TSA Airport Screener’s Body Language, Hostile Tones, and Abusive Behaviors Stimulate Traveler’s Airport and Air Rage.

AirportSecurity
Screening travelers at the airport for weapons or dangerous items is definitely a necessity these days. Perhaps even taking off one’s shoes, albeit inconvenient, is acceptable if it prevents a terrorist from lighting up his shoes like the shoe bomber was planning to do mid flight. But what is NOT acceptable is the generalized hostile behavior and the rudeness of TSA screeners at the airport towards innocent travelers. After seeing this up close and personal, I decided to do something about it and contacted the TSA.

On my recent trip to Orlando, Florida and back I did some research and studied the body language and vocal tones of ALL of the TSA workers I observed and found that 98 percent exhibited hostile body language and vocal tones. There were only a small 2 percent who said“ please” or thank you to passengers or had a smile. I also witnessed that the hostile attitudes of the workers often resulted in some type of angry tone and hostile interchange with various travelers.

Because I was feeling so bad after I finished passing through the airport security line as opposed to my feeling so good when I entered the line, I decided to see if other passengers were feeling as badly and to objectively observe what it was in the screeners actions and body language was making passengers feel so bad.

In my particular case, I was happy, chipper and excited when I entered the line because I was going to the other “happiest place on earth” besides California’s Disneyland. I was going to Florida’s Disney World to see Epcot and most important of all, to take my precious, wonderful and adorable mother on a surprise to see her favorite singer in the world, Argentinean performer Daniel Bouchet. He happened to be performing in Orlando on a Saturday night, so I decided to surprise my mom with a weekend trip to Orlando to see him. I was also feeling good because I just completed writing the last chapter of my latest book so it was a kind of reward trip for me as well.

But as soon as I took off my shoes and placed them in the container where I placed my laptop, I was jarred by the barking hostile loud staccato tone that said “don’t put your shoes there!” “Laptops have to be separate!” I then took the shoes out and stuck them on the conveyor belt to which I was barked at in a disgusted hostile tone “ You have to put your shoes a container!” Now I had to get a container even though other people were in line. So I did what she said. I passed through the line, but her tones left me a little shaken.

I recalled another incident I observed a month earlier when I flew to NYC a I heard a TSA officer yell at an attractive young woman wearing a jogging outfit to take off her jacket .which was actually not a jacket but the other half of her jogging outfit. Politely I heard the young woman say with a smile that it wasn’t a jacket but her top“ Then I heard “You have to take off all jackets!” The girl once again pleaded and told the TSA worker she had nothing underneath just a bra.” In a robotic reply in a hostile tone was “ All jackets have to be taken off” as she made the girl a glass booth after she called a supervisor. Then a supervisor and a team of other TSA worker, let the young woman pass. By this time the young woman was clearly visibly shaken up.

It was not only humiliating for the young woman, but it was an upsetting thing for passengers to see because “there by the grace go them.” It could happen to anyone based on the whim of a TSA security worker or their ignorance as it was in this case or their robotic blindness to follow the rule of “no jacket wearing,” without using their common sense or a modicum of flexibility.

But back to back to my experience after I went through the security. After collecting my bags I stood at the end of the line just to examine the faces of other travelers who may now be feeling as bad I was after going through the security check. I decided to specifically look for specific facial “tells” on their faces to determine tension and upset. Almost everyone I looked, until I had to leave to catch my flight, shared the same expression of having some degree of facial tension.

Although I didn’t hear any altercations between passengers and TSA security workers at this juncture, I thought back to the countless times I did observe an alteration between an upset passenger with a hostile and rude security guard. In recalling back, there is no doubt that tone of voice and body language were the contributing elements to the upset.

On my way back from Orlando I clearly observed these aggressive hostile body language and facial language and hateful tones by most of the TSA workers. One in particular a large morbidly obese woman of color spoke to an elderly woman in a wheelchair in such an ugly tone that it upset the woman to the point she was visibly shaken. The woman complained about the TSA officer running her dirty gloved hands through the woman’s hear twice. The woman assured her that there were no weapons of mass destruction on her hair and the security worker responded in a hostile manner.

There was absolutely no need for this and I clearly let this be known by contacting the with the supervisor and sharing with him what I had seen his employee do to the innocent woman. He made note of it and said he would speak to the TSA worker about it.

It was then and thee that I came up with a better idea. I thought that I should be speaking to ALL TSA workers about it. I should be giving the seminars in how to Communicate the passengers in a respectful manner and not create unnecessary hostile reactions and upset innocent people all day long. I needed to show them how to comport themselves not only using the right tones and words but the right Body Language as well so that they won’t create defensive reactions.

