As an 18 year active duty service member, I have heard my fair share of “Thank you for all you do” and “Thank you for your service”. I felt uncomfortable when I initially encountered someone thanking me. This was in part because I had my reasons for joining the military and being thanked for my service was not one of them. As the years have passed, I have grown used to it and usually respond with a “Thank you, it is my pleasure”. During my trip last weekend, I witnessed two instances of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents being thanked and I wanted to share my thoughts.
The first time I witnessed the thank yous was at Cadillac Mexican Kitchen, a Priority Pass Restaurant at Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH). Three TSA agents came into the restaurant for a quick bite to eat. I could not help but overhear one speaking German while making a joke to the others (who obviously did not understand the German part). I smiled a bit because I understood. This led to an exchange where the agent with a German background guessed that I was military and had traveled through Germany. Once we were done talking, a guy walked from the other side of the restaurant to apologize for the shutdown, thank the agents for working without pay, and insisted on buying their meals.
The agents were clearly caught off guard, but they smiled and said, “thank you”. While I felt the other customer had the best intentions, if I were him, I would have paid for the food and passed on my thanks through the waitress. They were clearly having a good morning, now this put their focus back on not getting paid. Not cool.
The second instance was at the security checkpoint in Terminal 7 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Two passengers were ahead of me in line. While waiting to put our bags through the scanner, the first offered his apologies and thanks to the TSA agent (the “remove liquids, laptops agent” before the scan). The agent offered a quick thanks and returned to his job. The customer would not let it go. He keep trying to get political with the agent. The agent ultimately said it was his duty to serve during the shutdown and thanked the man for his concern.
I feel that this interaction was completely out of line. It is one thing to offer thanks and move on, but to continue to bother the agent with political ramblings was unacceptable.
As the shutdown has entered its 33rd day, I am sure TSA agents are receiving thanks from passengers all over the country. Just remember that some agents are calling out of work because they are not getting paid, which is adding additional stress to the ones at work. Be courteous, without going overboard, and please remove your laptop from the bag.