I am trying to respond to all of them as fast as I can. I appreciate all the kind words and interesting stories. But I think the best thing I can do at this point is to try to arrange all the strong emotions and curiosity that people have about the TSA in an artful manner; transform it all into something new and beautiful, like Marcel Duchamp turning a urinal into a conceptual masterpiece.
So here are two letters from passengers and one from someone who is, I believe, a current or former screener: letters I chose to publish because they manage to achieve a fairly fluid narrative dynamic when placed together.
This one comes from Eric, who I believe is a current or former screener, given the very insider-y feel of his proposed addition to the Insider’s TSA Dictionary (I will update all the best proposed additions to the Insider’s TSA Dictionary in one lump post somewhere down the road). At any rate, after his proposed dictionary entry, he went on to say:
…I can’t argue with anything you say on your blog, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t. However, I do feel like it’s akin to poking a crippled, retarded bear with a sharp stick.
Our next letter has a warm and fuzzy vibe to it, a rarity among all these letters I’m receiving. TSA most certainly is a large, crippled, neurologically-disabled bear. And so now we will lovingly stroke the bear for a moment. This one comes from Anne Marie:
Dear Taking Sense Away,
Here’s my favorite TSA story:
My father visited me in Oregon one year. I had just lost my job, but had
previously promised to adopt a coworker’s cat. My father agreed to take
the cat back to California. Naturally, the cat would fly with him.
First of all, this was no ordinary cat. He was big,
fuzzy, orange, and extremely friendly…
…Dad took him through the line and offered to put the cat through the x-ray. Naturally the TSA ladies shouted him down and said they would need to search Fred manually for, you know, WMDs.
The first lady put her hands in the bag, and felt up Fred, front and back,
paws, belly, tail, etc. Fred LOVED it. She then called over her coworker,
insisting that she had to check too. Fred purred some more.
When every single one of the TSA bag search people had “searched” Fred,
they let him through. Fred was deliriously happy with the attention, all the
ladies at the bag search got to feel up the fluffiest, fuzziest, furriest, happiest cat on the planet…
…As evil as the TSA can be, they were thorough with Fred. He didn’t unload
his litterbombs until Dad got him home.
Thank you for sending in this warm and fuzzy story– well-written, too, and just in time for the holidays. I especially loved how you prefaced the conclusion of the story with “As evil as the TSA can be…” It’s almost as though the TSA actually not being aggravating/senseless/rude/infuriating/offensive for once is something to write home about.
The large, crippled, mentally-challenged bear needed this.
Wishing you the best,
Which brings us to our last letter, for now, from anonymous:
Dear Taking Sense Away:
I’m a very frequent flyer, traveling every week all around the US.
I try to be a good citizen, and so although I have deep doubts about the usefulness of TSA’s procedures, I do try to do my part and follow the TSA’s directions. Sometimes this means I have to deal with screeners who are, quite frankly, morons. But sometimes, I get screeners who seem like honest, decent people who are in fact just trying to make the best of a bad situation.
As a mere passenger, what can I do to help these good screeners? What can I do to be a better passenger, perhaps make their jobs a little easier for them, maybe make their day just a little bit brighter?
As a screener, by far, the most spirit-lifting thing that passengers would occasionally say to me and a few of the screeners I worked with on the checkpoint was: “Wow. A really cool TSA screener, for once!” So, saying something to that effect will let a cool screener know that he or she is actually accomplishing something.
You could also try bringing a big fluffy kitty with you through the checkpoint, because screeners generally find that to be heart-warming, as Anne Marie pointed out. Although there has been intelligence, which TSA is well aware of, regarding half-assed terrorist plots to surgically implant IEDs inside of pets (probably in an attempt to see if the TSA would begin confiscating and or vivisecting pets at the airport in response.)
So be careful with that strategy, Anne Marie and Anon.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org