I’m not saying they’re wrong

Just last weekend I spent some time in two different airports, one large and one very small, but ended up with two very similar experiences.

airplane testing

That time I checked in the airport terminal and no one noticed.

My personal choice is to opt out of the body scanners. I am not going to question anyone else’s decision or security techniques, but with the devices I wear, it is the decision that makes me feel the most confident.

The routine was the same at both airports. I unpack my laptop and put it in a bin. I take off my shoes (and belt) and put them in a separate bin with my baggie of liquids. I make sure my bags and bins are headed into the x-ray machine before I turn to the TSA representative and tell him or her that I am opting out of the body scanner.

On my flight out, at a very busy airport, the official asked me if I had a reason to opt out.

“Yes. I do.”

“Can I ask what it is?”

(You can, but you shouldn’t. It really isn’t any of your business.)

“Yes. I have medical devices that cannot go through the body scanner.”

“The body scanner is safe.”

“Actually it voids the warranties on my devices and I don’t have $8000, so I am going to opt out.”

“Female assist!”

It turns out that agent was the same one that ultimately did my pat down. I heard another agent mention to her that they were short-staffed that afternoon.

As I was putting my shoes and belt back on, a woman who had been behind me in the security line asked me if I had actually had a reason for opting out. Still excited about my trip and deciding not to be annoyed, I briefly answered her personal question as well.

 

On the way to the airport at the end of the weekend, I ended up talking to my friends about accommodations at public places and not being too embarrassed/ashamed/shy to ask for the services we deserve. As a somewhat stubborn adult, it is pretty easy for me to stand up for myself but I wonder how hard it is for children and young adults with diabetes. It’s also just frustrating to me that I have to over and over again.

airplane testing 2

That other time I checked in my airplane seat and no one asked me anything.

At the airport, I found myself in almost the exact same conversation as I had just a few days before. I asserted my rights again. I defended my position again. I got a pat down instead of the body scanner again.

It was probably no more than a 10 minute inconvenience each time. But it’s not really about the amount of time it takes.

I’m not saying they’re wrong. There are a lot of unknowns in the security technology. There are a lot of unknowns in diabetes device technology. That’s why I prefer to play it safe.

I just wish I wasn’t forced to disclose my medical condition in a crowded security line in front of a bunch of strangers to effectively assert my rights.

8 Comments

  • Cara says:

    I opt out as well. I’ve always kind of wondered if when they asked me “Do you have a reason?” and I said “No.” what would happen. I mean, obviously, I’d have to tell them when they did the pat down. But I wonder how hard of a time I’d get if I told them that I was just opting out because I WANTED to opt out.

  • Lisa says:

    I rarely do air travel so I haven’t flown anywhere since I got my defibrillator, but I dread the day that I need to.

  • Racheal says:

    You are so right. I have never thought of it that way. When I went through with Elyssa I was announcing to every TSA agent that was patting Elyssa down or swabbing everything that she had on that she was Type 1 and that’s why she has a pump. When she gets older she’s probably not going to want me telling everyone like that.

  • Jeff says:

    I’ve started asking TSA agents why it isn’t possible to get an “I’m not a terrorist; I just have a medical device” card as they perform my extra (not very thorough) pat-down and explosive residue test. Usually they’re sympathetic–sometimes even apologetic–although occasionally an agent will counter with something like, “How do we know you’re not a terrorist?” I usually just give them a dirty look and ask them how they know all of the people going through the super-fast TSA pre-screen line aren’t terrorists.

    I think you’re doing the right thing to opt-out, and it’s something I would totally do, too, if it weren’t for that one time I did it and it was way, way too uncomfortable. And we shouldn’t have to tell anyone why we’re opting out.

  • Wendy says:

    Thank you for setting such an awesome example of empowerment for my little T1!!! I loved hanging out with you and hope we can do it again 🙂

  • Warranty voider says:

    I continue to wear my pump through the AIT machine. If I wear it on the front part of my belt (around 1:00pm), the machine rarely picks it up. Usually it just results in an ETD test.

    I had been doing this for a year or two before I realized it would void the warranty or was strongly discouraged by Medtronic. I don’t see a reason to stop now.

  • […] Nicastro has been spending a lot of time in airports recently, and over at Moments of Wonderful she takes some issue with how the TSA treats people who prefer to opt out of body scanners. What do you […]

  • Jeff says:

    Just to follow up… I had to get a replacement Medtronic pump after going through airport security. A new pump started giving “motor error” alarms after going through the full-body scanners. Same as another one had done after a previous trip.

    So, I’m not sending the device through a scanner again.

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