Flying No Fun and Getting Worse

We all know that flying isn’t fun anymore. Maybe you remember the days when we got dressed up to fly, but these days, I wear the most comfortable clothes I own, because I know that’s about all the comfort I’m going to get.

Sometimes I get a “pre-check” boarding pass, which means I don’t have to take off my shoes or jacket. But sometimes not. I never know until I am handed my ticket. And who makes these decisions anyway? When I flew to Syracuse a week ago, I had to take off my shoes and remove even my chips and cookies from my backpack. I have to carry some sort of food, because there is none offered, not even a cup of coffee on short hops. But on the way home, I kept on my shoes. Go figure. I thought the metal in my back would set off alarms, but nothing happened, and nobody swabbed my palms to check for residue of explosives. I guess that fad is over. It seemed that I was sailing through security, but when I got back to my house, all hell broke loose.

My Braille and Speak, a small device I use constantly for keeping phone numbers, my calendar, appointment dates and times, notes for speeches and to-do lists, in other words, my whole life, was missing. I had discovered its absence when I got to my daughter’s in Syracuse, but I blamed myself for possibly forgetting to put it in my backpack. But when I got home, it was nowhere in my house, which indicated that a TSA worker must have either forgotten to put it back in my pack when he was done examining it, or he purposely put it aside for rejection. Either way, it wound up in “lost and found.” But I did not know that until the next morning. Overnight, I agonized over the loss of all my important data and I prayed to God and to whoever it is that is in charge of lost items. I’m not Catholic, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to pray to him.

Meanwhile, as I was unpacking my backpack, and I lifted out my lap top, I was outraged to see that it was in pieces. Fortunately, my friend Dan, who had brought me home from the airport, was able to see that apparently, the TSA people in Syracuse had opened up the battery case and had only closed it just enough to keep it from falling apart, that is, until I picked it up. So I was screwed at both ends of the TSA line. When I tried to lodge a complaint, I was told to go to But when I went there, it said that due to lack of funding, this site would not be actively maintained. Now who do you think made that decision?

On the other hand, I only had to deal with 1 ideot sky cap who wanted to force me into a wheelchair and push me up the ramp in Detroit. When I told her I didn’t need a wheelchair, she suggested that she just push me up the ramp and then let me walk. What a ridiculous notion. I’m afraid I got a little loud and a little firm with her. I thought those days of forcing wheelchairs on blind passengers were over. Not so.

Then there are the seats that look like they were made for children. I am not a big person, but I only had about an inch on each side of my hips, and the guy next to me not only hogged the arm rest between us but let his coat fall over into my lap. And when I needed to get into my backpack, which was under the seat in front of me, I literally had to stand on my head. I mean my behind actually had to come off the seat in order for me to reach down to retrieve something I had dropped.

And my last annoyance to share with you is that I left my guide dog at home, because there was no way she would fit at my feet, even in the bulkhead row, which they laughably call “comfort seating.” Dora has a long body and long legs, so she not only would be taking up the foot space of my seatmate, never a popular situation, but also her feet would be sticking out in the aisle. When you have nowhere to put your feet when you have a guide dog down there, you have no choice but to put your legs in the overhead. That was meant as a joke, but flying these days is no joking matter. If anybody knows someone who would like to make some money driving me to Syracuse, we’re willing to pay the equivalent of airfare. And that’s no joke.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261


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