In the years since 9-11, air travel has become somewhat of a sick sideshow of mistreatment, mismanagement and a general lack of common sense. The TSA, short for Transportation Safety Administration (should be “this sucks a^^!”) has ensured that it will take far longer to travel in this fashion, as opposed to simply driving. The airlines aren’t helping matters any either, with their lack of uniform standards enforcement from terminal to terminal, and from flight to flight…
Two days before Christmas and on the way home from what might be his last trip anywhere of significance, eight-year-old Nicholas Dainiak, who suffers from Batten Disease, was denied the use of a specialised safety seat by Southwest Airlines. (Batten Disease is a rare genetic disorder that causes chronic loss of gross and fine muscle control, loss of speech and the ability to eat, and seizure disorder.) On the trip from their home in New Hampshire down to Orlando, as with previous flights, the safety seat passed muster. On this particular return trip however, a flight attendant decided to take issue with the fact that the chair was not FAA-approved. Speaking to this point, Nicholas’s father, Chris Dainiak had this to relate to the Nashua Telegraph:
“When you look at the regulations for the FAA, they talk about advising all children to be in a car seat. It’s the right thing to do. Equally, they have specifications for children up to 40 pounds. When it comes to larger handicapped children, there aren’t regulations to help guide what an airline should do.”(1)
Southwest Airlines has since issued a statement and apologised to the Dainiaks;
“We are working directly with the family after sincerely apologizing and issuing a full refund for their less than positive travel experience. We certainly will take away any potential learnings from this experience in our constant evaluation of how to provide the best possible customer service, which is second only to the safety of every passenger. Southwest safely transports every year tens of thousands of Customers with Disabilities with policies adhering to FAA-mandated regulations while also having a heart, for which we are well known.”(2)
(SOAPBOX=ON) *MEGADOUBLEFACEPALM* (I know, I seldom use chat phrases in the weblog, but this one definitely applies!) The one thing you do not do when conciliating, is toot your own horn. “…while also having a heart, for which we are well known”? Geeze, Southwest! Keep your egos in check and just admit you screwed the pooch, because this is part and parcel of today’s problems with air travel; not exercising uniform standards!
In addition to Southwest’s latest foible, there have been several instances of passengers being stuck out on the tarmac for hours at a time, with no food, water or working toilet facilities, such as the tales of tribulation with Jet Blue.(3)
A while back, before commencing my efforts here on WordPress, I wrote a piece in Facebook notes space, entitled “Why I No Longer Fly, aka Screw You, John Pistole.” Now, I present it here as a part of the wider picture of how air travel has become so troublesome:
You know something? I used to love flying. The feeling when the plane leaves the ground, the friendly airline crew on those short-hop Southwest Airlines flights between Sacramento and SeaTac, the view from 35k feet above terra-firma…oh, the sheer wonder of it all! Even the few flights taken in the back of an Air Force C-17 cargo plane were an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my days.
In this post-nine-eleven world however, even going through the airport has become an ever-increasing display of government bullying and intimidation, all thanks to the thugs that comprise the Transportation Safety Administration. Screeners are, even as I type this, finding new and disgusting means of demeaning, de-moralizing and harassing the flying citizenry of our country. At the head of this airport assault on our liberties is one John Pistole, the ever-clueless head of the TSA. John, if you get the opportunity to read this, TAKE HEED!
This seems to no longer resemble my country. In my country, we never had to worry about government-sanctioned ruffians in our airports, complete with badges and uniforms, committing atrocities against the people such as traumatizing young trauma victims,(4) drenching urostomy patients in urine,(5) harassing nursing mothers who assert their rights, this list goes on and on. In my country, we were told “innocent, until proven guilty.” BULLSCHEIST! Here, it’s guilty until someone in some contrived position of power deems you probably innocent. Nowhere is this concept so eviscerated and laid bare for all to experience than at our once-pleasant airports.
My question is this: John Pistole, why are WE, THE PEOPLE being victimized because of 9-11? We didn’t fly those planes into the WTC and the Pentagon! We didn’t devise or plan that unconscionable act against America! It wasn’t our fault, so why are we being made to pay for it? Why are we being treated to this endless circus of embarassments, assaults, gropings and abuse?
Well, I for one refuse to submit to your pat-downs, your full-body scans and your warrantless searches. From now until the day I bleedin’ die, if I have to go anywhere on this continent, it will be under the steam of my own personally-owned vehicle. I love driving even more than I used to love flying. If it takes me 15 hours to get to Seattle, so be it. If it takes me 22 hours to get to El Paso, so be it. If it takes me two full days to go visit my uncle in North Carolina, SO BE IT. I refuse to surrender my dignity or my rights of privacy in the name of some perceived sense of safety. Screw you, John Pistole. I am an American citizen, a former U.S. Army soldier who served his country faithfully for six years. I have no tickets, no accidents, no midemeanors, no felonies. I’ve held a security clearance. Let my record speak for me. Search me? You have no bloody reason.
Mr. John Pistole, you and your band of miscreants have ruined what was a wonderful way to travel. You peer down your nose with disdain at those of us who would stand up for our rights as innocent American citizens, who want nothing more than to travel to conduct business, to visit our loved ones or to enjoy a well-earned vacation, without the worry of being harangued and hassled by your stormtroopers.
Now, I know that there are some people out in the world as far as passengers go, that can also make the experience of flying a pain in the arse as well. You know, smart-Alecs who can’t quite seem to put down that game of “Words With Friends” so that the flight can get underway, then go off and act like a horse’s arse?(6) Still, that doesn’t quite justify the taking off of the shoes, risking Athlete’s Foot, having your “package” felt-up and being treated like you’re Usama bin Laden’s favorite nephew. If we’re taking our shoes off as a result of the actions of Richard Reid, shouldn’t we be stripping down to our chonies because of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab? In my own not-so-humble opinion, most of the TSA ridiculousness is due to the fact that TSA is chasing its own arse with no sense of what a circle is. (I’d better quit while I’m ahead, lest Mr. Pistole have us removing our BVDs within the week!)
In closing, I think maybe turnabout should be fair play once in a blue moon. I was rather pleased to read back in July of this year, about Yukari Mihamae, the 61-year-old woman from Colorado that groped a female TSA agent at Sky Harbor Int’l Airport. While the agent and TSA were not amused, I personally found it to be a bit of poetic justice.(7)
I grope you, you grope me,
we’re as gropey as gropey can be,
with a full-body scan, and a patting down from you,
why can’t I pat you…down…too?