As I write this, I’m on a plane en route to Minnesota. I’m flying for personal reasons today, but most of the time I fly for work. I travel by plane every week or two, making frequent trips to the Bay Area, where my company is based, and other regions. I’m used to it and have a routine down: I can pack in a matter of minutes, know the best spot to park my car at the airport and can breeze through security….
Actually, I can’t breeze through security anymore. Since I got an insulin pump, going through security has become more of an event. As my pump manufacturer clearly states on their website, the pump cannot go through the X-ray machine or body scanner:
It is an adventure every time I arrive at the security line. After I’ve sent my belongings on their way through the X-ray machine, I approach a TSA officer and explain I have an insulin pump that can’t go through the X-ray machine or body scanner. For the most part, they respond respectfully, requesting a female pat-down and showing me where to wait. Others aren’t as gracious, showing their annoyance with my special request. Some are downright argumentative.
A couple of officers have forcefully told me that insulin pumps are fine to go through the scanner. My response – that some may be, but mine is not – is not always believed. I’ve been told I need to check with my pump manufacturer (Believe me. I have.) because I have my information wrong.
I try to stay calm in these situations, as I know getting worked up won’t help. But I can’t help but feel incredibly frustrated. (I’m sorry TSA officer, but you don’t have an insulin pump and don’t know the ins and outs of what it can and can’t do. And since it is one of the most expensive and life-saving things I own, I’d prefer not to take any risks.)
It’s worth noting that I’ve been told I can remove my pump prior to the body scanner and ask for it to be hand checked. However, I’ve personally found this to be even more problematic and not worth the trouble.
The pat-downs themselves are simple. I’ve only had professional officers, many who have told me after the check that they’ve seen a lot of insulin pumps and given me a smile. While I don’t exactly like being fondled in front of the security line audience, it doesn’t really bother me. It’s that first step – declaring that I can’t go through the body scanner – that I find the hardest.
It seems like there has to be a way to make this process better for pumpers. For starters, there likely is a way to report feedback on disrespectful TSA officers. But would that help? Is there something larger that can be done? I’d love to hear about other pumpers’ experience with airport security.