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Grace and Common Sense at Security Check

By DEBORAH KENDRICK · March 21st, 2007 · In My View
Even before 9/11, airport security was sometimes traumatic for me. Since then, it has more than once propelled me to a stage of near meltdown. But today it was almost a pleasure, and I'll tell you why.

No one mauled me. No one tried to hold my hand. No one spoke to me like I was a child or from another country. No one tried to open my briefcase and handle my life-depends-on-it technology. And no one tried to flirt with my dog.

I fly often enough that I know the drill: Don't wear a lot of bracelets or buckles; take off your shoes; put your "liquids" (translate lip gloss and perfume) in a Ziploc bag.

Of course, everyone finds the process stressful these days, but take a look at what is sometimes my experience.

Here I come, visibly different because I have a guide dog at my side. I can't see the signs or the precise location of objects, so I need verbal cues. My hands, feet, ears and brain all work pretty well. Shouldn't be rocket science, but ...

Picture this: A woman tries to snatch my boarding pass and ID from my hand, with a chirpy "There you go!" Or, as I attempt to figure out where exactly the tables with bins for personal belongings are, another woman grabs at my shoulder bag without speaking a word. Or maybe I've located the bins, dumped my worldly goods and am about to walk through the portal when a strange man tries to take my hand and pull me through like some EMT rescuing a victim through a window.

Then maybe I get through, beep-free and blessed to go on my merry way, when two or three workers (thus two or four or even six hands) are feverishly flailing about me to offer my shoes, my coat, my backpack.

The problems with these minuscule instances are, respectively: She could just ask for my pass and ID, and I would hand them over like any law-abiding traveler. She could just tell me where the table is, and I'll take care of my junk. If I can just put my hand on the edge of the portal to orient myself, I can easily walk through. (I don't generally hold hands with strange men, and if I can't walk two feet without veering I need more than a guide dog!) Finally, I'm familiar with my own "stuff," so I can reassemble it much more efficiently if I can just be directed to the table.

If you're exhausted reading the above, believe me, I have known exhaustion. When events unfold in the above manner, going through security can take me several minutes longer than it ever should and leave me feeling exhausted, humiliated, discouraged and bad-tempered.

Of course, it isn't always like that. Sometimes everyone I encounter has common sense.

This morning at the Northern Kentucky-Cincinnati Airport, I was warmly greeted by the man outside checking bags.

"Haven't seen you for a long time," he said, and I felt a twinge of guilt for flying out of Columbus and Dayton so much the past couple of years. Then, Eileen, who worked the counter, offered to walk with me to the gate.

"What do I do?" she asked.

"Just walk and talk," I told her.

A person's voice and minimal instruction make it easy for me to direct my dog. At security, she showed me the table. I piled my purse and briefcase in one bin, shoes and dog harness in the other.

As I told my dog to sit and walk through the portal, calling her to me, the man on the other side asked if I wanted a hand. He also graciously accepted that I didn't.

There was a quick check of my dog (whose collar set off the alarm), someone explained that the table was to my right and a friendly woman asked to see the electronics in my bag.

No one tried to dress me or my dog. No one was flustered or uncomfortable. By fetching my belongings myself, the entire process was made efficient, swift, almost pleasant -- and took less than five minutes.

"You guys are great," I thanked them, thinking how unusual it was to be smiling after this dreaded encounter. "You made this so easy for me just by using common sense."

"You should write a column about it to help people know what to do," said the nice man who had inspected my dog.

And so I have.

contact Deborah Kendrick: letters(at)citybeat.com


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