I had another post scheduled for today, but it’ll have to wait. After the run in I had last night with TSA, I thought it fitting to share another chapter of my book, Boarding All Rows.
If we’re friends on Facebook, you might have seen it in real time:
It’s unlike me to go off on someone like that. I would’ve let it go, but when I tried to say “Look man, I fly a lot and that’s the first time I’ve heard that,” he got even louder and countered that he’s there five days a week, and six inches is the spacing. It was like trying to argue with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman during his”I’m just gettin’ warmed up” speech.
At first I was embarrassed, but now I was livid. So I said what I said. And I regretted it.
He proceeded to manually search my bag, slowly pulling out each item for examination. My bras, my thongs, my life sized Scarlett Johansson cardboard cutout. He swabbed my hands for bomb making substances, but thankfully only found Gold Bond and Nutella (which is probably what they should have named Gold Bond anyway).
In the end, I apologized for my comment and he apologized for his attitude. He said he’d had some passengers get really snippy earlier and it put him in a bad mood.
I could relate because his sour-power was contagious. Later, I tripped a kid running in the terminal and then throat punched the overly friendly Delta Skymiles credit card salesperson. Serenity now!
All that said, here’s the part of my book that turns the tables, and puts the TSA through a well-deserved body cavity search.
Chapter 3 – The Other Boys in Blue
On September 10, 2001, travelers everywhere were oblivious to what was coming. We blazed into the airport parking deck on two wheels and sprinted for the ticket counter. We cut it closer to catch flights than most people do to catch movies. We bitched and moaned about long security lines that might keep us from grabbing some greasy airport pizza. The world truly had no idea. Fast-forward a mere twenty-four hours. Not one traveler complained about anything as news anchors, many fighting back tears, reported details of the worst attack on the US since Pearl Harbor. A handful of radicals believed the path to glory involved taking innocent lives and leveling the economic and defense centers of America. It exposed gaping holes in our security procedures, quite literally large enough to fly planes through.
I mention this for two reasons. First, to remind us why the Transportation and Security Administration was created and why we need it every day. It’s a hard job deciding where to tighten screening procedures for safety versus where to relax them and respect individual freedoms. As we’ve seen in the years since 9/11, the terrorists had plenty of buddies willing to pick up where they left off. We can’t allow ourselves to get slack again, and with that in mind I try to cut these guys some slack, to a point.
The second reason is I want to make a crystal-clear distinction. There’s TSA the agency and then there are a few nameless TSA workers which I’m about to unload on. You know the ones I’m talking about, the people from school who nobody respected; the ones with chips on their shoulders that may never heal. They got bullied, they got picked on, and it was wrong. We were wrong to do it, and at some point, we will all pay the piper for it.
Some of them entered the military, learned to kick ass, and now protect the freedoms of the very people who mistreated them. Others went into law enforcement and settle that score day in day out, one ticket at a time. But not all the ones who got pushed around are exactly military grade or the stuff that cops are made of. While they used to guard professional office buildings and malls, now some of them have shown up at your neighborhood airport shakedown.
Let’s do this as a PSA (Public Service Announcement) from America to those specific TSA officers: STOP BEING DICKS. Wait. Is it sexist to also call the female officers dicks? STOP BEING DICKS AND BITCHES. There. That feels much more PC.
Stop yelling at us like we’re children in a lunch line. We have booked travel, driven to the airport, parked, dragged bags, checked in and now stand in front of you without the miracle of your one thousand decibel pie hole. We’re stressed. We have lots on our minds. “Will we make the gate on time? Can we make our connection? Did we lock the car? Will we get to the hospital before grandma passes away?” All these things could be going on in the lives of the passengers who are coming through your little piece of real estate, so try to keep that shit in mind. You wouldn’t want us bellowing at you the day your dog died or your child is in the hospital while you’re stuck at work.
Granted some people go into a fugue state when entering the security line, but YELLING at them doesn’t help! It’s like in the movies when soldiers encounter a language barrier with a prisoner, talking louder doesn’t equate to six months of Rosetta Stone language lessons. And like I mentioned before, we’ve been running our asses off to get here and are just now thinking about Homeland Security. You, bullying TSA worker, have been standing or sitting in the same spot for hours thinking about nothing else.
