Opinion: Newark Airport TSA Workers are Shameful Jerks
This headline might sound like an absolute, as if I'm saying everyone working for TSA at Newark Liberty International Airport is unprofessional. I am not. There are some who do their difficult jobs well, who are polite and professional even on the worst day.
Then there are the ones I saw working security at terminal C Sunday afternoon. I have never seen such rude, rank amateurs in my life. I've been to many, many airports. I've flown far more than the average. I understand the difficult role TSA has and why the agency is there in the first place. But what I witnessed Sunday was grounds for a clean sweep and starting all over again.
At terminal C, at least in the section I was, there's a relatively new system for putting your belongings through scanning. We are all used to those gray plastic tubs to put our jackets and articles. They traditionally are stacked, and you take one from the top and place it on the rollers with your things. You roll it along until the conveyor belt catches it then you go through your body scan.
At the security area Sunday the new system is one where there are individual stations separated by partitions where you place and load your tub. The tubs are now found on the shelf below that particular station, one at a time. Not in a stack. Once you load your tub, you slide it forward and onto the rollers then a TSA worker slides them to the conveyor belt.
I got it. It was logical.
But not everyone flies a lot and some of them were confused. The TSA workers stood barking orders in a manner that should only be reserved for induction day at a prison. It was pathetic the way these workers yelled at some of these travelers. Much of it wasn't the wording; it was the unnecessary screaming and the derisive, insulting tone.
"Why would you push that forward when I didn't tell you to push that forward!"
"You're messing everything up! Just stop it!"
"Yes, in the tub! Isn't that what we just said?! Didn't we just say that?! In the TUB!"
"NO! YOU don't push that! WE push that! Get your hands OFF IT!"
Seriously, it was unbelievable what I was hearing. These travelers were being scolded like 5-year-olds over a new system they simply weren't familiar with.
My tub was at station 1, farthest from the conveyor belt. But I of course had heard them say they push all of them along. So with the rollers filled with tubs and mine at the end I had to go through x-ray and leave it there. Always daunting when that happens since your wallet is among the items.
On the other side, I waited. And waited. I noticed the tubs that were right in front of mine came out (because I remembered what had been in them and they were being collected by the people who had been right in front of me). So mine should have been next. Then other tubs that had not been in front of mine began coming out first. Which was odd. I waited. Five tubs. Waited more, now ten. Normally even if they have to inspect something further, they tell the passenger maybe even pulling them aside. I began wondering if this new system of theirs was different so I was trying to be patient. But then even more tubs came out and mine for whatever reason was not.
To my left was a TSA worker on the cleared, already screened side of the x-ray walk-through. He wasn't doing anything at the time, so I took two steps towards him saying, "Excuse me, sir?" He half turned to me and out came his arm like a barrier. I said, "No, I know not to go back through there I just need to ask you a quick question." I said these words in a polite, normal tone. What does he come back with?
"Well now you're attacking me!" voice raised, completely and stunningly inappropriate.
If anything I was confused. I almost thought there was someone behind me he must be addressing. I said, "What? No, I just need to ask a question about my -"
"You need to back off! Stand over there and don't move and wait for me!"
I was absolutely shocked at the way I was being spoken to. I was not threatening this jerk in any way, nor was my tone anything but polite. All I wanted was to ask if he knew why my tub had not come out in order. So I just walked the two steps back to where the tubs emerge and kept waiting. After several more tubs that had not been in front of mine came first, mine finally appeared. No idea why it either wasn't pushed forward by TSA or why they pulled it off then put it back on if that's what happened. The first thing I did was check for my wallet and other belongings. All fine. Then I just went to the gate to wait for my kids. They were traveling back from Mississippi unaccompanied minor and I was there to pick them up. I certainly wasn't going to stand and wait to be scolded by some unprofessional hothead after doing nothing whatsoever wrong.
The behavior I witnessed wasn't just impolite. It was abusive and alarming. At Newark Liberty, TSA pay for part-time screeners ranges from $13.21 to $19.82 hourly depending on experience. Babysitters can make more. Is the low pay causing low quality? I certainly don't want them being paid more for the same unprofessional snotty attitude. My point is perhaps better pay along with better training could attract a better class of people?
Again, as I said at the beginning, I've seen far better TSA workers than these so I'm not condemning everyone. I'll let you decide with your own experience percentages of good to average to deplorable. What I saw Sunday was enough to raise serious concerns though. It was the same attitude prison guards in Shawshank had in the strip search and delousing scene. Something's gotta give.