Thursday, February 07, 2008

Phoenix suffers from grumpy grumpy TSA

I love Miami, but there are good reasons we're known as one of the rudest cities in the U.S. Based on this morning's experience, I'd say Phoenix has us beat.

Well, not Phoenix, where the people are actually pretty nice despite having a horrific Super Bowl hangover. I'm talking about the TSA staff at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport.

Yeah, it's a ridiculously early hour. But that's not an excuse for the TSA attitude here, which is most politely described as CRANKY CRANKY CRANKY!

The entry space for TSA is long and narrow here, which is clearly part of the problem. But it doesn't excuse bad manners.

One generously apportioned TSA man pushed through passengers on his way through, charging like a fullback (oh God, even I've got a Super Bowl hangover) through the opposing passengers who were just doing what you do in airports, which is to say standing in line waiting for the next guy. Did Mr. TSA Fullback utter the words, "Excuse me?'' Not in my presence. And not when he charged back through the other way just a few minutes later.

OK, so he missed his morning Wheaties. Or maybe he's pulled a double shift, I think.

Then I get to the X-ray belt, where the morning's TSA quarterback is barking orders, and more discontent becomes obvious.

Yes, BARKING. As in, I was the high school coach and my team towed the line, damn it. As in, I was a drill sargeant at Fort Bragg and don't you forget it ('cause I haven't.) As in, I am the alpha dog, and he who crosses me will be left on the wrong side of the security creek and miss his flight.

Of course, none of that is what he said. What he did yell was: Female assist at No. 3. Male assist at No. 2, no alarm.

And he didn't just bark at staff. He barked at passengers non-stop.

Put your bags flat. Get that bag flat. Your bag wasn't flat (even though the guy in front of me had put it in flat, and the bag was flipped up.) He barked instructions about the 3-ounce-liquids in the one-quart Ziplock plastic bag, about shoes, about computers and cameras and water and every other potential sin.

It wasn't the content -- people do seem to completely lose their sense of time and motion when they hit the X-ray line -- but the delivery that was so offensive.

Sure, there are lots of retirees out here who may not hear well and need the volume. Yes, it's 6 a.m. and most brains aren't really functional yet.

But the barking? Totally unnecessary, totally offputting, totally RUDE.

No wonder all the TSA staffers here were scowling.

TSA is an agency many of us love to hate. We love them because we need the security, we need the protection against the unimaginable and now too possible. But we hate them because of what seems to be amazing inefficiency -- can you say "hurry up and wait?'' -- and an attitude that comes off way too often as supercilious and power hungry.

TSA must know something about this -- and not only because Travel Detective author Peter Greenberg dubbed them "morons in uniforms.'' TSA recently launched its own blog. It's clearly a PR effort, but it's remarkably friendly, and a good example of how government ought to deal with complaints: Seriously, directly, timely.

In response to posts about airports that were requiring all electronics be removed from carry-on bags, for instance, the blogger writes:

    After some calls to our airports, we learned that this exercise was set up by local TSA offices and was not part of any grand plan across the country. These practices were stopped on Monday afternoon....thanks to everyone for asking about this and for giving us a chance to make it right.

I rarely find myself applauding government these days, but here's an attitude that's right. Government for the people -- a recognition that the people are paying the tab and therefore, are boss. So a little applause is in order....along with a suggestion that other government agencies follow suit.

Now, if they can just do something about this cranky guy at the Phoenix airport....


Anonymous said...

I got to the airport in pretty good time, but then I had
to go through security at the Denver airport. I waited in line for
over 45 minutes last Friday.

This waiting in line is an inefficiency that really bothers me. I
pay US$5 for the government to violate my constitutional right against
unreasonable search and seizure. This is the fourth amendment to the
U. S. Constitution, which was ratified back in 1791. Having to wait
for something so the government can make a profit at my expense is a
reason why America is heading in the wrong direction. Security at the
Denver airport is very bad from this perspective.

Well, I could just feel the stress. I was afraid I was going to miss
my flight home.

TSA is bad for your health

Anonymous said...

Actually you give your consent when you place your bags either in the hands of the ticket takers, who then send it down the belt to the Xray machines or when you give it directly to a TSO. No rights violated, if you don't like it, take the bus.

Anonymous said...

No one has anything nice to say about the TSA? Have any of you ever considered that they are people just like you? Can you honestly say you have never had a bad day? Consider this.... A TSA person deals with at least 200 people, which means at least 400 bags, in their 8 hour shift. Rules that have been effective for years are still ignored. TSA officers try to help people by announcing some simple rules which most people still don't listen to. Passengers get angry when a TSA person hasn't personnally told them the rules (nevermind they passed 10 signs telling them what they should do), and then to make matters worse when a TSO does tell them they get mad that they are "barking orders at them". Why do people think that TSA people love "picking" on them? Do you really think they like digging through peoples dirty laundry, or touching unbathed individuals, or smelling the shoes that have to come off? No, they don't, but they do it anyway. For some it's their way of honoring those of 9-11, and for other's it's a way to put food on the table for their families. No matter the reason for working for TSA they should be treated with the same considerations you expect. Remember they are there to help you. It may not be the exact way you think it should be done, but they are doing their best.