Friday, 3 May 2013
When you dread your `protectors'
I am sorry if I tend to be repeating myself, but flying in planes, especially when it includes flying to the US, has its own attendant set of unpleasant experiences; and by giving vent to my dread/horror/loathing for these pet peeves, I hope to prepare myself mentally for the ordeal ahead.
On most of my domestic travels, I took my battery-operated wheelchair with me, and I have filled enough pages in this blog with the different kinds of hassles which I have undergone as a result of the personnel in charge of airport security and their (own and sometimes very original) interpretations of when a checked-in wheelchair constitutes a security hazard.
But this time, I will be going to spend close to three months in the US and Canada; and subsequent to my discovering the ease with which one is able to hire motorised wheelchairs in the West, I have decided to leave my wheelchair home and depend on (a) the kindness/vagaries with which the concerned airline will arrange to transport me, and (b) my friends/hosts whom I will be visiting all over the US (from California to the New York island, from the redwood forests...) to quickly get me to such a rental place.
Beyond the usual indignities one suffers in India (eg., having to stand up from the wheelchair while one is frisked), there is a new set that I know I will be subjected to and which I am already beginning to lose sleep over. Anyone who has flown into the US within the past 10 years or so, will know that one of the things you will have to do is to remove your shoes when you go through security at some appropriate intermediate airport. When I went through this some years ago, my mobility was quite a bit better than it is now. I used to be able to hobble a few feet; and what I remember is that after you go barefoot through the security, there is no chair or stool to sit on while you put your footwear back on. Today, there is just no way I can balance on one foot and wear a shoe on the other foot. I am wondering/praying about how people in wheelchairs are asked to do these things.
Another thing: I am a statistical freak. Every time I go through a security check in the US, I am asked politely to step out of the line so that I may be subjected to a more intensive examination, although I am always told that the fact that I happened to be selected for this special treatment was quite accidental and that what decides which passengers are chosen for such special treatment is purely random selection, and that any impression of racial profiling is completely inaccurate!
Wish me luck!
This reminds me of an apocryphal story about the mathematician G.H. Hardy (credited with having `discovered' Srinivasa Ramanujan): He was scared of travel in general; and before one of the more scary travels he was planning, he wrote to a friend of his saying he had a remarkable solution of the Riemann Hypothesis – arguably the most recalcitrant unsolved problem in mathematics ; when he got down from the ship at his destination, he was met by a fleet of reporters wanting to know about his solution, and he gleefully answered that of course he had not solved the problem, and that the only reason for his publicising this bit of fiction was that God would certainly not allow him to get away with such an outrageous claim to fame and would ensure that he got to where he would have to own up to his falsehood!