I also needed to show them what to look for in screening those who may be terrorists. I needed to teach them the specific “tells” that terrorists and others who wish to commit nefarious acts do with their bodies, faces, and tone of voice and speech patterns. I needed to show them we what to look for so that they don’t harass innocent passengers and treat them like terrorists.

The horrific behaviors of the TSA Screeners have essentially turned them into terrorists who terrorize innocent travelers. After speaking with several stewardesses I was informed that business is down. They shared that many people simply aren’t flying as much anymore and they lost a lot of business Why should they fly? If they are treated so poorly and harassed every time they fly, many feel, why bother? The airlines have lost a lot of business because of the improperly trained and hostile behaviors of the TSA Screeners. I am convinced of that.

TSA can still catch terrorists or potential terrorists with verbal honey rather than vinegar. They can still catch “evil doers” with a smile and a kindwords as opposed to treating every one as if they were ready to blow up a plane. Through their hostile and rude actions, they are blowing up the travel industry with less people flying.

When pilots with their proper identifications and security checks aren’t allowed to carry on their standard tool boxes onto a plane to fix things on the plane in flight, that is a huge problem. If TSA worried about the pilot’s identity why not do what they did at Epcot where they take everyone’s fingerprint as they go through the turnstile? Why not match the pilot’s fingerprints with a pilot fingerprint database. If he passes the check, give him his box of tools so he can fix something onboard mid-flight that could save a passenger’s lives.

Instead of moaning and groaning, I did something about my observations. This morning sent an email to TSA offering up my services to train security workers how to a. treat passengers with respect and b. how to screen for real terrorists., not innocent men, women, and children. Hopefully they will respond. Hopefully they will allow me to provide them with a seminar that can result in making a difference the next time to decided to go to the airport and take you next trip. http://www.drlillianglass.com

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11 Responses

  1. My mom and I travelled back to Washington D.C. in August. Everything had worked out for us to go and we were thrilled.
    My mom who is 76, has Parkinson’s Disease and can’t really handle high pressure situations, like the TSA screening, had a difficult time getting through security. A TSA agent was called over to help get my mom through the line and it caused a little bit of a scene. By the time my mom was done, she was a disheveled, jacket-less, shoeless mess. It’s just plain humiliating for old people.

    I was wondering why they don’t just have a separate line for special needs/older flyers.

    Interestingly enough on the return trip we flew out of Dulles Airport in Virginia. That security screening was much more respectful and still effective.

    And speaking to the airlines, the airline ticket clerk made me check my carry-on baggage and I was subsequently charged a fee, even though it was the approved carry-on size.

    • Dear Lauren-
      That is a brilliant idea to have two lines and to give special attention to those who are disabled. I am so sorry that your lovely mother was treated that way. She did not deserve that. It hurts me to hear what happened to her. Where is the humanity in these screeners?
      I would definately take a photo of your bag and list the dimensions of the bag and send it to the complaints department at the airlines. That is unacceptable and a very sneaky way for the airlines to make money.People need to be aware of this little game. So thank you so much for bringing it to the public’s attention. And thank you for reading my blog.

  2. Dr. Glass,

    I’ve not been on a flight in many years, and I hope my experience is gentler!

    Kudos to you, for offering your expertise in improving the situation. It seems the TSA workers are desperately lacking the appropriate training…isn’t their rigidity/inflexibility with certain “rules” what would enable someone with malicious intent to bypass them?

    You could offer them a lot and I hope they take you up on your offer! Teaching them to read people’s body language/expressions, etc. would empower them beyond just following the rules.

    Thank you for writing your blog, I read it almost daily and enjoy it very much.

    Lori

  3. I was wondering why you didn’t mention the rude and ignorant passengers that these TSA agents deal with everyday ?
    I assume the reason for there aparent use of “inflexability ” is because of their traning . Do you cheat at your job ? If someone asked you to bend the rules where you work would you ? To bad you didn’t ask why they were exibiting such body language ? I’m sure people would be interested in knowing .
    I’m sure there are two sides to the story .

    • Tammy, you completely missedf the point. Perhaps if they were friendlier and more polite and less rude to passengers, pasengers would respond in kind. You often get what you put out there. No one is asking them to bend the rules. I am asking them to treat people with kindness and respect. The rudeness factor is overwhelming, Speaking to people in command terms is unacceptable. If their lack of smiling, and hostile tones and agressive stance is part of their training, they are not being trained properly.

