Friday, February 19, 2016

Big girls don't cry...

        One thing I've learned over the years is, as long as I plan ahead, I can overcome anything my crazy challenging life presents me with.  Airport security was no exception; I had a system to get through it fully in tact, and it hasn't failed me three times over the past year.

      So as long as I make sure to get to the airport super early before the huge lines, and give the security guard my whole life story (and maybe my first born...) they always let me go through without removing my shoes or any of my bionic paraphernalia. This whole re-assembly could be a possible cause for missing my flight.

     First I tell them I have MS, therefore I have an electronic nerve zapper to make my toes go up when I walk, but it also causes the metal detector to go off as well.  

     Then I have my brace for the hyper-extension in my knee, which is metal and... yep... a "metal" detector WILL go off...


        Of course, getting the nerve zapper and brace to line up just right is a fine science and timely ordeal.

     Then I show the guard my Doctor's note to carry on my syringes for my MS meds, which could be a weapon..., along with the mentor card, certifying my reconstruction from my breast cancer, which I guess can also throw up a red flag under ex-ray, but I had it covered...  

          The flight from Toledo to Punta Gorda was easy peasy; I gave them my song and dance, and after a thorough pat down, x-ray and wanding I was on my way; fully intact.

    I was amazed at how smoothly my flight there was; I even had my own personal body guard meeting me upon arrival...
     Okay... it was my cousin, but he thought he was my body guard... :)

     Now my flight back home didn't start out quite so pleasant.  That day Punta Gorda security wasn't so nice...

      It was so unlike last year; where I breezed through security with a smile on my face.

     This year we left for the airport in what would seem like plenty of time, based on my experience last year; only this time they surprisingly had two flights taking off from this tiny airport, and the line wrapped around the building. 

     I had a little bit of anxiety, wondering if I would have the time to go through my whole routine and make it to the plane on time.  But it soon faded when I started up a friendly conversation with the couple ahead of me. They were heading to Kansas City; which confirmed that there were in fact two flights taking off that morning.

     We had been in line for quite some time, and as we approached the security check point, there was a stern looking guard standing in between the two conveyor belts.  As stone faced as a robot, he yelled out commands, one after another... " Empty your pockets, place all electronics and liquids in the bins, and remove your coats and shoes...!!"  This was okay, I would just politely tell him my situation and he would let me through intact.

     Unfortunately, this guy wasn't in the mood to make any exceptions.  I mentioned very nicely that security always lets me keep my shoes on because it's hard to get them off and back on with my brace, and in return I allow them to turn me inside out... He didn't care; he snapped back "well your taking them off today!!"

     I wanted to argue my case further, but my anxiety had gotten the best of me, and tears began to well up in my eyes.  I feared the whole production could cause me to miss my flight. But the nice lady in front of me said "don't worry, I'll help you take your shoes off", as she bent down and started to untie my laces... the lady behind me then said "I'll put your luggage on the conveyor belt..."   At this very humbling moment my tears were in full force.  I don't know if it was the anxiety, the way the guard made me feel, or simply the fact that people were being so kind that was causing them; but now I was an emotional train wreck.

     By the time we had gotten to the metal detector I was rendered speechless (which doesn't happen often...).  The female security guard said "what's wrong honey?" Before I could get the words out the ladies on either side of me replied "That guard made her take her shoes off, regardless of her brace".  The female guard said "He should have never done that.  Don't worry, we'll help you put them back on."

     Of course not knowing my story, then subsequently  hearing the metal detectors go off like the forth of July, she told me, unfortunately, she had to give me a very thorough search.  I already knew that, and I patiently stood there as she eventually named every freckle on my body.

     She then had me sit as she ran the wand over my brace, and to no surprise, it too began to beep.  She suspiciously ran it over again, and yet once more.  Perplexed, she asked another guard what she should do... he said "It's metal; it WILL beep. Let her go."

     Just then the lady I had befriended in line earlier ran up to me and said she would get my things from the conveyor because my flight was boarding.

     My shoes were finally back on, and I was eventually on my way, but by now the airport was an absolute ghost town; the plane had completely boarded.  At this point all I wanted to do was make it on that plane, and I did.
       As I was pulling my luggage down the tiny airplane isle, I remembered that when I checked my seat assignment the night before It looked as though the seat next to my isle seat was vacant.  This was one consolation, because as much as I love to talk, I was in no mood by now.

     As I got to my seat I noticed the gentleman by the window had a mile high stack of papers on his lap, and it was obvious he was a business man hoping to catch up on some work, which was just fine with me because I didn't want to engage in any idle chit chat anyway. I just wanted to be left alone.

     I was finally situated in my seat and ready for a quiet flight home, where I could sit silently and wallow in my own self pity.  But I looked up, and a young man, I'm guessing in his mid twenties was standing in the isle next to me.  He said "Excuse me, I think that middle seat is mine...". I stood up to let him through and he looked down at my brace... He then said "Torn ACL??"  I hear this on a daily basis and this is the point where I usually say something humerus like "It was a bar fight or a run in with a bear...", but I wasn't feeling it, so I just said No, MS..."  he then said "Oh, I'm so sorry:(".  

     Just then, I realized my pity party made this young man feel bad; something I never wanted to do.  So I quickly put on my happy face and said "Don't be sorry!! After 31 years I'm still walking!!  Last summer I rode 55 miles in the Bike To The Bay and two days ago I went skydiving!!" That awkward sorrow was soon over.  As he sat down, he told me the only reason he asked was because he had torn his ACL, and the brace brought back memories.

     By the time the flight landed he had told me the whole story of his brutal soccer injury, and of course I told him my life story as well:)

     As I was leaving the airport my new friend yelled out from across the way "It was a real pleasure talking with you!!"  And I knew my old self was back:)
      I learned some extremely valuable lessons that day.   First... as much as I want to prove to the world I'm a very strong woman; a melt down is still very possible. Second... It might only take one unkind person to steal your spirit, but there are many more kind people waiting to build it back up.  And lastly... You can plan all you want, and rely on the kindness of others... but at the end of the day, you're the only one who controls your happiness.

Have a great day!!


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