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Pick A Card, Any Card

Having had a defibrillator recently installed, Dan confronts new problems at security checkpoints.

Defibrillator

I recently underwent a procedure to install an ICD, or a defibrillator.

This little baby ensures that my heart beats properly at all times, and if I somehow slip into an arrhythmia, the device will shock me back into a normal rhythm.

Hopefully, I will never have to experience this particular life-threatening aberration, but it’s nice to know that I won’t drop dead face-first in my spaghetti if I do.

This defibrillator install marks the fourth operation I have undergone that replaces an organic part with an artificially-created replacement. I am, in the truest sense of the word, becoming a cyborg.

Being a fan of science fiction, this changeover does provide me with a small amount of pleasure, but mainly the implants create situations that make life more difficult. Though, one has to admit, being a cyborg leads to situations that provide anyone watching with quite a show. The best example of metal implants causing inadvertent comedy is what happens when I pass through security checkpoints.

This defibrillator install marks the fourth operation I have undergone that replaces an organic part with an artificially-created replacement. I am, in the truest sense of the word, becoming a cyborg.

Anyone who is living in America today knows that security checkpoints are popping up everywhere. The airport and courthouse are logical places for metal detectors, but I have been to schools and restaurants that have had them as well. No matter where the booths are, though, they all operate in basically the same fashion. To be allowed passage, you must take off shoes, hats, belts, shirts, wigs, fingers, and anything else that can be ripped or broken off. If you refuse any of these stipulations, then you and a guard get more intimate than you did on your last date.

What can we do, though? The country has changed since 9-11. Before that fateful day, going through security checkpoints mainly consisted of walking through a metal detector that beeped constantly as a guard with his nose behind a Sports Illustrated waved you through along with the AK-47 and the dynamite you had in your suitcase. Alas, those halcyon days are gone, and now any time I even come near a metal detector, I light the thing up like a neon Christmas tree on fire.

In addition, since 9-11, doctors are now required to provide patients with a wallet-sized plastic card that details any implant the patient has. This card is to be presented at any security point in order to provide official proof that you aren’t beeping because you're carrying weapons.

Since you are given one card for every implant operation, I have four now. You might think this would enable me to Moonwalk straight through any security gate in the world with impunity, but it doesn’t quite work that way. Instead of giving me four times the immunity, it has been my experience that having an entire suite of medical implant cards only pisses off guards more, especially when I tell them to "pick a card, any card."

Because any guard who has to check me cannot use the magic beeping wand to detect hidden bazookas, I always have to undergo the dreaded "pat down." Some of you may have heard about the recent controversy over the new pat down techniques being used by TSA agents at airports.

As a frequent flier on the grabby skies of the Transportation Security Administration, let me tell you, I’ve been on third dates that ended with less touching.

It starts with the agent telling you to stand on the yellow dot and hold your arms out to your sides. "If I could do that," I usually say, "I wouldn’t need you to feel me up."

Whoever came up with the procedure for the manual weapon check must have been starved for human contact. It starts with the agent telling you to stand on the yellow dot and hold your arms out to your sides. "If I could do that," I usually say, "I wouldn’t need you to feel me up."

Next, the agent describes exactly how he is going to touch every part of my body. Things like "I’m going to use the upper part of the left half of the back of my hand to touch the inner part of the right and left side of your upper thigh." As I ask if that was right hand on green, the agent’s cold hands rub the back of my legs.

Next, he tells me that he is going to "feel my buttocks with the back of his hands," and asks me if he can proceed. Unfortunately, you don’t really have a choice here, because if you say "no," you can "feel" your "buttocks" sitting in the bus depot, waiting for a Greyhound to Poughkeepsie.

Finally, when the agent determines that you are not a threat to anything but making your appointment on time, you are allowed to get re-dressed and proceed. I say get re-dressed, because at this point, you are barely left wearing pants and a shirt. You see, in order to more accurately detect the presence of metal, the first thing you must do before you even pass through the detector is remove your belt, un-tuck your shirt, take off your hat, roll up your pants, take off all jewelry, and store all your personal items in a plastic bin for all to see.

Take my advice fellas, any location with a checkpoint is not the place to take your Hello Kitty wallet and your matching socks on their maiden voyage.

Trust me when I tell you, no one can look dignified shoving their shirt into their pants while they have one arm stuck through a sweater that’s on backwards.

So, as you hold your un-belted pants up with one hand, you shuffle your feet across a floor so dirty that even black socks turn brown, and make your way to the tiny chair they provide for re-dressing purposes. There, in full view of all the others who are passing through security with the greatest of ease, you get to put your clothes back on. Trust me when I tell you, no one can look dignified shoving their shirt into their pants while they have one arm stuck through a sweater that’s on backwards. Finally, after the extra 20 minutes you didn’t plan for has expired, you try to run as fast you can to wherever you are going, only to find out that you missed your flight or appointment thanks to the ridiculous fiasco that security put you through.

No one ever talks about the little things like this that people like us go through each and every day. The ordeal that those of us with metal implants go through at security checkpoints is just one of chronic illness’ extra hassles. Be it bending down to pick up change that you’ve dropped, getting out of the passenger side of low-riding automobiles, or finding shoes to fit your swollen feet -- these are all daily hurdles that no one ever talks about. Yes, it makes for an entertaining column, but it isn’t quite as funny when you are living it.

So, next time you are behind someone who is "holding up" the line at a security checkpoint while they get a pat down, remember, it is even worse for them. Don’t complain when you take all of them for granted.

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