TSA focuses too much on T and A

By BenitaZepeda

Full-body scan or pat down, that is the question. The practices of the Transportation Security Administration in airports are making headlines lately. On Nov. 24, groups of travelers across the country protested by opting out of the scanning process.

National Opt Out Day took place on one of the busiest flying days of the year, the day before Thanksgiving. Although as of press time this column cannot reflect the outcome of this event, the fact people need to band together to refuse screening methods is absurd. Clearly something isn’t working with this security system.

This year I have been on a total of nine different flights. Even though I don’t travel much, my experiences with TSA have been different than the ones I read about in articles or saw on YouTube.

Rather than finding the TSA workers to be tough and thorough at their job, I’ve noticed, from experience, many of the male workers seem more focused on talking to women who are simply looking to make their flight.

Several times I have had either minimal interaction with TSA workers or awkward exchanges, which are more annoying than flattering. At 4 a.m. when I was going through security at O’Hare International Airport, one worker was more interested in telling me I was “lookin’ good this morning” and that he was in need of “a new girlfriend” than what was in my carry-on bag.

Another time, also at O’Hare, I didn’t even take my laptop out of my bag when the TSA worker told me with a wink, “It’s OK, just make sure you take your laptop out next time.” Perhaps the form-fitting yoga pants I wore helped create a distraction allowing me to opt out of simple screening procedures.

I’ve read stories about people who have passed through different security procedures, such as an article called “The Things I Carried,” by Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic. His feature showed how he made it through security at several major airports with fake boarding passes and questionable items like pro Al-Qaida T-shirts and the occasional pocket knife or bottle of water.

This leads me to question whether our trusty TSA workers need stricter requirements. A job listing for a TSA officer in Chicago said the applicant needed to be 18, capable of passing a drug test and background check, a US citizen, willing to stand for more than three hours and lift things weighing up to 70 pounds.

If this government position is the final check of something dangerous ending up on a plane these officers should be better trained. Perhaps requiring applicants to have studied in the field of criminal justice or having collegiate-level courses specific to the job could help mend the flaws in the system. And while they are at it, maybe they could stop hitting on people as they are trying to get to their destinations and focus on what’s in their carry-on luggage.