I recently flew across the Pacific (one-way) for the 23rd time. I’m not necessarily proud of this accomplishment; in fact, I’m a bit repulsed by the number of times I’ve squeezed myself into those economy seats and breathed in recycled air for 14+ hours.
I’m no student of probability (and my 12-year old will tell me I have this wrong), but my odds MUST be increasing with each flight: some day I’m going to be handed the Holy Grail of International Flying: the Upgrade.
I don’t need First Class- Business is fine (frankly, I wouldn’t sneeze at Premium Economy either). But as long as I find myself traveling with three children, including one with diabetes, one in the throes of motion sickness (it’s the age, I’m told) and one preteen who views these international flights as a chance to watch 14 hours of movies with impunity (all which fail miserably at meeting the requirements of family movie night), nobody will be giving me an upgrade.
Despite the repetitiveness of our economy seating, there was something different about this trip: this was our first time flying with an insulin pump.
We had heard the horror stories: individuals pulled aside by TSA agents unfamiliar with an insulin pump and arguments when flight attendants refused to let a insulin-filled carry-on onto a crowded plane.
I was prepared; I had a plan, especially since I was flying without my husband. Each child had a role- the boys were to go first through security, collecting our possessions at the other end. My daughter and I would then explain to the security agents that she was wearing an insulin pump and would not be going through the body scanner. I tried to keep it light, since the whole possibility of being asked to step aside was making a certain 8-year old rather nervous.
But the truth: Just fine. Friendly, kind and had all seen it before. No questions, just smiles and pleasantness. Yes, pulled aside, but with dignity… “We like to keep families together.”
Even when she tested positive for explosive residue on her hands, there were understanding smiles and explanations for what the next level of security would entail. Inevitably, one agent would take it upon himself to get my daughter laughing as we stood to the side, curious passengers stealing glances at us as they proceeded forward. And that explosive residue? A false positive that was discarded after further testing.
I sheepishly admitted to one agent that I was expecting the worse. He shook his head, “Yeah, I hear the crazy stories every once in a while; I just can’t believe it. It doesn’t have to be like that.”
We only had trouble at one airport. In Denver, the agents seemed puzzled at our request to avoid putting her insulin pump through the scanner. After a lengthy consultation, the verdict was that I would be the recipient of an invasive pat down and every carry-on bag with us would be systematically unpacked and repacked.
“TSA at other airports do this differently, you know,” I mentioned offhandedly as precious minutes ticked by. The female agent ignored me, her hand running up my inner thigh past what I thought was a respectable stopping point.
After twenty minutes of inspection, we were back on our way. While our Denver experience wasn’t ideal, it was an anomaly on our trip. Overall we were treated with dignity and understanding, and just a minor amount of inconvenience.
Now, if I could just snag that upgrade…