Friday, October 23, 2009

Making sense of what I do

Working at the airport is fascinating.  It's pretty cool to see so many representations of different cultures, personalities, geographical origins, ages, and so on and so forth.  All differences aside, it's also fascinating to watch human beings as a whole. 

Tonight wasn't particularly busy, so I had an opportunity to stand at the walk through metal detector and people-watch.  Despite several indications that our lane was open (I was standing there, the x-ray operator was in place, officers were standing around), no one would come to our lane.  Instead, passengers continually walked to the other lanes where they had to wait in line.  Once in a while I'll holler for passengers to come on over because I don't like to stand around with nothing to do.  Tonight I didn't care, and was more interested in giggling at everyone. 

What I learned very early in my TSA career is that passengers are in their own little bubbles, concerned with themselves and no one else.  They don't care about other passengers unless they are directly affected by them (usually when someone else pisses them off), they don't care about airport employees going through security on their way to work, and they certainly don't care about those of us who are trying to get their butts to the airplane to begin with.

While I was standing at the metal detector I joked that I wanted to give the "bold" ones, meaning the ones who took the initiative to pay attention to their surroundings, stickers for not joining all the other lemmings.  Only on a couple occasions did a passenger break from the masses and enter into our empty lane.  Once one person did it, a few more followed, but only because someone else did it first.

I'm amazed at how little people pay attention to what's going on around them, and how they lose all common sense when entering the checkpoint.  This isn't one or two people each day, it is nearly everyone, day or night.  We have to roll out carts of empty bins to the beginning of the lanes, and in doing so we have to weave in and out of a bunch of people who have to put themselves back together right in the middle of the most insanely congested space imaginable. 

Since no one ever pays attention to anything except what concerns their immediate needs, I say "Excuse me" constantly as I roll out the bins.  I'm always very polite, very friendly.  "Excuse excuse me please...EXCUSE ME!!"  That is too frequently met with dirty looks because I have so rudely raised my voice to someone who has done nothing to deserve it.  Meanwhile I'm getting dirty looks from the impatient ones who "need bins NOW and why are they not here instantaneously because I have a plane to catch and I have been standing in line for ten minutes and I can not wait another SECOND for the bins to get here."

Then a passenger will snap at us because her bracelet is missing.  Well, yes she did pile three bags, a purse, shoes, her sweater, her jacket, and her camera all into one bin, but since we "made" her take off the giant hunk of metal she put it on top of the huge heap and watched as it went through the curtains into the three-mile-long xray machine.  But what did we do with her bracelet, it was there when she put it through!!  Ugh.

Despite the constant bullcrap that we endure, I do love my job.  I know that I'm capable of turning that whiny old biddie from an annoying hag into someone grateful because I took my time to help her out.  Security checkpoints can be very stressful and overwhelming, especially the one where I work.  When it gets hoppin' busy, it gets insane.  Lots of people, lots of stuff to remember, lots of headaches and stress.  Perfect that way.  Makes the time fly and the energy surge. 

Today while I was checking tickets for my half-hour rotation, I came across two people who had significance to me.  One woman didn't even recognize me - we used to be in a mommy's group and haven't seen each other in about five years.  I sure wished I had the time to catch up with her. 

The other was a complete stranger, but had a last name I recognized immediately.  He was traveling to my home town of Cody, WY.   He and his family knew my grandparents, my mom, and my uncle very well and when I told him I'm Marsha's daughter he said that I sure look like her.  He's right.  Talking to him gave me a surreal, almost sad feeling of homesickness.  I have no family here and standing in front of me was a stranger, giving me a sense of comfort and familiarity.

When I'm having a particularly bad day and don't want to be at work, I just tell myself that there is a reason I need to be there that day.  Despite the crazies that I do come across, there are people I cross paths with who make an impact, even if it's an impact on a split second of my day.  It's a strange dichotomy, needing to create positive out of so much negative. 

This job is my bread and butter.  It's what puts food on the table for me and the kids, it's what pays the bills.  I have to find a way to make it work.  I know too many people who do the same thing as me and live unbelievably miserable lives because they hate the job.  So if I can find a way to make it, to keep my sanity while feeling like I'm upsetting the masses for doing things they don't feel necessary, then that's what I will do.

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