When one sees stories that talk about Congress and TSA in the same sentence, you can usually be pretty sure what’s coming next. This time, you’d only be half right. Yes, a U.S. Congressman is seeking more legislative controls on how screeners do their jobs. No, it’s not what you think…not more intrusive technology, or adding sock puppets to the no-fly list. This time, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) wants legislation requiring TSA screeners to be more polite to airline passengers. While I understand the underlying premise that some angry passengers are difficult for the TSO to deal with, the inverse is also true – which many of us have personally experienced - a rude TSO makes for angry passengers. The circle of life.
Certainly good customer service is important, although in a limited defense of the TSOs, their full-time job is to look for people and stuff that might kill you and them, not to put on a clown nose and entertain the kids (although I must admit, that prospect is intriguing, since according to a recent GAO report, the BDOs aren’t doing much else useful.) TSA Assistant Administrator for Security Operations Kelly Hoggan said he warns potential hires that the job requires interacting with the public when they apply for position… a well-earned “duh”. I’m not quite sure where a reasonable answer lies for making the screening checkpoint the highlight of your vacation – better psychological hiring processes, better training, Disney characters at every checkpoint … yes, I’m being facetious, but no less so than seeking to legislate rudeness out of Federal union members who were recently told that they probably won’t get to carry guns at work after all.
However, they will have a challenge to beat their successes of last year, when a collective 1,813 firearms were discovered nationwide, 1,477 of which (80%) were loaded. ATL led the weapon-toting parade at 111 (2 per week on average), DFW and IAH were next with 96 and 68 respectively, PHX with 66, and DEN with 51 (1 per week). Notice that most were in southwest States, where guns of every kind are more prevalent, although Atlanta most likely led due to sheer volume of passengers.
It’s amusing, but bizarre, how people try to slip weapons past, and then complain about how rude the TSO was when they got caught breaking the law and were disencumbered of their possessions, and surprisingly few arrested – another point in TSA’s favor: guns stuffed in a box of detergent, a dagger hung around the neck with fishing line, thousands of knives in shoes, thermos bottles and inside computers; 562 stun guns – 31% of the total number of guns. Who knew that weapons aren’t allowed on planes… aaaah, right – you “forgot” you had that hand grenade tucked behind the 22-inch machete blade when you packed them beneath your BVDs last night.
Now, consider for just a moment that these are the people who knowingly pack this hardware in their luggage with the intent, however naïve, to challenge the TSOs to find it, however rudely they go about it, in order to board a commercial aircraft. I have now begun to wonder just how many of my other fellow Americans, just walking the streets with a backpack, a tote bag, a briefcase, or any similar paraphernalia, are packing heat. It’s probably rude to ask.