Friday, November 24, 2006

The Miracle of Flight

We've just been away for a long weekend and, much to Tom's delight, it involved 'airplanes'. His excitement was something to behold, the whole airport/aeroplane experience only being marred by the odd rituals now involved in our passage through airport security.

People with cochlear implants aren't supposed to go through the big scanners. In addition to, I presume, setting them off even if you removed every shred of clothing, there is a risk of wiping the maps in the processor. But that wasn't all; manufacturers do a 'loaner' scheme providing implantees with spare, mapped processors for the duration of the trip (which reminds me, they need to be returned - there's a charge associated with failure to return in the order of £2000 or so) which meant that hand luggage has to be emptied and suspicious brushed aluminium objects with lots of dials have to be explained.

So picture the scene; after trying to persuade an active toddler, who is almost beside himself with excitement at the prospect of seeing 'airplanes', to stand in line for 10 minutes we are confronted by serious looking people who, in current times, must suspect everything and everybody. The general air of seriousness that pervades the security check registers with Tom who starts to get agitated and clingy just at the time we are presenting our 'Don't scan our baby, it'll break him' letter from the Implant Team (in the appropriate language), with that degree of nervousness that accompanies many dealings with uniformed people (particularly those with the power to inspect you more intimately than you'd usually feel comfortable with).

As far as 'scenes' go, we fit the particularly English stereotype of hating to be in the centre of one. If others in the queue hadn't notice the strange things on the sides of Tom's head while we were waiting their attention is certainly captured at this point. We have a plan; I go through the detector first so I can be there to receive Tom and comfort him while he is 'inspected'. Unfortunately, by the time I get in position, he's bawling; scared of the big bloke hanging over us, frustrated by the hold up on the way to the 'airplanes' and a bit peeved that he can't do what Daddy has just done and gone through the 'tunnel' (he does love a good tunnel). By now everyone is staring (or, if not, it feels like they are) and I fight the desperate urge to shout 'They're a form of mind control - I just didn't want to electrocute him in front of you!'.

And then its over and Tom gets to see more 'airplanes and it's all OK. The customs officers are never anything less than kind, considerate and desperately keen to stop Tom screaming at them and, if we fly often enough (and lord knows we try), he will get used to it.

Will we get used to the staring? More importantly, will Tom be able to deal with it? You can tell yourself as many times as you like that they're the rude, ignorant ones and you can try any number of strategies - ignoring, stupid comments, staring back - but self-conciousness is dangerously crippling and the attention is an all-too-raw reminder of what has happened these past seven months.

As is the way of such things, Tom put it all behind him with consummate ease and attached himself to the plate glass overlooking the hard standing and runway until it was time to fly. When he announced his heartfelt desire to 'Cuddle the airport', we knew the security experience had not left any dark shadows.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, my goodness! "Cuddle the airport"! How adorable!

I love your posts, but this one is particularly enjoyable.

How terrifying to be handed to a brute of a security screener. I can feel for Tom!

We will be traveling with Erin in the late winter and I am glad to have some idea of what awaits us.