fly me. or not.

I am trying to find a way to Seattle and back that involves as little money as possible. For reasons about which I can only begin to speculate air travel is less expensive than both rail and bus but no matter which I were to choose I cannot really afford either one. So this may all be moot in my particular case but it still seems pertinent to say:

Looking at the anecdotes posted at tsastatus.net for SEA and SFO sent me diving for a Klonopin. These stories are not particularly graphic and do not consist of the most horrible cases of TSA personal encroachment that have been passed around, but imagining myself in the place of the people describing their experiences as they went through the security line was enough to send a cascade of cortisol through my body. And so I do what is necessary to counteract it.

I only fly sedated to begin with. See flying, fear of. I developed this fear slowly with my growing sense of mortality but for some reason I will still drive when given the opportunity. I know it is not rational considering how unlikely it is to be in a plane crash at all, but car accidents happen quickly most of the time. I mean, I do still think that the trailer of that truck came at my head in slow motion when the driver cut me off by taking a wide right in front of me, but even so the whole thing lasted a few seconds at most and the slow motion thing was me thinking that I needed to get my head down if the car did not stop sliding under. Fortunately we came to rest nestled against the rear tires of the truck, but to this day I believe I had time to duck.

The point there is that you only have time to go into survival mode in a car crash, where everything falls away and it is just you and death hanging out and waiting to see if the date is on or off. Plane crashes can last a long time and you can fall tens of thousands of feet still conscious. I do not like that idea and so I take plenty of panic-stopping agents before ever getting to the airport.

Still I am not sure I could make it through a TSA screening that involved either what my friend Tim calls the naked scanners or what he also calls the grope–that would be the “enhanced” patdown. I have heard it said that we should not give in to our fears and go on with our lives as normal but it is not that simple for everyone, for one, and for two, it is our country that has succumbed to fear in allowing ourselves to be intruded upon in this way in order to travel in the manner to which we have grown accustomed. The practices of the TSA are discriminatory towards a variety of people with a variety body types and practically prohibitive towards others who are neurologically atypical.

Maybe it is just as well. My carbon footprint does not need to get any bigger. But it is not fear that stops me from dealing with whatever the TSA might have in store for me or it is not as simple as me failing to decide not to be afraid. Would you send an autistic transsexual man with PTSD from sexual assault and abuse through a naked scanner or a grope? Would you expect him simply to be able to swallow his misgivings and go through it like a good sheep?

The thing is that I do not have conscious control over when my body decides to go into flashback mode or the amount of emotional pain that will cause. I have little control over how long flashbacks last and some control over how I react once I am reliving whatever it is I might be reliving. I have the most control over staying out of situations that stimulate flashbacks. PTSD is a physiological phenomenon, which, because we Westerners think about things ass-backwards sometimes, will possibly help some to understand why the effects of PTSD elude conscious control. Fact is “free will” is also a physiological phenomenon but I am not going to stop to explain my philosophy regarding the compelling nature of that which is supposed to be artificial, cultural, mental, emotional, or whatever word you want to choose to try to shame someone over something that we never have had control over and never will.

Reading over the brief accounts of experiences with the TSA , it occurs to me that I cannot predict how I would react if someone put their hand inside the waistband of my pants. Imagining such a thing feels alarmingly similar to how it would feel to be about to have my pants pulled off of me. It has been over thirty-five years but that has been thirty-five years of repeatedly vowing that nobody will ever do that again. Given that PTSD reactions are physiologically similar to the what has been called the fight or flight instinct and given that there would be no place to run in the little TSA area, well that leaves only the alternative to flight.

I do not like where this is going. If I had a bit more money I might take a winding itinerary away from airports with naked scanners–Portland OR apparently has none, and it is not a long train or bus ride down from Seattle –but I do not have that kind of leeway in my travel plans. The TSA has grounded me, more or less, although some would say I have grounded myself. But why in the name of all that is good and pure (wherever that might be found..) would I voluntarily put myself in a situation where I might end up arrested for assaulting a TSA attendant? I cannot think of very many good reasons, myself.

What puzzles me the most about the whole situation is why more people are not pissed off about it. But so many have written that we have become a nation of hypnotized obeisance to whatever daddy says is good for us that it seems hardly useful to write about it again. I would like it though if one person felt pissed off for me. That would make my day. I am so tired of being told that I should be able to handle what is “no big deal” to most others that I am beginning to wonder just who out there is still awake enough to care that we are reflexively giving up our options to live unmolested, literally, with hardly a word of protest and more than one look of scorn towards those who find the situation at the TSA lines intolerable.

Go ahead. Make my day.

You knew that was coming. Don’t pretend otherwise.

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7 thoughts on “fly me. or not.

  1. i hate it that flying, with the search etc., is this triggering for you. but i’ll be flying cross-country so soon myself that i can’t fully engage with these thoughts — have to avoid thinking about the flights upcoming in order not to feel scared and panicky. (it used to be a pleasure to travel, when Pan Am and TWA treated you like welcome guests. sigh.)

  2. Flying has become increasingly frightening for me even though the experience itself has become less intrusive. I get nervous standing in those long lines and angry about all the personal freedoms given up for the sake of security theater. I do not feel safer now that I am not given secondary screenings now that my last name is less suspect.

    I have not flown since the new screening measures have gone into effect.

    My husband has. He said that you are through the new scanners before you even realize that is what you are in line for. From what people have been saying, opting for the pat down seems to annoy your TSA people more than going through the scanning machines.

  3. @Vicki #3: I can understand not wanting to think about it too much if you are going to fly soon. I do remember when the airlines gave you things like playing cards and “Junior Flight Captain” pins to us kids and a meal with every flight no matter how short. That kind of service disappeared long ago, but the state of flying now is absurd. The depths of our paranoia and our bizarre submission to security theater do not make a great deal of sense to me. Nothing can be made safe, and nothing we are doing is making flying any safer anyway.

    But I could go on and on. I already did!

  4. @S Miller #5: The problem I have with going through the scanner, besides not wanting to be seen naked by strangers, is that my body is not only atypical but the TSA is overly interested in body parts that are do not appear to be made of flesh. Going through a scanner is very likely to earn me a “private” search in which it is possible that I will be asked to disrobe. At the very least I would have to show them what is in my pants. I am not going to do that, quite simply.

    The patdown, although described as “professional” in most cases I’ve been told about so far, is stil invasive in ways that are triggering for someone with, um, strong boundaries. People touching me without permission freak me out. People touching me with “permission”–which it is now assumed I have granted by purchasing an airline ticket–also freak me out if they do certain things that another person might not even notice as possibly problematic.

    So that is the short version of why the scanners are out of the question for me and the patdown is doubtful.

    It is especially maddening that your current last name saves you the trouble of secondary screenings now. How many people with ill intent toward their flight mates has the TSA caught so far? Seems like zero is not a particularly impressive number for the scale of antics we are supposed to put up with. It is so much bullshit I do not even understand how the average traveler can swallow it all. But somehow, we do.

  5. We (my partner and I) are driving up to Seattle from SoCal in December, for precisely the same reasons. We made the same drive last year as well. My partner sometimes doesn’t have choice about flying for business (oddly, to SFO), but if we do have an alternative, we take it. Amtrak is still good, for the time being, but not all that much different in price from flying.

    You didn’t say what your travel window is — if it is for the “holidays,” we could carpool (serious offer) and you could use the months in between to determine that we’re not creeps, and vice versa. If it’s not, then I don’t have other solutions, but wish you luck in finding a way (Craigslist carpool query, maybe?)

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