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The Big Yellow Book

Seeing the World from Both Oculars-- a Bananaslug's Journal

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A reply to a TSA agent about why the TSA is irrelevant
This was my reply on Baen's Bar, to a post from [name withheld to protect her identity]:

I don't want to rain on your parade, but there are a lot of us here
that think that your occupation is an unseemly violation of our
constitutional rights.

Just Tuesday, I forgot to take my pocket knife out and stow it in my checked
bag. Cost me $20 in baksheesh to get a porter to go rescue my checked bag so
the TSA wouldn't steal (and I use the word advisedly) over $100 worth of
sharp edged tools. This is the third time I've had to do that in six

The fact is that I also carry a pouch full of fountain pens, at least 6, a
wad of a dozen keys on a carabiner and an LED mini-maglite. They are legal
to carry. What you can do with them in a hijacking situation is an exercise
best left for the reader, especially on a public forum.

We aren't talking about felony theft here. We are talking about stupid
governments trying to make themselves look good by doing absolutely nothing
valuable to protect my safety in the air, and at the same time causing me
grievous inconvenience.

On Monday, the TSA agent checking my id at ORD was sprawled in a desk chair,
gossipping with three TSA buddies. I stood there for at least 50 seconds,
while she ignored me. Then she just held out her hand. I was expected to
know that I was supposed to give her my passport and boarding pass. She then
told me I could not take my CPAP machine on the airplane because I had too
much hand luggage. I explained to her that I could, but it took the
intervention of her supervisor to permit me to carry my prescription medical
device on the aircraft. Bad training, bad attitude.

This is not uncommon. I fly almost 200K miles a year, and I hate the way I
am treated by TSA. TSA and the hired contractor minions that we were
supposed to get TSA so we could do away with, couldn't prevent a h*****ing
if it came in a brown paper sack. TSA didn't prevent that poor bozo with the
pipolar problem that the airmarshalls (not a part of TSA, really) blew away
in Miami yesterday, and they should have, since he was acting strangely in
the airport. TSA simply soaks up my tax dollars and doesn't do a single
thing to prevent an incident that six passengers with pocket knives couldn't

Not two minutes later, the TSA agent running the magnetometer and the TSA
agent running the scanning x-ray both started barking completely contrary
instructions at me. The magnetometer agent told me, "When you are standing
at my magnetometer you have to pay attention only to me." He was quite
upset. The x-ray guy couldn't figure out what a CPAP machine was. So he was
yelling at me to tell him what it was. Finally I said, "Listen. I can't
listen to, and follow instructions from both of you at the same time. You
guys figure out what you want me to do and tell me. Until then,
respectfully, I'm just gonna stand here."

Since I had gone through the magnetometer without problems, the magnetometer
guy backed off. I explained what the box with wires and hoses in it was to
the idiot on the x-ray machine, and was let to go on about my business.

Now, I'm not surly, I'm not quarrelsome, and I don't give the TSA a hard
time. But I have noticed over the past three years that they are more and
more acting like little tin Himmlers, and less and less like public
servants, or even the way trained LEOs act. The other day, a female TSA
agent smiled and said a nicety to me...and I stopped everything and said, "I
want you to know, and I'd like your supervisor to know, that you are the
first TSA agent in a week to say anything nice or smile at me. Thank you for
doing your job correctly." She blushed, and I knew her supervisor was
standing there listening.

Considering that the number of little old ladies and children who have been
publically identified as terrorists is vanishingly small, it seems to me
that we could do this a whole lot easier and a whole lot better, with much
less cost. X-ray checked baggage...even my carryon...but it is stupid to
take my tools away and to make me take my shoes off, my jacket off, and grab
my wife by the boobs and press (yes this happened to her three months ago in
John Wayne Airport)...agent also grabbed
my 17-year old daughter's.

I cannot wait until the day, coming as certainly as Christmas, when your job
will be to watch me disrobe and hand me a paper gown that ties in the back
so I can board the aircraft. On that day, I will no longer fly. It may
happen before that.

Unfortunately, that would tend to mean you would need to find other
employment, which, on a personal level, I am sorry for, but on a
governmental, civil rights level, I am not.