Following is an extended comment in response to the post OMG! A Speargun! On a Plane!:
My comment in the recent “OMG…on a plane” post reminded me of an incident I want to share with you. My opinion may not be popular, but I wanted to put it out there. I agree that a lot of the security measures that the TSA promulgates are theater, and I don’t feel any safer, just a lot more inconvenienced when it comes to flying. I’ve only been patted down once or twice in my last dozen or so flights, and I’ve never been through the naked scanner, although some of my traveling companions have been.
I’ve flown 5-6 round trips to Virginia with my XD(M) as checked baggage. Up until my second to last trip, I’ve had one empty magazine in the gun, in the checked rifle case, and four empty magazines in my backpack as a carry on (no room for extras in that rifle case). Four trips, both directions, no hassle, never a question. On this particular trip, on my outbound leg, the agent on the X-ray machine saw the empty magazines in my backpack and flagged a supervisor. The supervisor pulled me off to the side and called the airport police. Apparently the rule against firearms covers empty magazines, too.
The supervisor was an ex-cop in his late 50s, and a really nice guy. He acknowledged that I had run afoul of a stupid rule and that empty magazines were clearly no threat (his words), but it was the rule, so we had to do some paperwork and turn the magazines over to the airport police. He expressed frank amazement that I’d made this same flight, same airline four times previously without incident. He asked me, and I told him, approximately when those four previous flights were. I wonder if that comment resulted in some “additional training” for anyone.
Everyone I dealt with was courteous, professional, even nice. They started the whole process by letting the gate know that I was held up in security. They expedited the process such that I didn’t miss my flight, to the point that one of the TSA agents had a second form that duplicated my personal information from another form, and he said, “I’ve got all the information I need right here, I’ll fill this one out after you’re gone so you can get on your way.”
When the TSA guys were done, the airport police officer took possession of my magazines, and told me he would check with his supervisor to see if it was OK to hold the magazines and return them to me when I flew back in 5 days, but made no promises. He took down the bare minimum of information from me directly, then said, “I’ll get the rest of what I need from the TSA guys,” and sent me on my way. I was the last person on board the plane, and they closed the door behind me before I sat down.
I hadn’t been on the ground in Virginia an hour when my cell phone rang and the airport police officer told me the magazines would be waiting for me when I returned, and to just have him paged when I hit the terminal. That proved to not be necessary, as he was waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator when I arrived back in town. I signed a form saying I’d received them back from him, he handed them to me, and I was on my way.
I know it’s popular to demonize the TSA generally, and the agents specifically, but in my experience, from the normal flights to the most extreme circumstance related above, I’ve found that the agents I’ve encountered have just been guys trying to do a job. A thankless, unpopular, and often hostile and unpleasant job. The ones I have encountered have been at worst, professional and polite, and at best, friendly and helpful.
I have not seen a single incidence of unprofessional, rude, or incompetent behavior toward either myself or my traveling companions. I only fly four to six times a year, so perhaps I’ve been lucky; I don’t know. I’m a good traveler; I have my stuff ready, I know how the system works, and I know the rules (empty magazines being the exception), so perhaps that contributes to the lack of problems I’ve had.
I guess my point is that by all means, we should endeavor to rid ourselves of the TSA and its ilk, but while we’re doing that, remember that where the rubber meets the road are the regular guys, who are just trying to do the job and get through the day, even if they don’t always agree with the policies they are tasked to enforce.
Approach them with the basic respect that any other human deserves, not like they’re all a bunch of perverts that just want to grab your naughty bits. I’m fairly certain that my polite, easygoing, respectful attitude was the reason I made my flight that day, but even absent those extreme circumstances, a little basic human courtesy goes a long way toward making everyone’s day smoother.