airport security personnel

Airport Civility Now Needed More Than Ever

I recently braved commercial air travel along with too many others, including families with kids flying during summer vacation after more than a year of COVID pandemic isolation. I was finally visiting immediate family members, especially my elderly parents, for a trip that was cancelled three times in 2020.

I can now unequivocally state there’s many wishful reasons my Other Worldly series protagonist Rowan Layne is able to flit about in alien spacecraft with her dog and cat, never again needing to endure indignities and frustrations from other passengers, airline personnel, and the TSA. I am envious of conveniences in my fictionally crafted world.

But first, the good parts. My flights to Portland, OR, and back to Las Vegas, NV, were both on time, and my aircraft on Alaska Airlines were clean and appeared brand new. Flight attendants were efficient and polite, and the TSA personnel in Portland were almost excessively kind. Most importantly, there were no crazed selfish psychopaths disrupting the full flights by refusing to comply with federal mask requirements.

Civility, however, was starkly missing from a few personnel at the Las Vegas McCarran Airport. Unfortunately, deliberate nastiness of one TSA agent at security overshadowed the other agents who were capable of speaking civilly with kindness towards passengers.

I have no doubt the Vegas airport can be a trying place to work, but many including myself have not flown for two years and are a tad on edge about once again wading into the fray. Plus, I’m not a rude tourist. I live here.

In hindsight, my error was being so painstakingly focused on following the rules in such a hectic environment that I succumbed to taking it personally when snapped at by a few who are clearly in the wrong job for their temperaments.

As I boarded my aircraft, I was wearing a mask with a filter obtained more than a year ago especially for the occasion. The Alaska Airlines gate agent’s face twisted into a sneer, asking if I had any other masks because masks with filters were not allowed on the plane. I was bewildered. This was literally the first I’d heard of this.

The gate agent practically threw a packaged standard blue paper mask at me, ordering me out of line to change my mask, saying snidely, “The rule’s been in place for a full year.”

Except that I, like many, had not flown in the past year. Something an airline employee had to be living on another planet not to realize was likely. At no time when I got my flight reservations, checked my luggage, received my boarding pass, and gone through security, had I heard or read restrictions regarding types of masks worn, other than how they were to be worn.

Had my reaction been belligerent or if I’d balked at changing my mask, it would not have been unseemly for me to be treated brusquely by a gate agent. But I wasn’t trying to buck the rules, though this airline employee clearly assumed I was.

Given the number of people in the Las Vegas airport who were blatantly ignoring mask rules, I suppose it was an inevitable assumption, but I truly did not appreciate being lumped in with anti-masker jerks when I finally garnered the nerve to fly.

Roughly every five to ten minutes, a recorded announcement could be heard over the loud speaker inside the Las Vegas airport terminal. How federal regulation mandates a mask be worn over nose and mouth. My estimation was that one out of every four people in that airport did not have their noses covered; some wore their masks as chin straps. I presume these individuals were fully capable of hearing the repeated announcements and reading numerous signs posted throughout the airport.

Furthermore, I listened to this announcement several times while looking directly at the unmasked parents of three children, apparently having decided they were above it all.

This same family of five had no qualms, however, about expecting the airline to ask others to change their aisle seats to center seats so the family could all sit together on the plane. Once this was made possible, there was no grateful acknowledgment by the unmasked parents (who were not told by airline personnel that they should be wearing masks on their faces). These folks seemed to feel blithely entitled to do as they pleased while expecting others to be inconvenienced on their behalf.

I suppose the rest of us should have been relieved this couple donned masks to board the plane. But people who behave this way represent more than a few reasons why the good ole USA has problems. Parents who see Las Vegas casinos as the ideal vacation spot for kids might be the first clue.

And, let’s face it, any federal entity under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security—a kneejerk agency formed immediately after 9/11 nearly 20 years ago—is bound to have issues. The TSA is no exception.

Curt and derisive airport and airline personnel, however, are really something that conscientious, nervous travelers don’t need. Passengers are also dealing with rude parents and obnoxious children and people who think the world revolves around their privileged little lives as they traipse through the airport as if it serves only them.

I’m now drafting Alien Sensation, fifth novel of my Other Worldly series, so that my next flight can be in an orb or a flying saucer with aliens who treat each other with courtesy and respect. Even the ones with rambunctious, redheaded toddler triplets, coming this fall in Being Alien.

One final note about McCarran Airport. Is the lack of clear directional signs inside the terminal intentional, in the same way large-acreage casinos make it difficult and confusing to navigate in order to keep gamblers from easily exiting the premises? Not a stellar idea in an international airport.

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