Greetings all. I returned last Saturday from my trip back to Tennessee to visit my family. And I’m happy to report that Alhamdulilah, I did not encounter any problems getting through security, and I was not subjected to any pat downs or full body scanners or anything like that. The only minor issue was a TSA agent in Tampa initially wanting me to remove all of Chloe’s equipment, including leash, harness and collar so she’d not set off the detector, at which point I informed him that I’d have no way of controlling my dog, and that I’d rather not do that. And not only this, the TSA website specifically says that you’re not supposed to be asked to remove a service animal’s equipment. So much for that, because I’ve not only been asked to do this on more than one occasion, but at one time two TSA agents were discussing among themselves in front of me, whether or not I and my dog shoudl be separated because “the dog may not let us wand her”. In all of these situations, I fortunately won the argument and was not forced to remove any of Chloe’s equipment or be separated from her. But based on some of the things I’ve read about some some people’s experiences with some TSA agents, I really don’t like arguing with them, as if any of them happen to be power-hungry, it seems they could do a lot to make my life miserable, all in the name of security and protecting Americans from terrorism of course.
I just have a feeling that the TSA site talks a good game, but in the real world, at least as regards service animals, many TSA agents are not trained as well as the TSA website makes it seem, especially when I’m being asked to remove a leash and harness, etc., things the TSA site states I’m never supposed to be asked to do. If the TSA agents were as well-trained as the TSA website claims, I would have never been asked to remove Chloe’s leash or harness or even her collar, so I’d not alarm the detector.
And as a Muslim traveler who wears hijab, I unfortunately have to admit that I’m too afraid to argue with these people, lest I am made to seem beligerent or something, and then they make the arbitrary decision to not let me get on the plane. Usually when I am going through airport security, I just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. With as little drama as possible. I read the TSA site to try to give me a sense of what to expect and thus to help make me feel a bit less nervous about the process as I’d supposedly know what was coming and be prepared for it, and while it helped, based on the fact that the TSA agent didn’t apparently know their employer’s own guidelines regarding how to deal with the equipment of service animals, why should I believe that they know how to deal with anything else, like, uh, women in hijab, or people wearing modest clothes in general, despite what the website might say.
I don’t want to make a big deal about something that really wasn’t, however, if they can’t even get it right with something like service animals, what about other things? And the answer is, at least in some instances, they can’t/haven’t. At least I didn’t have to strip down to my underwear in front of everyone to show my prosthetic leg, or bare my prosthetic breast to a TSA agent, or have a TSA agent bust open my catheter bag which then caused me to have to smell like urine my whole flight home, or have my child taken from me for minutes at a time out of my sight, with no explanation. So it really could have been worse. And I just thank God that it wasn’t.