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Airport Security, Bits and Bobs, and Remembering Jim

April 30, 2014

It’s funny, I didn’t talk about TSA or getting through security at all in yesterday’s post. That was a failure on my part. However, I didn’t mention it mainly because it didn’t warrant mentioning.

When we were departing Philadelphia, I approached the terminal entrance, complete with TSA, x-ray machines and all the fun equipment used to poke, prod and examine every nook and cranny.

As I was taking off my shoes and putting my bags and contents of my life in a plastic container, I turned to the nearest TSA person and said, lifting my shirt to expose my pump, “I’m wearing an insulin pump.”

Nonplussed, she said “OK,” and that was that. I was sent to the body scanner, which examined me. Then I was asked by another TSA person to lift my pump with both hands. Then to replace it into my pocket. He then swabbed both hands to check to see if any explosives or other agents were present. Satisfied they weren’t, I was allowed to put my shoes back on, gather my money and be on my merry way.

Coming back, security was even more lax. I didn’t have to get a body scan. I didn’t have to even take my pump out of my pocket. The security person in Montreal simply swabbed my hands and my belt. It wasn’t until I was done that I found out Meg received exactly the same attention. I then turned to see that everyone coming through the line was getting swabbed, and that was all.

I anticipated much more difficulty getting through these checkpoints, but it seems insulin pumps are become ubiquitous. Maybe the key is to be prepared for a hassle, and then everything that happens that isn’t will be a pleasant surprise.

I worked with an idiot in the past. (I’ve written about him here. And here. And here. And here.) He’s a conspiracy theorist and believer in fringe idiocy. I recently had an opportunity to recall an almost conversation we had. Here’s its contents:

Idiot: “I was reading something interesting the other night and it really got me thinking. Have you ever heard of the Hollow Earth theory?”

Me: “I’ve heard enough.”

This American Life this week ran the episode “Death and Taxes.” In the first section, “Death,” producer Nancy Updike relates a story about her stepfather’s death and how she, her mother, and others were affected by it. She goes on to shadow a nurse in a hospice located outside Boston as she assists others who are either preparing for their own death, or the people who care for them who are coming to terms with it.

As I listened to this story on my drive, it reminded me of a particular instance when my brother Jim was dying from cancer in 2002. It was toward the end, and no one had any illusions about what the prognosis was, and he was in hospice care at his home.

Family members were taking turns staying with Jim overnight, and I wanted to take a turn. I had just started back working nights as an editor at the newspaper where I got my start, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity. I’d finish work at 11 p.m., get some soda and other supplies, and be at the house before midnight to allow Julie, Jim’s wife, to get some rest. All was going according to plan.

And then it got to be 1:30 a.m. Then 2 a.m. Then I started getting a little tired.

I was concerned, as I knew my only job was to stay awake in case Jim woke up, to offer him companionship or if anything was amiss. (If the job had any other responsibilities, I was completely out of my depth.)

It got later. I got sleepier. I thought “There’s no way can you fall asleep. Your only job is to stay awake and sit with Jim. Wake up, idiot.”

My brain didn’t pay attention. Around 3:30, I dozed off for about a minute. I woke up, panicked, and in about a thousandth of a second I thought “Holyshitwhatdidyoudo?Youonlyhadtostayupafewhours.Whatthefuckiswrongwithyou?Wakeupyouidiot.Whatisyourproblem?Can’tyoubetrustedwithanything?”

I scrambled. I shuffled my feet (which were in socks) on the carpeted floor. I reached out to Jim (who, thankfully, was unaware that I’d let him down by dozing off). I touched his hand. I shocked him.

(My feet, shuffling on the carpet, built up some static electricity that passed through my fingers onto my brother’s hand.)

Jim grunted and lolled his head a little.

In about a thousandth of a second I thought “Holyshitwhatdidyoudo?YoushockedJim.Areyouacompleteidiot?Whatthefuckiswrongwithyou?Whatisyourproblem?Can’tyoubetrustedwithanything?”

Then I calmed down and started laughing. Jim lolled his head back again and rested for the rest of the night. I was wide awake until I was relieved in the morning.

But I had a little chance to say goodbye. Jim passed a few days later.

Nancy Updike’s story brought back a flood of memories as I drove home. I laughed. I cried. I remembered the dark times, and the infrequent moments of joy after he got sick. (Especially after he really got sick.) I still think about him, though, and I miss him every day.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Debbie permalink
    May 2, 2014 5:45 pm

    Sorry for your loss Brian….however, thank you for the story.

  2. miquela permalink
    May 5, 2014 2:02 pm

    I was always informed to take my pump off when going through any type of scanner because it can screw with the settings.

    • May 5, 2014 2:19 pm


      Here’s the language directly from Medtronic’s support section: “Insulin pumps are designed to withstand common electromagnetic interference, including airport security systems. Taking an insulin pump through airport security is quite common. It is always a good idea to carry the Airport Information Card (located in the front pocket of your user guide) when you are traveling.”

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