Last week I assisted a mom who is deaf to travel to live with family in South Carolina. We checked in at the airport and I immediately visualized the difficulties that lay ahead in the security line. Asking for assistance from several different people, I was told nothing was available. There we were, a double stroller with a 16-month-old and a 3-year-old, a single stroller with a two-month-old, a mom who is deaf and needs someone to interpret what is being said into ASL for her, along with a service dog attached to a short leash.
We made it up to the line successfully. Six totes of possessions were neatly lined up to be sent through the scanner, as were four pairs of shoes, a laptop, an iPad and two children’s tablets. Confidence exuded from me up until the time I was told that the children had to be removed from the strollers and the strollers screened separately.
The problem became that I could not carry the two unrestrained toddlers through the metal detector, both because they were too heavy and unwieldy to manage, but especially because I have metal in my body from my knee replacement and spinal surgery. I had to set the children down and go through the newer screening machine, leaving them free to roam. I started to panic, but did as I was told, rushing through the machine and then around to the other metal detector to get the children. The three-year-old had obediently stood there and waited, but the youngest child had crawled underneath the screening equipment and was trying to push buttons.
An angry agent stepped in to stop her from getting hurt, which was a likely possibility given the situation. It became exceedingly difficult to corral them both and get them through. As soon as we were on the other side, the agent started talking to the mom, who, being deaf, could not understand what he was saying. She looked at me to interpret, but I was holding the two little ones and if I put them down, they would, again, try to flee. Once the stroller came through and they were secured in their seats, my hands were once again able to interpret for the mom who then came through the metal detector with infant and dog in tow. It was obvious many people were angry at our dilemma which had caused a hold up in the screening process. My face became red hot, embarrassed by the negative attention, and tears started to sting at my eyes. All I wanted was a little help!
It took quite a while for our six totes of belongings to come through the security check, but that was mainly because the mom had brought powdered infant formula which had to be screened for combustible material. (I really DO appreciate the fact that they are diligent in keeping us all safe.) Because I would have had to leave the children unattended once again, several agents brought our things over to a table near us, for which I was extremely grateful.
By the end of this fiasco, I was sweating so profusely that beads were falling down my forehead into my eyes, the saltiness stinging and affecting my vision. One of the security staff came over and handed me a business card with a number to call in case I ever need help again. Although grateful for the information, I could not help but wonder why none of the other airport staff whom I had asked and who saw me struggling, did not have that same information.
Going through that security line with a mom who is deaf, a service dog, an infant and two toddlers has continued to cause me nightmares. I think that train travel is in my future.