There are times to argue or have a difference of opinion, but not when the person you disagree with happens to work for the Transportation Security Administration, otherwise known as the TSA. As a frequent business traveler, I have had all too many experiences, mostly negative, with members of the TSA and I have found these individuals humorless, unyielding in their enforcement of rules (some of which are rather petty, in my view), and generally unwilling to compromise. One of the best illustrations of the TSA mentality is the following conversation, which took place at the Tampa airport late one night after a particularly grueling series of mock trials:
TSA officer: “Ma’am, what is this item we just discovered in your briefcase?”
Me: “It is an umbrella.”
TSA officer: “What do you need it for?”
Me: “I always need it when it rains, to keep the rain from ruining my clothes, not to mention my hair.”
TSA officer: “If it is really an umbrella, you will need to open it up, right now.”
Me: “No, sir, I really can’t open my umbrella here, right now. You will have to open it yourself.”
TSA officer: “Ma’am, you seem not to be taking me seriously. I told you to open up this item, right here, and right now. If you refuse, I cannot let you pass through the security checkpoint.”
Me: “As much as I would like to catch my flight, which, as you know, is the last flight out of here, and go home, I cannot comply with your order to open my umbrella here and now. Don’t you know it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors?”
TSA officer, now exasperated and noting the lengthy line caused by his unflinching desire to torture this woman in a silk suit, high heels, with the brightly colored umbrella: “I take full responsibility for any bad luck that comes your way. Now, open up that thing and get out of here!”
I, of course, reluctantly yielded to his authority in an effort to go home without being arrested first! Now I know the source of any and all bad luck that has befallen me. But the point is, no matter how important you think you are, or how big a hurry you’re in, do what the TSA man/woman says or else…
It is hard to follow that story. But it is a great illustration of the ridiculous things we have to put up as road and sky warriors. Sometimes I want to ask the TSA people if they, themselves, have ever traveled as a civilian. The sad thing is such actions on the part of the TSA do not make any of us feel any safer. One of the things that I like about shooting digital photos these days is that I do not have the hassles of explaining that yes, the TSA rules do permit, and even require, a hand check of film upon request. The switch to digital saves me considerable time because of the silly application of “one size fits all” rules. And though I always knew the rules, and had copies of them with me to show the uninformed or unhelpful agents, arguing with the TSA agents on things they should know was never fun! There are times when such authority figures must be reminded of their own rules, just as there are times it is easier to give in to their requests, however ridiculous. With film it was (and still would be if I traveled with it) worth it; with an umbrella – well, whatever…just do it and move along. It is sad that we are forced into jumping through such hoops to get to where we are going to have fun, or more likely work – and work hard. The hoops make hard work harder. But the message of this post is sometimes is pays to be a sheep and figure out which fights to fight.
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