  4. I completely agree with you on this subject! As a military spouse living far from where I was raised, my young children, husband, and I must fly when we visit our families. We usually encounter a kind TSA agent who is sympathetic to the extra time we need and have no problems. However, we have occasionally encountered a rude, ugly-behaved TSA agent who insists on being as aggressive and hostile as possible. I have made a complaint about one particularly horrible experience, but aside from that, I have unfortunately learned to just “suck it up.”

    Thank you for your astute and well-written observations! I hope TSA takes advantage of your generous offer.

  5. I completely agree that the way passengers are routinely treated by TSA is horrendous. Travelling is stressful enough without having to be put through even more stress by rude and improperly trained agents.

    The last time my husband and I flew I commented (under my breath) while we were yelled at to come this way, take off your shoes, remove your belt… that I felt it must be similar to entering a prison to be locked away for the rest of your life.

    I know that flying is serious business, but I also know that a stressful situation can be made easier by people with smiles on their faces and a few kind words.

    Annie

  6. Israel has, for years, used body language to spot terrorists. We should too! (And they don’t make you remove your shoes.)

    The TSA workers are nasty, and I wish I knew what to do about it. Who does quality control? It is unnecessary to abuse the public while trying to prevent a terrorist attack. It is an abuse of power common in many parts of the world. It shouldn’t be the norm in America.

    Also, please Dr. Glass, use spell check or hire an editor. Your articles are excellent but the extreme misspelling takes away some of your credibility.

    • I would very much like to train the TSA workers in the United States to

      a. look for the right things and the right signals in the right people in detecting terrorism and

      b. learn how to act more civilized and respectful towards people and not talk to them as though you would speak to an animal. In fact you wouldn’t even speak to an animnal in tones many of them use to speak to people.

      What they don’t realize is that their own attitudes, hostility and rudeness breeds the same behavior in passengers.

      Many TSA workers have instigated and escalated way too many incidents with passengers that have caused innocent passengers to lose flights and not make flight connections.

      The ugly behavior of those who engage in this must be stopped immediately. they have no business in working with the public. So I completely agree with you.

      They can still do their jobs and accomplish the same results if not better results, if they treat passengers with the respect and dignity they deserve.

      The arrogance, hostile tone, abusive body language, inappropriate overly detailed screening of infants and children, the elderly, and the disabled are unconscionable.

      While everyone, should be screened, there is a way to do it, especially in these specific populations, that allows innocent people to keep their dignity and self respect.

      Thank you for your comments and by the way the spelling errors have been fixed.

  7. I am the nicest TSA worker the world has ever known (self proclaimed). I always say please and thank you, address passengers as sir or mam, handle and search their property with respect, very kind and helpful and educate travelers when they do not know the rules. With that said, we do not live in a prefect world and it is time to come clean and admit that everything wrong is not TSA’s fault. Passengers and Sworn Federal TSA Officers are human and share this problem equally. So, consider the opposite perspective from your own. Here are some of my observations: No one reads our signs at security. (we both need education) Being nice is often seen as weakness ( I am asked to look the other way EVERY DAY) My reply is, I won’t let you down, sorry but your item is prohibited or a man wants a medical exception for a can of soda to regulate blood sugar but the soda is DIET SODA (no sugar), or passenger says, my over sized flammable liquid made it through three other airports why can’t I take it this time!!! I equate this to speeding in your car on your way to work each morning and then being upset with the police officer that finally catches you for not catching you earlier! Just because you did not get caught does not make it right. I can go on, and on. Just remember, TSA does not use the honor system for security so plan on us to NOT believe everything you tell us and when we talk about liquids we really mean liquids…. The state of matter that exists between solids and gasses are all regulated. If you can not knock on it or breath it, it is a liquid. Sorry but that even makes peanut butter a liquid! Good luck my future passengers. I look forward to helping you. Have a safe flight.

  8. Thank you for your article. I was beginning to think I was the one with the problem. It feels like an experiment.

    Upon entering the line, everyone is chatty and friendly, listening to the words of caution for the 3-1-1 as we get closer to the screening area. Laughter and friendliness is in abundance. As we approach the buckets, our laughter starts to wane as we wait and watch the screeners. Sometimes, we look with remorse at the smiling TSA agent in the other line, wishing we had gone that way. We are jolted into submission as we become nervous about what we might have forgotten to place into a ziplock, especially when we get the rude TSA agent. Our pulse quickens as we get through the line, finally making it to the other side. Melancholy at this point, we pick up our shoes and belongings, and walk, stunned, to the gate. It takes a few minutes before our pulses slow enough to remember why we came to the airport in the first place. Our smiles don’t return again until we are on the other side and in our rental cars.

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