Tag Archives: screening

Airline Security For The Uninitiated

8 Feb

When I first flew to Canada almost twelve years ago, travel was relatively easy. You checked your bag and got your boarding pass from a pretty woman with a big smile and insanely white teeth, and then you headed over to the gate, where your carry-on bag went through an X-ray machine. As long as you didn’t have something in there that could bring down Fort Knox, you were good to go.

Even in the wake of 9/11, there wasn’t really anything to travelling. The same procedures were followed, albeit more thoroughly. Lineups were longer, more questions were asked, and from time to time, your stuff was checked for anthrax.

Now that I am in the midst of my first long-haul journey in seven years, I find that air travel is a whole different ballgame to what it used to be. All the rules have changed, and when I went through the security screening at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, I had no idea what to expect.

I had already quizzed one of my co-workers, a recent traveller, on the legalities of bringing a small tube of toothpaste onto the plane with me. For some reason I thought that if I knew the answer to that, I’d be home free.

But then I saw the guy in front of me sifting through his carry-on baggage, removing items and confidently putting them in plastic trays. He whipped off his jacket and put it into another tray. He and his belongings went through the various machines and off he went. And I was left standing there, wondering what I was supposed to be putting into the plastic trays.

I took out my sad tube of toothpaste in its Ziploc bag and put it into a tray, along with my phone and my laptop. And because I had seen the guy in front of me remove his jacket, I did the same.  I tentatively shoved all of my stuff onto the conveyer belt and wondered about my shoes.

Some people were removing their shoes and others weren’t. Everyone appeared to know as if by magic whether their footwear could stay on their feet. I had to expose myself as the no-longer-experienced traveller that I am and call out to a security guy, who assured me that my shoes looked fine and could stay on.

Although it took no longer than three minutes for me to pass through the security checkpoint, I found the whole process to be a little daunting. Then again, this entire trip is daunting when you consider the circumstances behind it.

At least when I passed through the checkpoint at Heathrow Airport, I kind of knew what I had to do. I even knew the exact pose to strike when the machine beeped at me as I walked through and I had to be searched.

I really hope they don’t change the rules again during my stay in South Africa. It would be a shame, now that I’m just starting to get the hang of it again.

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Giving Blood, Giving Life, Giving Hope

20 Jan

I sit in the chair across from the nurse, anxiously waiting for that tiny little needle to pierce the end of my finger.  Has it worked?  Has my healthy eating, strict regimen of iron-enriched vitamins, and consumption of gross vegetable juice made my blood as healthy as it needs to be? If I am turned away now, I will be pissed off.

I am lost in my thoughts, willing my blood to cooperate, trying to analyze everything I’ve eaten in the – OUCH!  Holy crap!  For a tiny little needle that HURTS!

Not as much as the big fat needle going into my arm is going to hurt.

Not as much as the multitude of agony that Captain Snuggles has endured over the last five months has hurt.

It’s a tiny little needle, don’t be such a baby.

The nurse puts a little smear of blood onto a slide and feeds it into a machine.  She tells me that the number has to be 125 or higher.  We wait for a few seconds, the machine beeps, and…

…154.  YES!  As I follow the next nurse into the next screening area, I imagine my healthy blood cells, marching around my body like sergeants, getting ready for deployment into the next human body that needs them.

Screening goes well.  My temperature is good.  My blood pressure prompts the nurse to tell me I must work out a lot.  My heart rate is slightly elevated because I am excited to be doing this.  No lesions or bruises on my arms, all of my questionaire answers are acceptable.

I am deemed Fit To Donate.

I am taken to a row of folding chairs, where I take a seat and wait my turn.  I know that my friend extraordinaire and maid of honour Michelle is a short way behind me in the process.  I look for her and she is not in the room; she is probably in the screening area telling the nurse whether she has ever taken money for sex or taken cocaine intravenously.

As I am waiting, a man starts to pass out with his blood in mid-flow.  The kindly woman seated beside me looks at my “First Time Donor” sticker (which I feel entitled to since my one and only donation attempt, over 20 years ago, ended in disaster and could not be completed) and says, “Don’t look at him.  He’s a man.  Us girls can handle this!”

I am led to one of the stations, and as I take my seat in the thing – it’s not a chair; it’s not a bed; what’s the word for it? – I imagine those blood cell sergeants lining up in my arm, getting ready for their marching orders.

Michelle takes a seat on one of the folding chairs, which means I can talk to her instead of looking in the direction of the nurse who is taping tubes to my arm in an ominous manner.  I squeeze my eyes shut, grit my teeth, and – the needle is in!  Those little sergeants have started marching!  I imagine the blood cells in the Captain’s body straightening up and getting their act together (because let’s face it, they have been slacking off in the last little while).  I imagine them coming together, strong and whole, forming a line of defence against illness and infection.

As my blood flows out of me, I imagine Captain Snuggles getting better.  I picture his broken body healing, becoming whole.

My actual blood will not get to Captain Snuggles.  But it will get to someone who needs it.  Captain Snuggles, through his suffering, will have saved a life.  Many lives, since I am now committed to being a regular donor.

It takes less than ten minutes.  When the needle is removed, I sit in my thing-thats-not-a-bed-or-chair for the prescribed five minutes.  There is more fiddling with my arm and bandages, and then I am permitted to go and sit down in the cookie and juice room (no caffeine for first-time donors!)

As I sit there drinking my orange juice and eating my cookie, I imagine where my blood will go from here.  Samples will go to the lab for testing, and the donation will be added to the blood bank.

I imagine it being transfused into someone’s broken body, transforming the probability of death into the possibility of life, into hope.

I imagine the joy of some family, in some hospital, when they are given the news that their loved one is going to make it.

I imagine Captain Snuggles healing and becoming whole.

I imagine myself someday saying to him, “Thank you.  Thank you for making me a better person.”