Got a note from a TSA security officer. He was concerned that my latest column portrayed his peers as 'monsters.'
I wrote back, telling him that conversations I've had with a few people he works with left me feeling they were smart, dedicated, and conscientious. They're not particularly well-paid, they deal with a lot of stress. And occasionally they deal with people trying to bring stupid things onto airplanes. Yet, each year millions of people pass through the Philadelphia International Airport checkpoints unremarkably.
In the spirit of saying something nice, (thanks Grandma, wherever you are) I print this letter that came in from a man in Haverhill, Ma., who had the sort of experience flying through Philly that normally doesn't make news - but will right now:
Dear Mr. Rubin,
In light of your recent columns on the subject, I thought I should contact you to relate my recent experience with the TSA at Philadelphia International Airport.
Earlier this week I traveled round-trip from Manchester, NH to Philadelphia and back. While in the area, I discovered that I had misplaced my wallet somewhere on the trip down and it was nowhere to be found, even after a determined search. Since this wallet contained the only ID I had with me, I was somewhat apprehensive about how I was going to get back on the plane to return home. After I reported the lost ID to the airline, I was told to proceed to the security checkpoint and that I would be able to pass through after some "extra screening." So I nervously approached the ID check stand and related my plight.
To make a long story short, my difficult and self-inflicted situation was then handled with courtesy, professionalism, and efficiency by the TSA personnel I encountered. A supervisor was immediately called, and I was asked to stand aside while he contacted authorities on his cell phone and proceeded to ask me a series of simple questions to verify my identity. After about 5 minutes, I was informed that I was approved to pass, my boarding pass was marked, and I proceeded through the checkpoint. It was evident to me that the TSA employees were well trained and qualified to handle the situation, and were genuinely interested in getting me on my way as quickly and smoothly as possible within the context of their mission of ensuring security. At no time did I feel threatened or uncomfortable. Of course, I should also mention that at all times, I myself remained courteous and respectful and followed their instructions without protest or fuss. Perhaps this also had something to do with the successful and smooth resolution of the situation.
My sincere appreciation and respect go out the TSA employees at PHL for their actions in handling this matter. Please fell free to relate all or parts of my story to your readers.
Thought I'd just add that to the conversation. I've been writing off and on since January about strange brewings at the airport checkpoints - the TSA employee who pretended to find a bag of white powder in a college woman's laptop bag, the 4-yr-old disabled boy made to walk without leg braces through the metal detector, etc... I'm trying to get the bottom of why this is happening. Does this occur infrequently, and I've just got a hotline into the bad encounters because my pieces are posted across the Internet? Is there something about Philly? Philly.com ran a poll, asking readers if they'd had a bad problem with the TSA. The answer, last time I checked, by a two-to-one margin was yes (368-187). More to come.