One of the things I hope to do on this site is smile about some of the things that have happened to me and are unique to my situation as an amputee.

My husband and I were in the Philadelphia airport en-route to Seattle.  Now anyone familiar with prosthetics would be well aware that airport security is one of the most difficult parts of traveling!  On an easy day you get a wand, a pat-down personal enough to make your father blush (his words not mine!) and will be sent on your way with an apologetic smile. On this particular day, however, I was asked to enter the 3D scanner with my prosthesis.  I bravely entered with both hands above my head and a queasy-but-knowing smile.  My crutches were taken from me and scanned as well.

After coming through I was then “wanded”.  (I just want to stop and say here that if security personnel are given wands they should at least add a little “bippity boppity boo” song during the process for victimized patrons as myself!  A little bit of something to make me feel a less in touch with reality would be great.)  Anyway, they asked me to lift my shirt a tad so that they could swab my prosthesis for explosives.  I chuckled and obliged without hesitation.

The next thing I knew there was an “EXPLOSIVE ALERT” on the screen in front of me and I was being rushed off in quarantine to a small private room.  I jokingly told the security officer, “No worries, I wasn’t playing with fireworks”.  But she didn’t think that was funny.  I could tell by her curt, “Ma’am, I would advise you say as little as possible right now” accompanied by a brief pat on the shoulder that summed up her expression of “good luck”.

After further discussion including an argument over whether it was really necessary to make me pull my pants down any further or to take my leg from me to scan it or take it apart they decided to let me go.  Their justification for this was, “Those pants can’t get much tighter, I don’t think there is anything hiding here.”  (Yes, I should have been horrified as I stood silently wanting to remind them that I could still hear them but honestly I couldn’t have been happier at that moment to be free!  Regardless of criticism, insult, or bruised ego I was about to be free!)

One final swab of my clothes, crutches, and shoes and I was returned intact to my family. In the midst of this I realized WHY I tested positive for explosives.  A few weeks prior to our trip I had purchased a .22 Rifle for my husband as a birthday gift.  We had been shooting targets in the woods behind our house and when I came in to remove my prosthesis I must have had residue from the bullets on my fingers! As I bounced lightly the rest of the way to gate A2 I realized somehow I forgot to remove the pocket knife from my purse.  But oh well, at least they found the explosives!

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*Ashly P Ash

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