There is a time when every rule, however sensible, fails to make swense. That happened to me on Monday, July 27, at the Terrace airport.
Passing through security, I beeped. I smiled at the attendant waiting with her magic wand. “Artificial hip. I always beep,” I said.
“I’m sorry sir, you can’t get on your flight,” she replied.
“Eh?!” I replied back, not wanting to believe what I had just heard.
And the answer came, “We don’t have a male attendant to do a pat-down.”
I glanced at the four female security staff on hand. Sure enough, not a male in sight, at least not one wearing the required uniform.
I fought down the impending sense of disaster, chaos, incredulity and indignation that was rising out of the pit of my stomach, making it hard to breathe and went into problem-solving mode.
You have my permission to do a pat-down. It’s male-male, female-female procedure. No. My wife can watch. No. Can you ask an Air Canada personnel to do it? No, we can’t do their job, they can’t do ours. RCMP? None stationed at the airport.
You can put your wand against my hip, I said. It will beep because there is metal in my hip and you will see that there is nothing else there because I have already taken off my belt. No.
I switched to plea-mode. I have a connecting flight to make. I’m going back east for a family wedding. I’m going to see my children. Sorry.
We’ll call an Air Canada attendant to re-book you, I was told. And the only answer I had to that was to request that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) supervisor be called.
The Air Canada staff were incredulous and went to their supervisor, who immediately checked policy and said a passenger who consents to an opposite sex security officer doing a pat-down must be offered service.
The CATSA supervisor, who had already checked with her own supervisor, was adamant. No. There would be a male on duty in an hour and a half. Air Canada could book me another flight.
I was told I could get in touch with the higher ups in CATSA if I liked. I was handed a card. It read, “Your opinion matters, 1-888-294-2202, catsa.gc.ca.” The irony is beyond belief.
There comes a time when any staff, of any public agency, should be able to use his or her professional judgment when a rule or regulation stops making sense and the public they are serving is no longer being served.
This should especially be so in a small town, a northern community where I know the security people and some of them know me.
Perhaps they feared for their jobs and disruption of my travel was the price of their job security. But I speculate.
What I know is that no one was served, not me, not my fellow citizens.
No one was made more secure by that travesty of common sense.