Ever secretly desire to remove one of the numerous retractable belts forming the maze in front of TSA checkpoints? Struggling through the twists and turns of the makeshift queue at a major airport, I recently did the unpardonable. While pushing my wife’s wheelchair with one hand and dragging two carry-on bags through the difficult turns, I rebelliously detached the nylon belt to bypass the challenging path.
Sure, no one was in the line, and the sound of crickets echoed through the vacant labyrinth of nylon strips, but rules are rules — and I broke this one.
Wrestling the two bags and a wheelchair through the opening I illegally made, I found myself face to face with a stern TSA agent, who directed me to push my wife back through the empty lane I now stood in and re-enter the uninhabited lane with my wife.
Looking at him with incredulity, I thought he had to be joking and attempting a (poor) impression of the “Soup Nazi.”
But he forcefully stated that I had broken the rule and must drive my wife to the end of the course, turn around, and push her back in the same lane to his station. Otherwise, we would not enter the checkpoint and board the plane.
“No plane for you! Next!”
Fuming, I complied while mentally racing through all the insults I could hurl at this masked agent firmly protecting the sanctity of retractable belt barricades. Desperately wanting to tell him my father was a minister who’d be happy to marry his parents if he brought them around, I reconsidered the veiled insult — and chose to swear under my breath like Yosemite Sam instead.
Going through an adjacent kiosk next to the man whom I now referred to as the “Doug Neidermeyer of the TSA,” I did take the opportunity to communicate my displeasure to a different agent at the second checkpoint.
“Well, you did break the rules,” his colleague flatly stated.
Indeed, I did break the rules and could not argue with them. As I encountered yet a third agent, who was unaware of all that had transpired, I chose to bite my tongue and learn to like the taste of blood. While a fourth agent hand-checked my wife in her wheelchair, the agent in front of me pointed to the machine while commanding, “Empty your pockets.”
Mistakenly keeping cash in my pocket, this agent made a sarcastic comment about my failure to obey the rules. Glaring at this young man, I (brusquely) stated, “I’ve had quite enough of the TSA today! Keep it professional.”
Admittedly, that’s not an exact quote.
As we later settled onto the plane, my wife looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked, “How about I deal with the TSA from now on?”
Sighing, I fumed about experience until one of the wonderful flight attendants (not having to fight with unruly passengers) brought me a cup filled with ice water. Sipping my drink, I reflected on the fervor modeled by that TSA agent. It takes significant zeal to punish a man by making him push his crippled wife down an empty lane and watch him turn around and wheel her back. Barney Fife and Major Frank Burns would beam with pride.
While an army of authoritarian rule-keepers populate our airports, it’s puzzling that the same passion for laws and safety seems strangely absent at America’s southern border. Evidently, addressing the flood of illegal aliens, COVID-19, drugs, and human-trafficking crossing our border pales against the need to protect the inviolability of TSA lines.
Since retractable nylon barriers certainly cost less than a wall, there may be a solution. If we only modeled that TSA agent’s firm commitment to control, we could solve our border issue faster than a muttering caregiving husband could push his disabled wife through an empty queue!
On a related note, while the zeal of the TSA agent seems to inspire other government agents in the push for masks and vaccinations, it’s a shame he wasn’t tapped to advise the Biden administration on an exit strategy for Afghanistan.
Peter Rosenberger hosts the nationally syndicated radio program, Hope for the Caregiver. Peter’s cared for his wife, Gracie, for 35 years. www.hopeforthecaregiver.com
Image via Needpix.
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