TSA, an Unfunny Joke

by Chikashi

I had to visit the US again last week and was reminded once again why, given the choice, I prefer to go elsewhere in the world notwithstanding many positive aspects of a visit to the US.

Security procedure at many airports are rather onerous. The rationale for tighter control is understandable. However, some rules seem ridiculous, not to mention ineffective. As with many sorts of rules, as long as one knows them and plays along, they are usually minor inconveniences rather than a major nuisance. Of course, it does not change the fact that some rules are just daft, but it really is not all that bad. That is, so long as one is not left to deal with primitive life forms in uniform.

London Heathrow gets a lot of grief for being one of the worst examples of public service. It is one of the busiest airports in the world, and transferring at Heathrow is an extremely time-consuming process both for passengers and their checked-in luggage. However, the staff, including those at security checkpoints, are generally helpful and polite. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are the exceptions rather than the rule. In general, they are civil.

The slow-moving queues at security are usually caused by inexperienced travellers who do not see or understand the dozens of signs telling them about liquids, large electronic items, jackets etc. Yes, sometimes the bottleneck is caused by the inane manner in which responsibilities have been allocated to each security personnel, requiring scarce personnel charged with performing specific tasks that others bizarrely cannot do. However, once again, the staff are usually civil. They behave like human beings interacting with other human beings. I accept that Heathrow is logistically challenged, but it is not a bad place for human beings to be.

The most thorough and time-consuming airport security procedure that I know is for exiting Israel. I have not seen anything quite so rigorous as that at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion. Frankly, it is a pain in the backside. Yet, the security staff are polite and well-trained. They are there to do a job, and more importantly, they understand and appreciate that doing their job entails interacting with other human beings. On one occasion, a member of staff misheard my reply to one of his questions (I mumbled), and I could see the blood in his face getting drained very rapidly. Even then, he remained calm and politely sought further clarification. They recognise that they are dealing with human beings. I should think that, if one were to have an effective security protocol, then that particular recognition is a fundamental premise that is essential for successful implementation.

The Transportation Security Administration in the US think otherwise. I have to assume that TSA are not managed by a human being because most members of staff cannot be human beings even though most of them do resemble our species in appearance. Where do they find these rude halfwits who are otherwise unemployable and obviously have no recognition that they are dealing with people rather than livestock? They make boarding the return flight all the more gratifying but for all the wrong reasons. It is really rather sad.

Credit: Logo by Rhys Gibson, via Bruce Schneier’s blog.