I am reposting because my font appeared small, and nearly unreadable. Admins, feel free to delete my previous post.
On December 14th, I arrived at PDX airport for my 4:00 flight on Alaska. Snow had started falling before I left home, and was getting pretty thick by the time I got to the airport. This flight had already been delayed until 4:30, and was the last direct flight of the day.
Having checked in on the app, I proceeded to the Alaska counter, because I needed to check my walker, and I needed a wheelchair. My cat Bagheera was in her carrier on the seat of my walker, it’s handles velcroed around the front strap so it would not fall off of my walker. I had no bags that I was checking, but told the agent that I was checking a walker. He asked again to confirm that I was checking no bags. I told him again that I was checking a walker. He made no move to take it, just told to go sit in the chairs around the corner to wait for a wheelchair. When I had flown out of PDX a few weeks earlier, the desk agent had followed me, and then taken my walker to check it. That did not happen this time. My wheelchair came, and I could not leave the walker. So I had to carry Bagheera’s carrier, AND my walker on my lap. The man pushing my wheelchair (let’s call him Linus) took me through the security line, everything was fine. I put my jacket and my hat, my shoes, and backpack up on the X-ray machine conveyor belt. Linus asked an agent what he should do with my walker. I think the agent told him to just leave it next to me while I waited for a female agent since I can’t go through the scanner. At this point I should probably mention that my walker has three custom made pieces of leather covered in spike snapped securely around the front tube, and the front part of both handles. I fly fairly frequently, and often gate check it with no problem. I couldn’t get Bagheera out of her carrier by myself. So the female agent (referred to as Lucy) came to push me through to the screening area. She tested my hands, and went to start the pat down procedure. As far as I knew, everything was still fine. Then this other agent (referred to as Charlie Brown) walked over holding my spikes. Note: the snaps are fairly secure, and the the leather pieces fit fairly snugly. The agents conferred for a few minutes, and Lucy told me that it wasn’t allowed. The walker should have been checked. I would have to either go back out, and check it, or give up the spikes. For some reason, on this particular day, after years of travel, my spikes were considered a weapon. It became clear to me that Charlie Brown, and Lucy were not going to let me through. Also, since I couldn’t get Bagheera of her carrier by myself, I would need a private screening. By this time my plane was supposed to be boarding, as far as I knew. I didn’t know it had been delayed again. Lucy asked me who was traveling with me. I imagine she thought I couldn’t possibly be traveling alone. By this time I was very upset, and afraid that I’d be stuck in Portland for days, possibly in the airport since the city pretty much shuts down when it snows.
My mom was meeting me at the airport in Orange County, and I needed her to know what was going on. I called my mom on my phone so Lucy, and Charlie Brown could talk to her. I wanted to record what was happening but couldn’t since Lucy had my phone. I was just sitting there in the screening area with Bagheera on my lap, unsure of what to do next. Lucy talked to my mom for awhile, but I couldn’t really hear much of what was being said. My mom told me later that Lucy said that the decision had already been made- I could go back through, and miss my flight; or I could give up the spikes, and go through…but she could talk to Lucy’s supervisor. I guess Charlie Brown was Lucy’s supervisor since he got on the phone next. I wasn’t really paying much attention, I was busy trying not to completely freak out, and I was watching the dark haired guy a few feet in front of me (Let’s call him Steve) pacing while he was talking on his phone-Steve turned out to be Charlie Brown’s supervisor.
My mom talked to Charlie Brown for awhile. From what I could make out so far, my walker should never have been allowed, and it could not go up under the plane with the spikes on it. I’d probably already missed my flight, and his hands were tied, and there were no options other than going back out or throwing away my spikes.. She asked to his supervisor and Charlie Brown handed Steve the phone. He was reluctant to talk to my mom. I later found out about the scenario that Steve was describing to my mom about what could happen if I were allowed to gate check my walker with the spikes. He was describing a scenario in which I suddenly decided to leap up, run through the plane, and was perfectly able to crawl into the baggage compartment, locate the walker, rip the spikes off it, and use the spikes to overpower the flight crew. Apparently, he thought I was an able bodied ninja, who didn’t actually need the walker or wheelchair? My mom asked again if there were no other other options, and Steve said “she could mail them, but I don’t even know if she has a credit card.” So….. An able bodied ninja, who probably did not have a credit card?
We finally got everything mailed, and the agents called over someone else to run me to the gate. I still did not have my shoes on, and this woman had to run back to get the orthotic that was missing when I finally got my shoes back. I was still surrounded by people, though. By some miracle, I finally made it onto the plane.
By: Serenity Ebert