Irene Worthington Baron


Irene Baron:

When people in Ohio complain about airport security, they don’t know how good they have it

Several years ago I was visiting a male friend in Idaho.  We had been 4-wheeling in the mountains, courtesy of a local lumber organization. They provided a free, fun-filled day where anyone could register to move over their logging road system within the mountains. It was quite extensive.

I arrived with my friend and the two 4-wheeled all terrain vehicles in the back of the pick-up truck. The first 100-yards of the trail involved crossing a creekbed and moving up a steep bank. The bank was less than 10-feet tall, but was giving some participants a difficult time due to the steepness. Since I was a newbie at all terrain vehicles, my friend offered to let me ride tandem on his vehicle. So, I rode on the back. 

There were many places in that high mountain where we stopped to appreciate the view. The sky was blue, the air clean, and the scenes extended 10-20 miles over distant mountains. Other riders passed us by. Eventually, we were the last visitors on the trail, a dirt road.

When I was a member of the National ski Patrol, we were assigned to “sweep” the trails at the end of the day. By doing that, patrollers would find and follow anyone who was slow, may have had difficulty, or needed help getting back to the base lodge. We would ensure the trails were empty of guests to the ski area before taking off for the night.

In this free exploration day provided by the lumber organization, there was a “sweeper” assigned to be the last vehicle.  Thank goodness.

We were on one dirt road about ¾ of the way through the assigned trail when we came to a ravine. The road covering the ravine looked like all the other dirt roads. However, my friend stopped prior to crossing the ravine. If didn’t look any different to me, but he’d picked up on something. Might have been a sixth sense.  Anyway, he studied the trail. After several minutes, he decided to cross the ravine on that dirt road very slowly. He didn’t want to jar anything as many vehicles had been over it that day. He said it didn’t look like it was as sturdy as the other ravine crossing roads.

He started up the 4-wheeler and very slowly began to traverse the ravine. As we moved, the right side of the road partially gave way. It happened too fast to get out of the way of the collapse. The whole road didn’t collapse, just the right side where our right side wheels touched. The vehicle began to learn to the right. We both leaned to the left. I thought we could get through it.

He yelled to me, “Get off! Jump left!”

I tried, but couldn’t. The lean of the machine to the right made it impossible to jump off to the left. The collapse of that section of the road was too fast. The vehicle began to flip over to the right with both of us making it top heavy.  I flew off and was airborne. When I hit the ravine, I plowed down it head first.  I put my head down into my left shoulder, putting my arms out to break the fall. My right arm was curled over my head to protect me. I went over small fallen trees, brush and shrubs. My head was okay, but my right arm was damaged. It hurt. I had to pull it up into a bent position and hold it there. I careened down the ravine about 30-40 yards.

“Can you come up here and help me?” My friend was at the top of the ravine, keeping the vehicle from falling down the ravine. 

“No,” I called back. “I hurt my arm.” I cradled it to protect it.

He gave a groan. Once I moved out of the path of the vehicle if it would fall, he slowly let go of it expecting the machine to cascade down the ravine.  It didn’t. It stayed there balanced precariously on timber. Having had a broken neck a year or so earlier, he had put his life in danger to stop the vehicle from falling down on to me. I was very appreciative of his kind consideration for my life.

It was at this time the designated safety/sweeper drove up on his 4-wheeled vehicle.  He first helped me out of the ravine, having to bodily pull me up over the last bank. Thank goodness he was a large and strong man because I am not a light weight. With rope, he helped pull our vehicle out of the ravine. He suggested my friend check out the machine before continuing. Since I was injured, he wanted to immediately take me on to the check-in station.

I pulled down my right sleeve and buttoned the neck of my shirt. Raising my arm to my neck, I buttoned the cuff of the sleeve to my neck to create a sling with the sleeve, thereby supporting my loose arm. Fortunately, I don’t fee pain as readily as others. Although in discomfort, I was okay.

I found later at the hospital I had dislocated my right shoulder and broke some bones in my right wrist and arm. Taking two persons to do it, my dislocated upper arm was put back into the socket and was temporarily fixed up. My wrist was wrapped and put into an air cast.

I then began to leave Idaho. This was when I was able to experience airport security like I never had before.

With my right arm in an air cast and bright blue hospital sling protecting arm and shoulder, going through security the officials apologized that I had been automatically selected for further scrutiny. They felt so bad about it, I had to ensure them that it was okay. They passed the wand over me numerous times. I was unable to take off any metal on my arm or sling clamps. I was patted down and my luggage thoroughly examined. Luggage and I went through the same type of machines that you find at other airports, except for one thing.

The most unusual security clearance was my having to step into an apparatus that resembled an old style telephone booth.  The security team advised me that all that would happen was that air would be blown through the empty space.  I was assured I would feel no discomfort. If there were any remnants of explosives, even a millionth of a molecule, they stated I would be held for questioning. The door closed and air gusted/blew threw the enclosure. It was not unpleasant. It was such a short timed event, with the glass walls I was not claustrophobic.  I worried that since my friend was an avid hunter, there may have been residue of gun powder/material left on me from his residence and property. No explosive residue was found. I was released.

I asked security, “Why is this type of security here in Idaho? What’s different from this part of the country as compared to Cleveland, Cincinnati or Columbus, Ohio?  Is Idaho full of “rednecks” who might be security risks? Were there known bombers here? Terrorists? Is our government concerned about people living in Idaho? I never saw such a thing in any other airport.

The personnel tried to make me believe it was used at airports all over the United States. Did they think I was ignorant? That I didn’t travel much? Did they expect me to believe that? No way. I never encountered such a security device at any other airport. When discussing it with other travelers/friends, they were always amazed at my story. No one I know has ever encountered such a security measure before.

I came to learn later that the "explosives trace-detection portal" device, commonly known as a "puffer machine," detects explosives or drugs at airports and other places needing "sensitive" screening. The machines can detect extremely small traces of targeted compounds. It uses a mass spectrometer to determine molecules at the molecular level. Used as a secondary device for persons needing further screening, it is not normally used elsewhere as it was regularly in Idaho.

I began to wonder about people living in Idaho. Were they being profiled/targeted for some reason? What are they doing that would raise the ire of the government? If there are people there who with munitions are prepared to defend their country, like the Swiss who have their instant military troops in most adults trained and outfitted to enter battle when called upon, citizens should feel safe being in Idaho. Why not the government? I wonder what’s going on? What am ignorant about? Hummmmm …………………

So, when you go through the short security and x-ray type of scan at the airports, don’t even think you’re being hassled. Wait until you travel through Idaho!


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