We’ve now approaching a month into the longest US government shutdown in history. Hundreds of thousands of people are not being paid, including those “essential” workers who still have to come to work.
Perhaps one of the most visible examples of this is the TSA, since we deal with the workforce at airports constantly. The TSA has seen a huge increase in the number of people who have called in sick, which is at least partly because:
- TSA agents are trying to find side gigs that will get them paid ASAP
- In many cases it’s cheaper for TSA agents just to stay home, so they don’t have to pay for gas, tolls, child care, etc.
I’ve taken a couple of flights since the shutdown started, and overall I’ve been impressed by how friendly TSA agents have been, and have also appreciated how friendly most passengers seem to be towards TSA agents.
I’m not usually a huge fan of the TSA (I have nothing against the individuals, but find the organization to be ineffective), though I’m doing what I can to be nice to them, even when they’re not nice back.
But I witnessed something interesting while going security recently, which caught me off guard.
I was using the TSA PreCheck line, and the lady two people in front of me thanked the ID checker for working during the shutdown. He said “mhm.”
The person behind her also thanked him. The TSA agent responded “I hate when people say that.”
So of course I didn’t say anything, and just smiled and said “thank you” when he handed me my ID back. Then the person behind me (who clearly didn’t hear the previous conversation) also thanked the TSA agent for working, and he sort of let out a sigh.
My first reaction was “wow, I’m surprised how many people are being so friendly.”
My second reaction was “wow, that’s rude of the TSA agent.” But then I looked at it from a different angle. The TSA agents are working without a paycheck because they’re pawns in a political game, and in many cases are probably struggling to put food on the table for their family.
If people are constantly thanking them for working without pay, on some level that’s annoying. Maybe aside from the extroverted TSA agents who actually like their jobs (do those exist?), for the most part TSA agents don’t want “thanks,” they just want paychecks.
Perhaps it’s not unlike how some people don’t want “thoughts and prayers” every time there’s a shooting, but rather want gun control.
TSA agents mostly aren’t working because they want to be, but rather because they have to be, and because they can still be disciplined if they don’t show up or take too many sick days.
“Thanks” doesn’t pay for gas, credit card bills, rent, or child care.
I’m not sure if this was just an isolated incident, and I happened to see a lot of people thanking the TSA agents more than usual, or if the isolated incident was that this agent didn’t like the appreciation. But it did get me thinking.
For those who have been flying during the shutdown, what has your experience been with TSA agents? I’m not talking about wait times, but rather about morale, how passengers have acted towards the TSA, and how TSA agents have acted towards passengers in response to any nice comments.