Yesterday was a good day when you consider that my wife Karen and I spent seven hours flying, coupled with a one hour layover, traveling from Dallas to Sacramento. As usual, we flew Southwest Airlines. And as usual, we were greeted by one of their curbside baggage staff who shared a smile, some quick stories regarding past travels to New Orleans and a few laughs.
But today, we were flying commercially to Sacramento for the Folsom Jazz Festival. In order to do that, you must pass the scrutiny of TSA. It’s the law. Luckily, our next encounter was with another cheerful employee who stood at a velvet roped entrance. I think it was velvet, but perhaps it was a stainless steel chain. That seems to be a more appropriate ambiance when you consider it was the gateway to the new full body security scanners recently installed at Dallas Love airport. Our TSA ambassador looked carefully at Karen’s Texas drivers license while asking her if she knew her middle name. I smiled and commented that his question really wasn’t that hard. So he smiled back with the humorous challenge that I don’t think he took very seriously. “Okay sir, do you know your California drivers license number?” I rattled it off immediately and then offered to recite my FAA private pilot’s license number as well. The velvet rope was opened, I mean the steel chain was opened and I was allowed to pass. So far, I had encountered two airport employees with excellent work ethic and attitudes. But the ugly reality of statistics was soon to be demonstrated. I informed the gentleman by the scanner that I was exercising my right to “opt out” of the full body radiation tanning booth. The gentleman standing in line behind me did this as well, although I’m not sure whether or not I influenced his decision. So we were led to separate area and asked if we wanted a private screening. I said no, I didn’t mind being patted down in public. So an older gentleman put on his rubber gloves and began his speech regarding what was about to transpire. As he recited his litany of agonizing detail and explanation, I briefly interrupted him, explaining that I have been through the procedure before. Then he looked at me and said the following words verbatim -
“That doesn’t matter. I have to go through this sales pitch because You Opted Out and Are Putting Me Through This”.
Yes, the TSA employee was irritated that I did not want to be subjected to radiation throughout my entire body as part of a government screening process. He was annoyed that he had to take the time to pat me down. I was putting HIM through something unpleasant. The context of the situation brings several words and phrases to mind.
Poor work ethic
To be fair, this gentleman was more respectful for the remainder of the intimate moments we shared in accordance with TSA rules and regulations. But I couldn’t help hearing his words echo. “Because you’re putting me through this”. It reinforced a belief that I’ve held for quite some time. Once you surrender your constitutional rights to a government bureaucracy, including the right of unreasonable search and seizure, the frame of reference regarding your relationship with the government changes. It is no longer serving you. It exists to serve itself. To become larger. To consume more. To demand more. To control more.
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