Memoirs of an Airport Security Screener
This person worked as an airport security screener years before 9/11, before the TSA, so hopefully things are different now. It’s a pretty fascinating read, though.
Two things pop out at me. One, as I wrote, it’s a mind-numbingly boring task. And two, the screeners were trained not to find weapons, but to find the particular example weapons that the FAA would test them on.
“How do you know it’s a gun?” he asked me.
“it looks like one,” I said, and was immediately pounded on the back.
“Goddamn right it does. You get over here,” yelled Mike to Will.
“How do you know it’s a gun?”
“I look for the outline of the cartridge and the…” Will started.
“The barrel you can see right here,” Will continued, oblivious to his pending doom.
“What the hell are you talking about? That’s not how you find this gun.”
“No sir. It’s how you find any gun, sir,” said Will. I knew right then that this was a disaster.
“Any gun? Any gun? I don’t give a fuck about any gun, dipshit. I care about this gun. The FAA will not test you with another gun. The FAA will never put any gun but this one in the machine. I don’t care if you are a fucking gun nut who can tell the caliber by sniffing the barrel, you look for this gun. THIS ONE.” Mike strode to the test bag and dumped it out at the feet of the metal detector, sending the machine into a frenzy.
“THIS bomb. This knife. I don’t care if you miss a goddamn bazooka and some son of a bitch cuts your throat with a knife you let through as long as you find THIS GUN.”
“But we’re supposed to find,” Will insisted.
“You find what I trained you to find. The other shit doesn’t get taken out of my paycheck when you miss it,” said Mike.
Not exactly the result we’re looking for, but one that makes sense given the economic incentives that were at work.
I sure hope things are different today.