Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Time to Smoke Again

I'm going to pile onto the TSA horror story bandwagon with my own tale. While my wait was not several hours long, it took 45 minutes, which was about 25 minutes longer than I think it should have. I will be fair and blame other passengers for 10 minutes of this time because very few people in the queue actually thought that they could prepare themselves during their 45 minute waits so that the process could go more smoothly.

This is not uncommon behavior. SB is the same. When we take the bus, I will pull my wallet out of my bag as I see the bus approaching so that I can scan my card as soon as I board. SB never thinks to do this and always boards the bus, then reaches into his pocket for his wallet that is filled with five years of receipts. Then he will stand there struggling to extract the bloated wallet while everyone behind him waits. Even better is when he has the wallet in his backpack. He will board the bus, and then begin looking for where his wallet is. Everyone stands there, waiting for him to find his wallet. At some point I will growl at him to stand aside and let everyone else board while he searches. Sometimes when we arrive at the bus stop, I tell him to locate his wallet. He has no problem doing this, which means that all the other times, he just didn't think to streamline the process.

So back to the airport security queue. I understand that it isn't ideal to prepare by holding your laptop and your shoes for 25 minutes while waiting for your turn, but I also don't understand all of the people who have to go through the scanner over and over again while removing spare change, keys, rings, watches, and belts. It is not like the aren't aware of what items will set off the machine. Those 25 minutes in line could be spent locating all of those trinkets and placing them in a compartment of your bag. And then there are the people who argue that they don't think that they need to take off their 'light' jackets or sweaters. They ought to be shot. No one cares about your opinion of whether your outer layers of clothing should count as a jacket according to the TSA rules. No one will give you a medal for proving to the TSA officer how smart you think you are. There is no man to stick it to, only about a hundred men and women behind you, one of whom is plotting your demise as she stands there with her jacket already removed and folded over her arm.

As for TSA, they will bear the brunt of my rage because they are the agency responsible to managing this security line disaster and have publicly stated that passenger-idiots slow down the screening process but they somehow have no mitigation measures in place to deal with passenger-idiot time wastage. On my last trip to the US, the screening queue had about 300 people when I joined, and wove through two rooms. About 10 minutes into the wait, I noticed a TSA officer walk past me on his way to the screening area. He was notable because he absolutely reeked of cigarette smoke. I could see that only two of four lanes were open for scanning despite the cluster of TSA personnel standing around, but I was optimistic that Smoky's addition would mean that one more lane would open. No luck. Smoky took up a spot standing there next to someone who was directing traffic to the two lanes.

20 minutes later, Smoky left the screening area. Then ten minutes later he returned. When he returned, he took up standing around in another location and the person who had been standing around there left. I finally made it to the front of the queue so I don't know when that person returned but I had an idea of what was happening.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for heavy smokers. I learned from firsthand experience that the smoking addiction can dramatically affect productivity. When I used to work in a bar, the majority of my colleagues were smokers. There were three of us behind the bar. One bartender smoked around once per hour and the other smoked like a chimney, probably two or three times per hour. It was taken for granted that I would cover for them while they took breaks. I probably worked 90 to 230 minutes more than they did every night. Then there were the bar backs. More often than not, if I needed restocking or dish washing, I had to look for them out back because they were always taking smoke breaks. Several times per night I had to wash my own dishes and restock the beer because I couldn't wait for them.

I think that TSA should do an audit of employee performance. I think that they will find a lot of wasted time and productivity. It's hard to have more screening lanes open if your staff keep taking breaks and there is no one to stand in for them.

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