Exorcising the TSA demon

This is comes second-hand and from a very worked up Dad, so take what follows with a grain of salt. I just found out about it myself this morning.

Yesterday, while Kelly and the Little Man were going through airport security, the Little Man broke free from Kelly who, 20 weeks pregnant and trying to load stuff on the conveyor belt, had her hands full. A young TSA security employee, in an attempt to prevent the Little Man from getting through security without Kelly, knocked the Little Man over, who in turn banged is head and started to cry.

That is as mild and objective as I can put it based on Kelly’s level-headed description of the situation.

Those of you who know Kelly know how even-tempered she is. But in this instance, she let the TSA have it. She raised her voice and asked to see a supervisor. The supervisor took her aside and calmed her down. He explained that the TSA should not touch anyone, especially a toddler, and that the employee in question was new. Kelly pointed out that this appeared then to be a training issue and the TSA supervisor agreed. And eventually, Kelly and the Little Man passed through and got on their flight and everything was good.

Kelly didn’t tell me this until this morning and it has been eating away at me ever since, to the point where I could not concentrate on what I was doing. It is a good thing that Kelly was there and not me because I’m afraid to think of how I might have handled it. (“Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” comes to mind as an opener.) But Kelly handled the situation exceedingly well, all things considered. (She said that everyone standing around was so surprised by the TSA officers actions that their mouths were collectively hanging open.)

The Little Man is completely unscathed by (and has probably forgotten about) the incident and Kelly has reconciled herself to its outcome. But it is just burning inside of me. And so I’m doing the only thing I can do about it to get it out of my system, which is to write about it.

With any security measure, there is value to a point. I understand that the objective of the TSA is to make flights safe. But at what cost? Some might argue that a bump on the head is a small price to pay for a safe flight, but it is a false analogy to begin with. What would have happened if the Little Man had made it through the check point? It’s not like he is a criminal or terrorist. And if the TSA is suspecting children now then we are in a particularly sad state and I would say we have gone to far. There are risks to every plane ride (though far less than you might imagine) and more and more I am on the fence about the value that the added security provides. Of course, I can say this because it seems our skies are safe and the TSA would argue that is because they are doing their job. But we have lost some freedoms because of it and I’m not sure it’s worth the cost anymore.

Some might argue, well, this was a young TSA employee, and he’s learning the ropes. I understand the value of on-the-job training but there has to be some baseline from which you start and in this case, the employee was probably started too early. This is not his fault but the fault of the decision-makers who put him in action in the first place. The TSA already had a public perception problem–one that I was relatively neutral toward until now.

There are those who might say that Kelly should have done a better job at keeping control of the Little Man. (This is the argument that I hear the TSA making in my head.) To that I’d say, you try being 20 weeks pregnant, with a 22 month-old toddler infinitely curious about airplanes, and try keeping control of him while you are being rushed through a security checkpoint and see how well you do.

As Kelly said to me earlier, accidents happen and perhaps this can be chalked up to nothing more than a TSA official attempting to help Kelly out, and having it go wrong. I’d like to believe that, I really would. At the very least, hopefully this young fellow learns from the situation.

I would also like to believe that the TSA is a temporary necessity, but I don’t see it going away any time soon. The TSA may be protecting us and keeping the skies safe, but that we need them in the first says something very sad about the state of the world, and our inability to solve our problems. I look forward to that elusive day when we can exorcise the TSA demon once and for all, just like I’m exorcising my frustations here today.


  1. I recently had a horrible experience with TSA. I wanted to exorcise my demons as well, but felt too ashamed by the whole thing. It was awful.

    To add to your bitter story, apparently you can’t move even slightly inside those body scanners or they won’t work. But kids of course don’t stay perfectly still, and you’re not allowed to retake the scan. So we’re seeing kids become MORE likely to have TSA search them manually, which causes some children to burst out crying (like us adults would if we could).

    Anyway, I’m so sorry your family went through that. I’m the angry sort, too, so to me your wife sounds like a saint.

    1. Thanks, Joanna. Writing about it helped me feel somewhat better, especially knowing that quite a few people will see it. (Take that, TSA!) Of course, this “encounter” will take place again in my imagination, be much more violent, and much more satisfying–once it finds its way into a story that I write. My wife is patience personified. For her to get riled up–well, the truth is I’ve still never seen her inner lioness emerge. But the TSA got to see it yesterday. 🙂


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