Sunday, January 1, 2017
Going through the TSA (Transportatin Secuirity Administraton) security check at the airport is [at the very least] annoying to everyone. For some people, like Emily, however, it is a downright torturous bombardment on the senses (it's too loud, crowded, fast, etc.). She is overwhelmed and flustered by the time she comes out the other end, often to the point of near tears.
I thought it might help if I got her signed up for TSA pre-check so she will at least be able to zip right through that mess. I filled out an online request, and was scheduled an appointment for her to visit their office and finish the process. The email told me she only needed to bring her passport, but I brought along a copy of her guardianship order, in case she needed to sign anything (to explain why I would either be signing for her or with her).
In a small, eerily quiet, windowless office, Emily and I sit at one side of a desk as the TSA guy types on his computer on the other side of the desk. Emily has a screen and a key pad in front of her with a few options, like "yes", "no", and "enter" to choose from.
Our address flashes up on her screen. "Yes", that's our address. A statement flashes up stating Emily was born in the United States. "Yes", she's an American. A statement flashes up stating she has never been covincted of a crime. "No", Emily is not a criminal. A statement flashes up stating she has never been deemed mentally deficient or spent time in a mental hospital. The guy says, "And for this you just click the 'no' button."
I interrupt, saying, "Um...wait; I have full guardianship over Emily." [I hold up the court order] "So would that mean we need to answer "yes" here?"
"No," he says impatiently, "This is only for people who have been found mentally deficient or mentally ill."
"Riiiigghhttt," I say, "which she haaaaasssss....", trying not to say too much, being sensitive to the fact that Emily is sitting right next to me, but enough to get this moron to understand what I'm saying.
"No," he says, even more impatiently, then he adds in what I can only assume is his most patronizing voice, with a slight shake of his head, tilted to the side, "A judge would have had to have ordered it."
"You mean like this one did, right here?", I practically hiss, pointing to the papers with a shaking finger.
He snatches the papers from me, brow furrowed, mouth turned down in a frown. "Oh," he says in a surprised, moderately confused tone after reading over the order for a few moments, "so she's..." he shoots a glance over at Emily like she's some sort of alien (the green Martian kind, not the immigrant kind) "...she's really mentally defici-"
"Right," I interrupt him in a growl, trying desperately to spare Emily even more embarrassment as I simultaneously imagine 6 different ways I could reach across the desk and do this insensitive ass bodily harm, "so, do we put a "yes" here, then?"
"Well, I...I suppose you'll have to. This has never happened before...but I suppose...yes, you'll have to answer that one "yes"." His expression is the most bureaucratically shell shocked I've ever seen. "So, what...you, like, have power of attorney for her or something?" He doesn't even attempt to make eye contact with Emily anymore, as if he might catch something if he spares her a glance.
"It's kinda like a step above power of attorney," I patiently explain.
Then comes the part of the process where Emily is supposed to sign the little slab of plastic with the stylus so there will be a completely illegible indication that someone has "signed" the application.
But Emily can't [legally] sign it, of course, so I sign. The TSA guy suggests I include my "title" of guardian under my signature. Given the struggle with writing anything that could ever be successfully deciphered later, however, I ask if there's a comments section to explain that Emily just has a guardianship, that she's not mentally ill and has never spent time in a mental hospital (as the simple "yes" to the very loaded 2-part question may have suggested).
"No," he says, getting up to usher us out, having returned to his baseline holier-than-thou civil servant demeanor, "It's just yes/no. You can visit the website to check on the status of your application. I have no idea what effect that "yes" will have on your wait time or if it will keep her from getting approved. Have a nice day."
As we leave the office, I seethe, disgusted and embarrassed for Emily. What could the purpose of that last question on the application possibly be? I can only assume that anything asked in a TSA application would have to relate to security. What does cognitive disability have to do with security? I could see how some mental illnesses could have security concerns, but not most. That's something that would require clarification or explanation (which, of course, they don't allow for). And - even if you do have some valid reason for asking these things - why combine the two inquiries in a single yes/no question? "Do you have Down Syndrome or are you a homicidal schizophrenic who is currently off your meds after having recently finished an involuntary commitment at a mental hospital? Just click "yes" here, because regardless of which better describes you, the potential threat you pose is virtually the same." What the hell, TSA? [...Shake my head...]