I will be traveling with my 86-year old Uncle next week and a thread on Flyertalk about the TSA treatment of another elderly passenger caught my attention today.
This weekend my wife and I accompanied my 87 year old mother on a trip to a family wedding. This was the first flight for either of them since the [full body scanner] and related TSA insanity was introduced.
Preparing for TSA I told my mother that due to her age she could keep her shoes on.
We departed from [body scanner]-free DCA Terminal A. I went through the cattle chute first, followed by my mother and wife. At the luggage belt (right side) I observed an elderly gentleman get out of a wheelchair. A TSO was yelling at him to sit in a chair to take his shoes off. When the gentleman did not respond, the TSO simply yelled louder. And louder, and louder. Eventually someone accompanying the man saw a chair hidden behind a pole, and took the man there. The yelling subsided.
I went through the [metal detector] uneventfully and gathered our belongings. Suddenly I here the same TSO screaming “TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!” I looked back and saw my mother behind the [metal detector], being screamed at. The TSO screamed the same thing at her again. Evidently she wasn’t processing his vitriol; my wife whispered the message in her ear. My mother then looked at the TSO and shouted “I’M 87 YEARS OLD!”
That infuriated the TSO and he screamed his message even louder.
My mother had to take her shoes off and slowly stumble through, despite the clear signs saying that if you were born on that date before 1938 you could keep your shoes on.
I did not witness anyone else getting yelled at, leading me to conclude that we travelled on TSA’s unannounced “Abuse The Elderly Day”
My wife was considering flying to Florida next month. Now she’s set on driving.
My mother took her last flight. We’re not about to give TSA another shot at her.
What a sad tale, and it made me think how I would handle a similar situation.
I keep my temper in check and rarely lash out people, even when their conduct is egregious. But I do not think I would have held back here, especially if it was my uncle being yelled at.
My uncle looks 65 years old so if we do not get PreCheck next week I will be curious to see if a TSO barks at him to remove his shoes. And if a TSO does bark at him, this is how I intend to respond, forcefully but calmly:
You have no right to talk to anyone, let alone an 86-year old in that manner. I will give you two options: apologize to the gentleman now or summon your supervisor so that I may file a formal complaint against you.
Oh trust me, I’d much rather hurl personal insults with a peppering of crude language, but I think the response above will be most constructive. I would stare the agent down, shaking my head in disbelief with a frown on my face, but any further words may turn the situation on its head, putting me on the defensive at a later time.
I hope this is all needless speculation, but with the TSA you always prepare for the worst.