Notes on TSA Officers

As I’m standing in the security check-point line at the airport on Wednesday with my shoes, belt, and personal belongings in one bin and my iPad in another, I’m quietly observing what’s going on around me as other people in line are subjected to the scrutiny of the St. Louis TSA officers.

Our line is moving slow because of an elderly woman in a wheel chair with a large cat in a crate on her lap.  The woman accompanying this elderly lady looks like she should be in a wheel chair too.  The officers assisting the ladies are very vocal and rude to these women, making the woman remove the cat from the crate.

After much fidgeting and scrutiny and moving around, they finally make the elderly woman stand and go through the metal detector with the cat in hand.  “I was told I wouldn’t have to do this,” the elderly woman yells out.  “Take it up with the airlines, lady,” a female officer yells back.

This was the same officer that had verbally expressed her disgust out loud to a coworker about this woman as if she were a prison guard.  Had that woman in the chair been my mother, I probably would have been arrested for talking back to the officer.

Another man, probably in his 70s, was being a bit stubborn and got pulled to go through the full body scan.  He bickered back and forth with the female officer a bit and she called for a “male op-out.”  The man went through the metal detector and then a male officer scanned his body with a wand.

Meanwhile, I’m standing there waiting my turn to go through.  People are piling up behind me almost to where you can’t tell who’s turn is next.  My belongings are already through on the other side waiting for me.  And an officer on the other side almost waves other people through who had been behind me.  He obviously wasn’t paying attention and had no sense of urgency.  I kept my cool and kept my eyes on my stuff on the other side which had now been waiting there a good five minutes.

When flying out of Detroit yesterday, the security line was even longer.  But the officers were pleasant.  They smiled and moved people through the line efficiently.  One officer watching the line even asked how everyone was doing and thanked us for our patience.  I was through the line in no time and only separated from my belongings for maybe 30 seconds. Despite the long line, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience, and many people were going through the full body scan but being treated with respect about it.

My point here is that this is already an uncomfortable situation for people, and while people should understand that TSA is just doing their job and get on with it, TSA officers could at least treat people (especially elderly ones) with a bit more respect and dignity as well.  While standing in line in Detroit, I saw a sign asking customers to respect the officers and avoid confrontation or verbal abuse.  Hmm…how bout TSA officers do the same and keep their snide comments to themselves when an old lady and her cat come through the line.  I really wanted to ask that officer if she spoke to her Mom that way.

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