Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

A Curmudgeon Rerun: "TSA (Torturous Stupidity at the Airport)"

The Curmudgeon has been busy traveling for work lately. As this has unavoidably involved making my way in and out of airports and to and from airplanes, I've been forced to endure the all-too-familiar aggravation I experience when interacting with the unbearably inefficient hordes. It seemed an apt time to rerun this particular piece. If I can get even one person to apply a bit more logic to the process, my work will be done. TWC

"TSA (Torturous Stupidity at the Airport)" first ran on July 29, 2019

Happy Monday, readers. Well, here we are, gathered together once again. Another week come and gone, and your Curmudgeon still has yet to run out of topics. It seems there is a bottomless well of behaviors that are sorely in need of correction.

Today’s adventure takes us back to the airport (we’ve been there before), where unfortunate circumstances force us to collaborate and coordinate with all kinds of people—the sensible and the dimwitted, the considerate and the boorishly selfish, those who’ve managed to master the simple procedures and those who absolutely have not in any way mastered any part of them at all. And so we must turn once again to three concepts that are somewhat familiar to this blog—three reliable guidelines for living that it seems the Curmudgeon must frequently repeat: 1) you can’t fight science, 2) logic is our friend, and 3) it’s a proven fact that there are other people in the world beside you.

By now, the screening process performed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) should be familiar to anyone who has taken more than zero flights. You take out your electronics and liquids, remove belts and shoes, empty your pockets, put stuff in bins and send them off along the conveyer belt. If you forget any of these steps you needn’t worry; for your convenience, TSA has attendants stationed there to yell at you. You’ll know them by their uniforms and expressions of utter disdain.

The efficient traveler will have cleverly put his belt and pocket contents into his carry-on bag to avoid wasting time. But this is next-level thinking, I fear. So we wait while our friend up ahead fishes around in his pockets.

And then we go through the body scan. And if you don’t set off alarms, you’re usually allowed to pass.

But it’s at the next phase of this process that self-organization apparently gets far too tricky for some to execute, completely eluding the non-thinkers among us. While common sense would suggest that items on a conveyer belt will emerge from the scanner in the same order in which they went in, for some, there seems to be a strange lack of trust in this 100% reliable fact. And so, people cluster around, wondering whose items will emerge next. And when they see theirs, a surprising number of travelers will plant themselves near the very mouth of the tunnel and force others to wait while they replace their belts, shoes, and contents of their pockets and put everything back in their carry-ons just so.

Perhaps an analogy will help demonstrate why this isn’t the most practical or considerate method of retrieving one’s temporarily surrendered items. Imagine a train pulling into a station, but stopping when just the first car has lined up with the platform. And imagine if—after discharging that car’s passengers and taking on new ones—the conductor repeated this process . . . one train car at a time. Maddening, isn’t it? I’m annoyed just thinking about it. Well, that’s what’s happening at the old TSA station. If you stand and reorganize yourself at the very spot where things exit the scanner, no one else’s items can pass until you’re done, whereas positioning yourself at the far end of the belt allows others to reunite with their stuff simultaneously. And isn’t that nice? Look at that: other people get to collect their things rather than just you. It’s logic, science, and awareness of others, all at once, achieved by just by scooching down like a sensible person.

But an even more efficient approach is the one I use. I gather my things quickly and take them completely off the belt and away to a nearby bench where I replace them at my leisure. I can tell you from experience that walking ten or twenty feet in one’s socks is completely unharmful to one’s health. And best of all, it saves you from having to negotiate for a position among the dolts. At least temporarily. You’ll be seeing them again when you attempt to board your flight in a sensible manner (see “How Doors Work”). Bon voyage. I feel your pain.