“Nothing liquid over 3.4 ounces! Nothing metal or electronic in your pockets! Move forward! Push your own bags through! Did you pack your own bags people? You better hope to Jesus you did! Take off your shoes! No, don’t take off your shoes in this line!”
We get it. You’re bored. You’re underappreciated. Your polyester uniform is stiff, suffocating, and it has just gotten wedged into your Amazon-summer crotch. Now you have to stealthily fish it out while on center stage in front of hundreds of eyes, and even worse…cell phone cameras. One careless scratch or dig and you could unwittingly become the next viral video sensation.
But hold the phone! You may have a situation on your hands! You’ve just recognized a woman coming through the line. Her long black hair is tied back like fine silk and her olive-toned skin is that perfect shade most Caucasian women envy. It appears tanned and healthy, even in the coldest months of winter, and is most commonly associated with southern Italian or Middle Eastern descent.Something is giving you the vibe she is trying to blend in and not be noticed, which is futile because both men and women keep glancing at her.
But she’s no match for your situational awareness and today, she will not make it through unnoticed. So who is this suspect? FBI’s most wanted? Terrorism watch list? No, she’s the chick who gave you a fake phone number at the mall in 2005. You swore you’d remember that face and now it’s your turn to bring the pain. “Revenge is a dish best served with a nice, slow pat down,” you think and then snicker under your breath. Don’t pretend like you don’t.
I’ve seen you snatch an elderly man out of line because of some suspicious looking device in his carry-on bag. “Hey, Jerry, come take a look at this.” Jerry and the rest of the crew rush over, which essentially shuts down all the security lines. Slowly you lift the device from the bag to examine it more closely. It looks a lot like something you saw on a rerun of Homeland last night.
“There’s no time to call the real police,” you whisper, “it’s up to me.” You unscrew and remove the plastic casing ever so gently, just in case there’s a trip wire. The intense focus and concentration makes everything go a little fuzzy. Sweat pours down your greasy, pimpled forehead as the seconds tick down. “Do I cut the red wire, or the blue one?” You go with your gut, snip your favorite color and…
BAM! Nothing happens. No explosion. No secondary timer. You did it! You saved everyone! “Who’s the man?” you think as your TSA buddies pat you on the back. Interviews. Talk shows. A book deal! You’re surrounded by beautiful women, who seconds ago were terrified but are now eager to thank you for saving them. And then a little man who you sort of recognize places a voice-assist device against his throat and robotically says “Congratulations¬¬¬¬, jackass. Now I’m gonna’ get a blood clot. You broke my leg squeezer pump.”
Speaking for most of America, I understand it’s your job to be suspicious. You probably took hours of classes and lugged around giant training binders to sharpen your situational awareness. At least I hope you did because you’re the last line of defense and a vital link in the Homeland Security chain. Because of your vigilance, who knows how many attacks have been thwarted since 9/11? So again, thank you. But for shits and giggles, I would love to sneak a peek at that class agenda. Is there a section instructing you not to be polite? Bullet points on how to act like a douche bag for no apparent reason? Was there a personality profile like other professions often take?
I can hear the Human Resources person now, “Hi, Lenny. I’m Bob from HR. I’ve reviewed the test results and your scores suggest you don’t like people very much. Do you feel that’s accurate?”
Lenny shrugs his shoulders. “Uh, I don’t know.”
“Interesting answer. Sounds like you prepped for the interview,” Bob says. “The profile also plotted you dead center in the category of: Gravitates toward being a dick. Would you say that’s a hit or a miss?”
“I’d say you and your test can kiss my ass! I didn’t really wanna’ work here anyway.”
“Perfect! You’re just the kind of man we’re looking for. When can you start?”
We’re not saying you’re all like this. Most of you are polite and genuinely pleasant people, but it’s the handful of outliers who screws it up for everyone. Which, if you think about it, is how TSA got started to begin with: a dozen or so lunatics changed the travel game for the entire world. Look, we try to remember every nuance of your security rulebook. We try to respect your status as Guardians of the Sky Gates. But you make it difficult when you prove over and over that you don’t have to be in the Army to be a Major Asshole.