Hostile Skies with the Little Guys: Navigating Airline Security with Children
Maybe it was the site of my infant child being semi-aggressively patted down by a dingus TSA employee, while I sat helpless watching my last tube of toothpaste being rubber-glove fingered by another dingus TSA employee, that made me surrender any confidence I may have previously had about airport security. Or maybe it was the salt-in-the-wound comment that followed when the previously mentioned Atlanta TSA employee took a scrutinizing look at my New York State license and said, “I don’t like New Yorkers.” I can’t say I lost it, but I did admittedly become a lot less compliant after that moment.
While admittedly my distasteful experience is hardly the norm, and I will be extremely generous in stating that probably 97 percent of airport security checks are performed without incident and with due respect, I will say clearing security has become a much more difficult hurdle to jump since 2001, especially if you have children and are in the least bit suspicious (or both). Now in the wake of the attempted Christmas bombing of a Detroit-bound flight, things have become altogether more difficult, as well as confusing, for anyone and everyone trying to get from point A to point B via air travel.
As of Monday, new security measures have been put into place in airports (and airplanes) worldwide. It used to be that once you cleared security you could more or less relax and fall into the role of innocent passenger. Now strict measures and “enhanced screening” for those coming from “countries of interest” are in effect setting strict rules on everything from in-flight comforts (pillows, blankets, etc) to when, and if, you go to the bathroom. These new rules/restrictions are being unevenly enforced (at best) and the general “do’s” and “don’ts” for air travel remain a vexing mystery for most travelers. As if it weren’t bad enough traveling in these semi-hostile skies as an adult, try doing it as a parent with one or several children and you are in for a troublesome and obnoxious experience (“Sorry honey, you can’t pee or sleep until we land at JFK, and that please put away that Play-Doh or else someone might mistake it for a candy-colored plastic explosive”).
Unlike the safety measures post 9/11, this new batch of largely reactionary rules and regulations has been met with bewilderment at best, and total disdain otherwise. While people are understandably freaked by the idea of an explosion originating from the underwear of an alleged terrorist taking down a plane over Detroit, many of us are left wondering how these proposed changes are making us any safer, when all we feel is far less comfortable.
I am sure many of you had traveled over the past few weeks and have stories of your own about this new fortified security. Considering all of the changes in security, do you feel any safer? Is it worth the huge inconvenience? If planning on traveling in the near future, how are you going to manage, especially if you are traveling with young children? How about pregnant women? Flying for hours and being denied a pillow and bathroom access couldn’t be a popular proposition? Should we start thinking about trains and other alternative modes of transport until things cool down?