During a recent trip through Philadelphia, I was stopped at the metal detector and sent back to remove my shoes. Meanwhile, my children were allowed to sail through. While my wife was scrambling to catch up to the kids, she tossed her bag onto the conveyer belt in front of the X-ray machine.
“Come back here,” hollered a TSA agent. “You almost hit me with that bag.” That wasn’t true, but suddenly we were both cowering in fear. Here was a woman with the power to keep us off this flight, and maybe even to put us on a no-fly list, if she claimed we’d been attempting to hurt her. Luckily, after some tense moments she allowed us to pass.
None of this was necessary. Our family had already cleared security in the United Kingdom. We were just trying to make our way through a confusing and antagonistic process. And that’s what’s sad -- getting through security shouldn’t be a battle. Travelers and TSA agents have plenty of common ground.
TSA agents don’t want any planes to blow up. Travelers don’t want any planes to blow up. TSA agents don’t want any weapons on the planes. Travelers don’t want weapons on the planes. We’re all on the same page. If they’d simply be clear about what they expect, travelers would be happy to give it to them.
The government is great at making rules. Cabin crews prowl flights ensuring tray tables are in their “upright and locked positions,” seat backs up and seat belts are “securely fastened.” Even if the plane hasn’t moved in half an hour, pilots are apt to insist it’s “on an active runway” so travelers must remain seated. And everyone knows by now that “it is a violation of federal law,” to smoke on a plane or to disable, tamper with or destroy a lavatory’s smoke detector.
We don’t need more laws or more bureaucrats to keep us safe -- just more common sense. We could start by holding federal bureaucracies responsible and punishing them if they fail. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.