theatre of the absurd
Date October 16, 2012
Airport security … “Why we should be required to remove our shoes is a mystery to me.” Photo: Paul Rovere
There must be many thousands of senior citizens who have had hip and knee replacements who routinely trigger airport security alarms when they fly. They are then subjected to the indignity and hassle of a full-scale security check.
I am one of them. I am in my mid-60s. Seven years ago I had a total hip replacement. I trigger the alarm each time I fly. I know it is going to go off, even after I have removed my belt, jewellery, watch, eyeglasses – anything that could possibly trigger the alarm. The procedure is always the same. I am asked to go back through the gate, remove my shoes, put them through the scanner and go through the security gate a second time – where of course the alarm goes off for the second time.
Why we should be required to remove our shoes is a mystery to me, when there has been only one recorded incident of a threat to aircraft security by someone using his shoes as a potential weapon – the ”shoe bomber incident”. Even that incident was a failed attempt. Young security personnel who are in the prime of life may not realise that being asked to remove your shoes can be quite difficult for an older, less able person, even more so in a situation where chairs are not provided for people to sit down and one has to scrabble around trying to avoid the other passengers who are being processed.
We were living in Tokyo back in 2005 when I came down to Brisbane for my operation. The doctor had ordered a minimum one month’s recuperation before I could fly again. When I turned up at the airport on crutches and clutching my medical certificate explaining my condition, the security officer instructed me to take off my shoes. My husband got agitated and pointed out that I simply could not do so. The security staff were unmoved. In the end my husband took my shoes off and then put them on again on the other side, all the time shaking his head in frustration, anger and sheer disbelief.
We have a situation where Australian pensioners, grandmas and grandpas, are left standing around in our socks waiting for a security officer of the same gender to go through the silliness of the pat-down and manual scanning. In the meantime, our personal belongings have long since gone through the scanner where they could be picked up and stolen by any other passenger. Eventually I am deemed not to be a security risk and am allowed to collect my belongings and get dressed again.
I have reached a point when I no longer wish to travel by air. The trip has to be seriously worthwhile to get me to overcome my weariness and irritation at what I know lies ahead at security.
This is security theatre. We go through the motions but we know it is all ridiculous. We are not one bit safer as a result of this farce. We know that the thousands of elderly folk who have had hip and knee replacements are in no way a terrorist threat, yet taxpayer money is being wasted on employing airport security staff to go through this idiotic performance. Moreover, their numbers can be expected to grow in the years ahead. Some might say it is comical, but not if you are the elderly person affected.
I do not find fault with the security staff. They are doing the job they were trained to do, which clearly leaves them no room for discretion. But it is time to review airport security procedures.
Surely a better option would be for all patients who have had joint replacements (or comparable surgical procedures that trigger security alarms) to be issued with photo-ID by the hospital/surgeon who performed the surgery so that passengers’ time and airport security staff time is not wasted. Or, if those in charge of airport security are determined to persist with this policy, then they should provide a special line for senior citizens, including chairs for shoe removal, so that we do not have to do battle with the rest of the population who are not disabled.
Senior citizens could also be given the option of having a thorough ASIS/ASIO security assessment done on them, and be issued with a pass which allows them to travel with dignity.
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