand lotion can cause a false positive, so I try to remember to never use it before traveling. Kelly Kunik thought that soap might have been the culprit in her swab test.
Basically the TSA experience is a crapshoot. It’s a roulette game where you spin the wheel and what you get is what your get. Earlier this year there was an online petition urging for consistency in screening of people with diabetes. I have read that the TSA values inconsistency and I think it is unlikely that we will see much change.
My husband travels frequently and qualifies for TSA PreCheck. This is a program that according to Delta’s website is “an intelligence-driven, risk-based screening initiative through which eligible passengers are selected for expedited screening.” He goes through a special line at Delta checkpoints and walks through without removing his shoes, belt, or liquids and computer from his briefcase. It seems to me that there could be a program where people with medical devices, artificial joints, etc. could pre-register in some program that would help us move through security in an easier and more predictable way.
Every time I am selected for additional screening, I marvel at our security system where senior citizens in wheelchairs or with artificial joints and people with insulin pumps are being pulled aside every time that we travel. At the same time I read of people who have gotten guns and knives through the checkpoints. Not to say that a granny can’t be a terrorist, but in general, someone is wasting resources here.
I’ll be traveling later this week. Time to play roulette with the TSA!