TSA: Should They Be Nicer to Passengers?

I’m spending a few days in Las Vegas and so on Thursday I left home to fly from my hometown airport, Boston Logan International Airport. We were flying JetBlue and excited to be on our way again to Las Vegas. We stood in a ridiculously long line for the baggage drop and got to bypass the long security line because we bought “even more legroom” seats on our flight. When we arrived at the TSA podium, we handed over our tickets and ID’s like we always due to the agent. She announced to my husband that his license had expired last month. He was dumbfounded at the news and the TSA agent kidded him a little and asked why I hadn’t reminded him. What’s this? A TSA agent with a sense of humor? I don’t recognize this type of interaction and I can’t process it correctly. She was actually smiling, joking, and was pleasant. Way to go TSA at Boston Logan!

Now before anyone thinks I am cracking on TSA, I’m not. Their job is not to entertain me, socialize, or be my friend. I have, however, always wondered why they can’t be friendlier. This TSA agent proved to me that you can do both. I was smiling the few feet from the podium to the grey bin containers and then as quickly as it had transpired, it was over. The next TSA agent promptly bursted my delusional optimistic bubble. All I could hear was the incessant drone of her voice saying, “Put your laptop, Kindle, electronics in a separate bin.” “If you have yogurt or milk, you cannot take this with you.” “Please move forward so as not to hold others up.” She kept repeating the words over and over and it was irritating, condescending, and unnecessary. Can’t the TSA record this and play it overhead instead of having the agent talk to passengers as though we are all small children? She wasn’t there helping anyone in particular as she stood there chastising everyone who crossed her path.

Ironically enough, last night I happened to catch a few minutes of the TV show, “Up All Night” as they were going through security at the airport. It almost seems like a requirement for the job that you look miserable, be genuinely unhappy with your life, and determined to give people a hard time. Not everyone is a frequent flyer and not everyone understands the protocol that takes place when traveling through an airport. I feel bad for the little old ladies who don’t speak English who are given a hard time because of that or the women traveling solo with a gaggle of kids who she is trying to wrangle all on her own while also trying to deal with the TSA agent. I have enough of a problem with the new Backscatter X-ray machine after the European Commission announced on Nov. 14, 2011 that it would “ban the controversial ‘backscatter‘ X-ray machines, which emit ionized radiation, from all airports in the European Union’s 27 member nations ‘in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.'” Besides the radiation, I can’t get past the name, which always somehow in a way that makes no sense to anyone but me, makes me think “muffin top” and then I can’t focus on what I’m supposed to do while I’m in the machine. TSA clearly doesn’t want you to laugh or even conjure up a silly thought and so I start to fear I’ll get thrown into TSA jail for laughing about “muffin tops” while trying to put my shoes back on and collect all of my items from the belt.

TSA can’t you just make it easier for people by having your agents be friendlier? Being professional and doing one’s job is not in direct opposition to being friendly. I know a TSA‘s job isn’t a glamorous job and not many people will thank them for doing their job, but I know I would do it more often if they were nicer. Just saying…

What do you think? Do you care if TSA is friendly or not? Post your comments below.

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