Monday, July 7, 2014
EDITOR'S NOTE: As I was writing this blog, I started talking a lot more about the reasons I was traveling rather than the specific issue I had with the TSA in Orlando International Airport (MCO). I'll cover that in another blog later in the week.
Pictured above is my service dog, Quest. I've traveled with him before, and as I left Indianapolis, the TSA agents and the airline staff were very accommodating. I also have an implanted cardiac pacemaker so I can't go through the metal detectors. Even though doctors assure me I can go through the X-ray machine things, I choose not to as a form of solidarity with Quest. Since no matter what, he has to get patted down. So I figure I should too. I had absolutely no problems with the TSA when I traveled with Quest six years ago, or leaving Indianapolis.
I think it is important to point out that I was leaving Orlando on a Saturday, probably a peak time for the airport. And the airport is busy. They had all the passengers who were in wheelchairs, had strollers, or some type of disability in one line and everyone else in a separate line. It was a long line but we were steadily moving. In addition to handling Quest, I was also carrying a CPAP machine with me (these need to be taken out of their case when being scanned by TSA) as well as my carry on backpack. I thought I'd put the things in my pockets into my backpack to make the process easier, including my wallet. My wallet had over $100 in cash.
As I approached the area where you're supposed to unload your carry ons into the scanner, I was told by a TSA agent "You need to wait in the center." I responded with "I was just about to..." and he said "I don't care what you were going to do. Step to the side" and then he vanished into the crowd. I was going to tell him I was opting out.
So here I stand in the center, figuring maybe I've been randomly picked for enhanced screening or whatever. So I'm just standing there, with my luggage and my dog, for 10 minutes. At least a dozen people who were certainly behind me have now gone through and are on their way. Apparently, it is a normal thing at Orlando International for travelers to just stand in the middle of a busy TSA check point because no one seemed to notice I was there.
After that time passed, someone tried to wave me through and direct me through the metal detector. I kindly told him I can't and can you please come to me so I can speak to you without shouting. After informing him that I was dragged to the side and ordered to stay here by a TSA agent before telling anyone I have a cardiac pacemaker and wanted to opt out, he acknowledged that and then left.
Shortly after, a separate TSA agent came over to collect my things, saying he'll put them through the scanner for me.
Those of you who know me personally know I never let anyone touch my CPAP machine. I am the only one who touched it. If someone drops it and breaks it, it'll be me and my fault because it is my responsibility. As it looks like he's about to put it through without taking it out of the case, I shout to him it needs to be taken out.
After five more minutes of waiting and telling a separate TSA agent that I have a pacemaker and asking specifically if I need to remove my shoes and being told no, he then changed his mind and said yes. So I took off my shoes.
I was then led through a very small gate between the metal detector and the X-Ray body scan machine. As I got around, I could see that my luggage was causing a pile up because it had been sitting at the end of the line for several minutes. I was hoping nobody had snatched my wallet while it had been sitting there.
I was then informed that my shoes had been lost. Several TSA agents looked at me as if it was my fault that my shoes were lost and not theirs for letting my luggage, including my life support CPAP machine, be unattended for several minutes.
The crack TSA team, or the TSA team thats on crack, I always get those confused....anyway, they finally found my shoes with someone who clearly has much larger feet than mine trying to fit his feet into my shoes.
So in the span of 20 minutes, I was made to needlessly wait while several dozen people who were behind me were let through with ease. In that span, my luggage, including my money and credit cards and my boarding pass, could easily have been stolen. I was never told why I was singled out and told to wait in the center for several minutes. No one seemed to have an idea why. I really didn't receive an apology nor did anyone really go out of their way to help me. The attitudes of almost all the TSA agents at Orlando International were, at best, apathetic.
My flying experience went really well, but this experience soured me on air travel. I wish I could say I got names or badge numbers or whatever, but how are you supposed to do that when you have a flight to catch?