A memory of the TSA.
Americans have come to loathe, in many ways, the changes that have had to be made to their society, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One of those changes was the founding of the TSA (Transport Security Administration), to look after transport security, specifically, the airports. The question is, do these changes improve security or are they an illusion?
I recall travelling to America after 9/11. I was passing through one of the New York area airports (I forget which, whether it be Newark or JFK) and it was my turn to have my bag checked.
I duly loaded my bag up into the machine and waited for judgement to be passed on it. However, I found myself rather surprised at the behaviour of the TSA staff. Rather than paying attention to the screens in front of them, that were revealing the contents of my bag, to them, they just stood there, chatting amongst themselves. No one was doing their supposed job, at all.
“Excuse me,” I began, at a comfortable volume.
They ignored me and carried on chatting.
“EXCUSE ME!”, I said, rather more loudly, to the oblivious TSA staff. “Why aren’t you looking at the screens?”
Something dark entered their faces, as they realized they were being criticized.
One of them said something to me, but it was so badly pronounced, so mangled by an incompetent use of the tongue, that I have no idea, to this day, what they were trying to say to me. It didn't look good, however. I carried on, nevertheless.
“By not doing your jobs, you are putting everyone at risk. Why aren’t you checking the bags properly?”, I said, firmly, but not so impolitely as to stir them further.
They stood still, looking at me for a moment, and one of them just dismissed me with a wave of the hand and, again, said something incoherent, but which I gather was to get me to move along.
I could see I wasn’t getting anywhere. I moved along, took my bag and left. As I departed, I cast a glance behind me and saw the TSA staff standing there, continuing to talk amongst themselves. My words had been nothing more than an irritant to them. They had not changed their behaviour at all.
Now, I learnt something from this. It seems to me that simply creating a body to take care of transportation security and actually taking care of transportation security are two completely different things. I have no doubt at all, that anyone could have smuggled anything past those chattering TSA staff. They were being completely inattentive to their role. They also were clearly unaware of the critical importance of what they had been tasked to do. Lives depended on their competent performance – yet, for them, gossip was more important than plane loads of innocent passengers.
If this level of staff competence is common across the TSA, then it is doubtful whether America is any safer because of the creation of this body. The only thing that is certain about the TSA is that it has made the lives of every traveller less convenient, and less pleasant. Other than that, its supposed effects on security are likely to be limited.
Admittedly, my experience was but one incident. However, even that was one experience too many. It shows that the TSA staff are not under enough oversight and are not monitored for competent performance, in the way that they should be. Then again, that doesn’t surprise me. A lot of what America does seems to be an indication of a once great nation in decline. I think the TSA is just another symptom of many an underlying problem.
A thought occurs to me, however. If every traveller monitored the behaviour of security staff and reported them, when they seemed not to be doing their jobs, perhaps their competence would improve. The travellers themselves can do the monitoring that the organizations are not doing. So, the next time you travel, do keep an eye on the security staff…and don’t be afraid to speak up if they are not doing their jobs properly. One warning: keep it reasonably polite, otherwise they might just respond by abusing their powers on you.
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