Ervin: Cripple Profiling

Mike ErvinI don’t know if it’s my imagination or what. But it seems like lately I’m often a victim of cripple profiling. When I come face-to-face with law enforcement officials, they treat me differently from everybody else, just because I’m crippled.

It happened the last time I flew. The TSA guy took me aside and he gave me a half-hearted pat down. He didn’t even touch my “sensitive areas,” as those TSA guys put it. He didn’t get down on his knees and look under my wheelchair or anything.

The same thing happened the last time I went to my state capitol. The capitol cop took me aside. He glanced into my stuffed backpack, patted me on the shoulder and told me I was “good to go.” And that was it!

When this happens I’m vaguely insulted. Because I feel the older I get, the more I’m subjected to this type of profiling. I feel like saying, “Hey, just because I’m a dented-up old cripple doesn’t mean I’m incapable of causing trouble, dammit! You ought to take some sensitivity training.”

But then I decide that maybe discrimination ain’t always bad. So I douse my burning indignation and soldier on. This is especially true at the airport. It’s probably best not to draw too much attention to myself at the airport. I’m amazed that I’m not already on every no-fly list — prohibited from flying not because I’m a terrorist, but because I’m a loudmouth pain in the ass.

I think of all the airports all over this land where I’ve ended up bitching up a storm because some baggage crew trashed the hell out of my wheelchair. Like one time they ripped the wires right out of my motor. Don’t ask me how they managed to pull that one off, unless 1. they were having a contest to see who could find the most creative way to trash the hell out of a wheelchair or 2. there were gorillas working on the baggage crew. Man did I erupt about that one! And then there was that other time when I sat on the plane and watched helplessly through the window as they unloaded my chair from the belly hatch. Then they walked away and left it alone on the tarmac for no apparent reason. Then a storm came through and my chair got drenched. And when they finally brought my chair up to me, it was dead as hell because it got drenched!

And then there are those damn aisle chairs! Oh man, don’t get me started on those things! You know what I’m talking about! Whenever I head down the jet bridge to where one of those torture chairs awaits me, I feel like a dead man walking. I feel like a priest should be walking beside me reciting prayers. And when my flight arrives at my destination, there the aisle chair pushers are with that aisle chair again, ready to haul me off the plane and perch me in a corner of the waiting area for a half an hour until my wheelchair arrives at the gate. So I say I’m not giving up my cushy airplane seat until my wheelchair gets here. And then an airline person comes in and says I have to get off the plane so people on the next flight can board. And I say I’m not giving up my cushy airplane seat until my wheelchair gets here. And then another airline person comes in and says I have to get off the plane so people on the next flight can board. And I say I’m not giving up my cushy airplane seat until my wheelchair gets here. All those people should get sensitivity training, too! Make them sit strapped in an aisle chair in a bustling waiting area for just five minutes!
I hope the TSA doesn’t rethink its cripple profile and start treating all cripples based on how I behave in airports. None of us will ever be allowed to fly again.

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  1. Alan Bronstein says:

    The last time I corresponded with Mike was when I considered having my drama club do a play he wrote. Frankly, he talked me out of it, saying it really was not a propos for a high school.

    That said, I have to take the other side of the issue with the TSA and “Crip Profiling.” My experience has been the flip side of Mike’s. At one point I was headed for the plane, having been thru security. Some TSA people came running after me to have me take off my shoes. This was before it was a general requirement. As a wheeler, it’s not so easy for me to take my shoes off and put them back on. I was pissed.

    On my next trip the inspector stuck his hand down the back of my pants to be sure I wasn’t sitting on a bomb. Yes, Mike, he didn’t miss any of my “sensitive areas.” I’d prefer the profiling that Mike seems to be subject to.

    At this point I have the luxury of saying, “No thanks, airlines, I’ll drive . . . or not go.” I’ve been forgotten on the empty plane, waiting for the aisle chair to be brought on. I was even forced to miss my connection to an international flight once b/c they took so long to get the aisle chair on board. However, the result of that mishap turned out just fine: I got put on the next flight to the States in 1st class with a limo ride home from JFK to Philly.

    Just the same, considering that ALL passengers are now treated like cattle instead of customers, I’m glad to have the luxury of not HAVING to go anywhere. I can choose to drive or stay home.

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