Thursday, July 14th, 2011
I’ve been traveling a lot for over twenty years, both domestic and international. Repeat business travel gets old and those of us who have and still do do it know that flow is the best way through. I have over a million air miles on a single airline plus plenty on others.
Early on post 9/11 I felt for TSA agents; they have to absorb quite a bit of nervousness, aggravation, racism, and idiocy from people who don’t flow well. However, lately there has been a change in the way TSA seems to be doing their screening and instead of helping with flow, they’re getting aggressive which is unnecessary and hurts their PR.
I routinely travel with a pack and a camera bag with high end gear in both. When I run this stuff through x-ray (computer out of bag) I like to get through screening so I can be there to pick it up when it gets through the conveyor belt. But, if I’m not, I make mention to the TSA agent that I’d like to keep an eye on my stuff. I make this request politely with a smile on my face and good eye contact. It has never been a problem until now.
On my last four trips the various TSA agents not only became irritated with my request, two of them (two separate airports) walked me over to desks further away from my stuff for no apparent reason just to press the point that they were in control and who was I to make such a request. One of them held me at the desk for 5 minutes for no reason, long enough for many people to paw over my stuff on the conveyor belt.
As many of you know there is no one watching the conveyor belt to make sure that the right person picks up the right stuff. This has always been a logistical problem with air travel (since metal detectors started to be used) and isn’t the fault of TSA. However, because TSA can cause a bottleneck in getting through they can exacerbate the problem. They should at least acknowledge the problem rather than making it worse.
I didn’t make a scene and I eventually got all my stuff but not before it was piled up with other people’s stuff in such a way that someone could have easily walked off with my computer, phone, or camera gear.
This is both a logistical problem but also a social one: two times TSA agents not only failed to acknowledge my concern but made concerted efforts to show they had power by making it harder or me to see my stuff.
That pushed me over the hump and now I’m dead set against TSA unionizing. Frankly I think TSA should be dismantled and redesigned with better logistics, better screening, and better training.